No more money for reseeding program, Nassau officials say

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks with longtime Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano speaks with longtime resident Donna Ayers and her cousin Linda Garofalo, who came to help her clean up on Nov. 14, 2012. Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

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A program to reseed the lawns of Nassau County homes that were damaged during superstorm Sandy has run out of money, county officials said.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano launched the Clean and Seed program in May 2013, spending $2 million to replace 3 inches of topsoil and reseed at roughly 200 homes. Power washing also was performed at some properties.

The program was initially intended for homes in East Rockaway and on Barnes Avenue in Baldwin that were damaged when a sewage pipe ruptured after the October 2012 storm, sending raw sewage flowing into basements and neighborhood streets.

The county last year expanded the program to include lawns that were badly damaged by storm flooding.

County officials assessed the damage to the lawns of many South Shore homes late last year and promised to return in the spring to perform the work.

But many of those homeowners received a text message from the county earlier this month announcing that the program had been suspended.

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"This is a huge disappointment," said Aileen Arroyo, who applied for the program after her Island Park home was under 8 feet of water after Sandy. "This is just another stress."

Nassau used $2 million in capital funding that had been previously bonded by the county legislature to fund the initial phase of the program, spokesman Brian Nevin said. The county is awaiting reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Last summer, a bill filed with the GOP-led county legislature sought $14.4 million in bonding to complete the work. Nassau would then seek reimbursement from FEMA.

But Nevin said legislative Democrats did not provide the votes for the bonding. Borrowing requires 13 votes, including at least two Democrats.

"Homeowners continue to wait for the Democrats to pass the funding so the program can commence," Nevin said.

But Peter Clines, counsel for the legislative Democrats, said funding to complete the program was part of a larger capital borrowing measure to pay for sewer treatment plant repairs. Democrats argued at the time that the administration had not provided enough information about the repair schedule and had yet to agree to hold hearings on the projects.

In February, the county submitted legislation for $279.6 million in capital projects bonding, which included $14.4 million to resume the Clean and Seed program.

Clines and Cristina Brennan, spokeswoman for legislative Republicans, each said their caucuses support borrowing to resume the program. But the parties have yet to reach a deal on the entire borrowing.

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"We, of course, will look carefully at any request for additional funds for Clean and Seed to make sure the money has actually been spent to help the people impacted by Sandy," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport).

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