Pols: Few on LI want to move under Cuomo buyout plan

Floodwaters run through Cutchogue late last year after

Floodwaters run through Cutchogue late last year after superstorm Sandy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing that owners with homes damaged during superstorm Sandy or those in the flood zones be offered buyouts and the land preserved as a coast. (Oct. 29, 2012) (Credit: Randee Daddona)

ALBANY - Long Island lawmakers said Monday a Cuomo administration proposal to offer to buy homes ruined by superstorm Sandy, relocate homeowners and leave the parcels to Mother Nature would attract little interest in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The overwhelming number of Island residents would rather rebuild than relocate, they said.

"In all honesty, nobody has brought it up. At all," said Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), whose southwest Nassau district was among the hardest-hit by the Oct. 29 storm. "Most of the things I've read, people want to go back to their communities."

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is preparing what his staff calls an "action plan" to deploy about $30 billion that New York is to receive from the federal government for Sandy recovery. The plan includes money to either help residents rebuild along the coastline -- perhaps raising their dwellings to meet new building requirements -- or take money to leave.

Cuomo wants to earmark $400 million for buyouts, an aide said. Owners would be offered the pre-storm value of their homes and would provide incentives for entire blocks that decided to sell. The land would be left vacant; in some areas, dunes or other natural barriers would be created. The administration didn't provide any other details Monday.

The governor has been talking about buying out some homeowners for weeks, saying of dwellings built in flood-vulnerable zones "Maybe Mother Nature doesn't want you here."

Such an initiative most likely would appeal to residents in the Rockaways, Brooklyn's Sheepshead Bay section and the Oakwood Beach neighborhood on Staten Island, said Sen. Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn).

"Some of these areas, you're going to see people take the money and leave," Golden said. He said that some areas, particularly Oakwood Beach, have a bowl-like topography that makes them acutely vulnerable to the storm surge that accompanies a hurricane.

Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook) said he heard from many Baldwin residents a week after the storm, who said they wanted to pull up stakes. But he's not sure if that still holds true three months later.

He is slated to hold two district meetings this month to give local officials a "better sense" of how many residents prefer to relocate.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) said very few of his constituents would take the offer even though that city was among the most devastated communities.

"The City of Long Beach is like an extended family. People who live here never want to leave," Weisenberg said. "I don't know of anybody who would take this opportunity [a buyout]. We're resilient. We're restoring."

Just "a handful, at most" of Lindenhurst residents would be interested in leaving, said Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), who represents the area. "The vast majority want to rebuild," he said. "These homes, in some cases, have been passed down for generations."

Last week, the Island's county executives, Nassau's Edward Mangano and Suffolk's Steve Bellone, met with the Cuomo administration and emerged saying few residents would choose to accept buyouts.

Still, lawmakers said the offer should be a part of New York's recovery plan. Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said rebuilding decisions should come from the ground up, with individual homeowners and municipalities making the decisions.

Skelos warned that lawmakers have to be "very, very careful" about creating a situation where large chunks of a community are returned to nature and scattered houses remain. "My biggest concern is that we don't want to abandon an entire community," Skelos said.

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