Sen. Charles Schumer said he made a "strong pitch" Tuesday to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, the department's point man for superstorm Sandy aid, for at least $300 million for Suffolk County to provide sewer access to thousands of homes on the South Shore.
"I told him Suffolk cannot be left out," Schumer said after meeting with Donovan. "Nassau can get what they got, but Suffolk cannot be left behind."
Schumer said Donovan said he would take a close look at the project. A HUD spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Officials in January announced $730 million in grants to help rebuild the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in Nassau, the largest Sandy aid package to date on Long Island.
Suffolk has proposed a $750 million plan to provide sewer access to 12,000 homes in three separate projects; North Babylon and Deer Park, Oakdale and Mastic Beach and Shirley.
About $1 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion in Sandy recovery money could go to other areas as part of a competitive grant process under consideration by HUD, according to Schumer. He and other members of Congress from New York and New Jersey have protested the draft proposal, which surfaced last month.
Donovan has said critical needs in New York and New Jersey will be met before money goes elsewhere.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has proposed the residential sewer plan in an effort to reduce nitrogen pollution in groundwater. High nitrogen levels also can damage wetlands that serve as natural storm barriers.
Schumer said in the letter that the 2013 federal legislation providing $60 billion for Sandy recovery was intended "to fund major infrastructure resiliency efforts like Suffolk's new sewer plan." He said in an interview, "What Suffolk has asked for fits the remediation portion of this bill. It should have a far higher priority than sending money to other parts of the country."Schumer said during the meeting with Donovan, he also advocated for additional money for housing in New York City.
Bellone in a statement called the proposed sewer project"critical to reducing the nitrogen poisoning in the Great South Bay."