State sets division of $2.097 billion in Sandy recovery money
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The Governor's Office of Storm Recovery Tuesday unveiled plans for dividing the second allotment of money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development -- $2.097 billion -- for housing, community reconstruction and infrastructure needs.
The proposed distribution, detailed in the state's amended "action plan" to HUD, was divided by category, not by county, so it was not clear how much money will go to Nassau and Suffolk.
All of the money will come through the Community Development Block Grant program, run by HUD. Of the $60 billion in federal aid that Congress approved in 2013 for storm recovery, $16 billion ultimately will flow through that program.
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Some of the money already has been spent. Much of the aid was targeted for superstorm Sandy recovery and mitigation in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, although it also covered damage for tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011.
The first installment of HUD money, given to the state last spring, totaled $1.71 billion. New York City received $1.77 billion in a separate allocation.
Under the state's plan for the second allotment, another $1.12 billion would be set aside for housing needs and $441 million for community reconstruction.
The New York Rising housing program -- focused on the needs of individual homeowners -- would get $435 million, on top of $621 million from the first allocation.
That program's home buyout plan, given $100 million under the first installment, would increase more than fivefold, getting another $521 million in this go-round.
The New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program, created to help local residents identify their area's most pressing needs with the help of state consultants, also would get a major boost.
The program, which started with a $25 million allocation, received $198 million more last year and will get another $441 million in this latest round of funding.
Jon Kaiman, the governor's special adviser for Long Island storm recovery, said the money will help make homeowners whole.
"This really is a commitment fulfilled and will really make a difference," he said Tuesday.
Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said he was pleased with the state and federal government's ability to distribute money to people and communities in need.
Kennedy, whose home took on 3 feet of water and sustained $100,000 in damages, called the efforts swift, considering the magnitude of the destruction.
But for the government's programs to be a success, he said, the region must address its infrastructure vulnerabilities on a large scale to avoid similar catastrophes.
"My main concern is that the federal government and the State of New York rebuild the barrier islands and put in some type of gate at Jones Inlet and Reynolds Channel" to protect Nassau County, he said. "I think that's the most important thing."
Two hearings on the action plan will be held on Long Island. The first will be Feb. 27 at the Suffolk County clerk's office in Hauppauge. The second will take place March 5 in Nassau, at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building in Mineola. Both will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The plan can be found at stormrecovery.ny.gov. It includes some fresh estimates of the region's post-Sandy financial needs.
According to a calculation provided by HUD, New York has an estimated $8 billion in unmet needs, including $3.76 billion for infrastructure, $3.5 billion related to housing and $701 million tied to economic development.
The state's own estimate of total unmet needs is almost double that, coming in at $15.74 billion, the plan said.
In addition, as of last month, 93 families in Nassau and 26 in Suffolk still were displaced from their homes because of the October 2012 storm.
Hard-hit communities with the largest number of low- and moderate-income households sustaining major to severe damage were Baldwin, East Rockaway, Freeport, Island Park, Long Beach, Massapequa, Oceanside and Seaford, all in Nassau County, and Lindenhurst in Suffolk County, the document said.
Damage to low- and moderate-income renters was particularly acute in Freeport, Island Park, Long Beach, Oceanside and Lindenhurst, it found.
Of the Nassau homes that suffered damage during Sandy, 5,461 were located within the 100-year floodplain. The same was true for 1,604 dwellings in Suffolk.
The plan says Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 157,000 housing units -- including more than 35,000 in Nassau and 10,000 in Suffolk -- affected or closed more than 2,000 miles of roads, caused "catastrophic flooding in subways and tunnels," and led to massive power outages, some lasting for several weeks.