LIers testify at state hearing on Sandy rebuilding
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Nassau and Suffolk elected officials, engineers and environmental experts Thursday made their cases before a state committee on what needs to be done to rebuild Long Island after superstorm Sandy -- and to protect it from future natural disasters.
The testimony came at a three-hour hearing in Mineola before the State Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations, chaired by Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset). The committee will issue a report on its findings in about a month.
The committee took recommendations from speakers on possible infrastructure and construction improvements, zoning changes and other policy changes necessary after the devastating Oct. 29 storm.
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County Executive Edward Mangano said Nassau's top priorities were assisting impacted business, including those already carrying huge debt from loans taken following Tropical Storm Irene in 2011; restoring damaged environmental areas, such as dunes; rebuilding critical infrastructure, such as schools and utilities, "smarter and stronger;" and helping affected homeowners -- particularly the uninsured and underinsured.
In some cases, Mangano said, government should consider "whether certain areas should be rebuilt at all."
Samuel Chu, Suffolk's labor commissioner, said his county is focusing on quickly rebuilding its barrier beaches, which he said were critical to protect Suffolk residents and their homes.
"Should a similar or even lesser storm . . . strike before this damage is fixed, the conversation we have next time may be much different," said Chu, who added that Suffolk municipalities are struggling to keep up with permit applications and home inspections as displaced homeowners are running out of federal rental assistance.
"The clock is ticking," Chu said. "Anything this committee could propose to assist . . . with the herculean task before us could play a critical role."
Several environmental and infrastructure experts offered recommendations on steps the state could take to assist in rebuilding efforts. They included zoning changes to further restrict construction in coastal areas; requiring some structures -- or at least their heating and electrical systems -- to be elevated; and pushing for more use of fortified concrete pilings in waterfront construction.
Some speakers also recommended that the state develop more comprehensive hurricane preparedness plans that would better incorporate available scientific data about climate change and rising sea level patterns. Those plans should look to the distant future -- and to storms far worse than Sandy.
Others pleaded for more short-term help. Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman asked the committee to help expedite funds to give his city "a shot of adrenaline before the summer season."
"It's critical that we see resources now," Schnirman said.