LI officials: Lack of funds slows Sandy fixes

Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos was joined Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos was joined by other members of the New York State Senate's Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy at a press conference that preceded their roundtable discussion. (Jan. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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A long list of fixes after superstorm Sandy -- from sewer repairs to restoring power and heat -- have been slowed on Long Island by a lack of funds, mayors and other officials told a state rebuilding task force Thursday in the Village of Freeport.

"The first, and it's obviously the big megillah, is the financing," Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman told the panel, identifying six areas where his storm-ravaged city needs financial help from Albany.

Schnirman and mayors and town officials from across Long Island made their financial needs known for Sandy recovery and future storms at a meeting Thursday with the Senate Bipartisan Task Force at the Freeport Recreational Center.

The invite-only meeting was the second for the task force. It first met on Dec. 10 in the Rockaways, Queens, another community that was hard-hit by the superstorm.

Thursday, the panel mostly listened during the roundtable discussion, but made no financial commitments. Among the panel members are Long Island Sens. Charles Fuschillo Jr. (R-Merrick), Jack Martins (R-Mineola), and Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley). Long Beach, which sustained a direct hit from the late October storm, suffered $200 million in damages, Schnirman told the state lawmakers. To put that in perspective, he said the city's annual budget is $85 million.

The city has run out of money to repair its roads and bridges torn apart by the storm, he said. The infrastructure is taking an additional beating from the parade of heavy-equipment vehicles that travel in and out of the city, he said. In addition, Long Beach does not have enough money in its coffers to ensure that sewer and water plants, which failed during the storm, will work correctly when the next big storm comes barreling through, Schnirman said.

"You're going to have a problem down the road," Schnirman said. "You're just buying yourself some time."

Just north of Long Beach, in the small village of Island Park, homeowners flooded by Sandy need financial help to raise their homes to avoid getting washed out in the next storm, Mayor James Ruzicka told the panel.

"Out of the 1,100 homes, 95 percent of them were under 3 feet of water on the first floor," he said. "So, a lot of our residents are asking 'Can we raise our homes?' We need the funding to do that."

In Suffolk, Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi said some residents are still without heat or electricity. He estimated that 350 homes need repair and another 100 need to be torn down.

"We'd like to get some words to the residents that the money is coming," Biondi said.

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