Cuomo announces $300M in funding to elevate 6,000-plus Sandy-damaged Long Island homes

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday, July 30, 2014, appeared at a Freeport home devastated by superstorm Sandy to announce a home elevation program paid for by New York State. To find out if you qualify for the program, call 855-NY-SANDY. (Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely)

New York State will provide up to $300 million in new funding to elevate more than 6,000 Long Island homes, most of which suffered major flood damage during superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday in Freeport.

Since the 2012 storm, nearly 1,400 homeowners who live in a 100-year flood plain have received state funding to begin elevating their properties. Most live in Nassau and Suffolk, and so far 166 homeowners have completed their elevations.

In most instances, the home elevation was required for the property owner to receive state housing recovery assistance through New York Rising, an agency that distributes Sandy rebuilding dollars, said Cuomo, a Democrat who is up for re-election.

The program announced Wednesday provides up to $300 million in additional funding to 6,575 homeowners, most of whom sustained damage from Sandy, Hurricane Irene or Tropical Storm Lee, but who are not required by the state to elevate their homes.

The initiative also pays for the elevation of homes that were not damaged substantially but are located in a 100-year flood plain, and homes granted "repeated loss status" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"It's an investment," Cuomo said as he toured the home of Daniel Ehrick on Florence Avenue, which was raised by 11 feet after it sustained major flooding during Sandy. "It costs more to rebuild this way, but it's the last time you have to rebuild this way."

Ehrick, an 11-year Freeport resident, called it a "no-brainer" to elevate his home. Ehrick received about $130,000 in state funding and insurance payments, including $37,000 to elevate his home. He has stayed with friends since the storm and hopes to be back in his house by Thanksgiving.

"I feel like there is a light at the end of the tunnel," said Ehrick, a retired New York City sanitation supervisor.

New York Rising pays for the entire cost of elevations and there is no limit on the amount homeowners can receive for the projects, said Jon Kaiman, Cuomo's special adviser for Long Island storm recovery.

A total of 4,930 Nassau homes are eligible for the Optional Home Elevation and Mitigation program, including 625 in Freeport, while 1,272 homes in Suffolk are eligible, Cuomo administration officials said. The other eligible homes are in upstate counties.

The state distributes half of the funding for home elevation up front, and the remainder after work is completed, New York Rising spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio said.

At an event in Lindenhurst Wednesday night, Rob Astorino, the Republican nominee for governor, criticized the way the state rolled out the Sandy relief program, saying Cuomo hopes to score political points by distributing long-awaited funds to homeowners just before the election.

"This whole NY Rising thing is unbelievable in that we are, what, 21 months since Hurricane Sandy?" he said to a crowd of about 70 people at the Loyal Order of Moose Lodge. "And you still have a significant amount of people who have been displaced, who are not in their homes, who are waiting for checks in Long Island, in Brooklyn and Queens, in Staten Island. And this governor has literally been holding back money because it must be on his political timetable."

With Zachary R. Dowdy

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