Volunteers spend day tackling Sandy damage

Volunteers lay Christmas trees on the beach in Volunteers lay Christmas trees on the beach in Long Beach to help protect the dunes. (Jan. 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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Long Beach officials and volunteers took steps Saturday to bolster the city's coastline, while other local communities tackled damage from superstorm Sandy.

Volunteers from various local organizations assisted with efforts in Freeport, Mastic Beach and Long Beach. In Long Beach, a dune restoration project was launched for the first time since 1985's Hurricane Gloria.

"It is really about the community helping the community," said Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, which provided volunteers to the three locations. "It is all hyper local."

Long Beach city officials came up with a plan to use about 3,000 unused or discarded Christmas trees to build up dunes that were lost to the storm. About 50 volunteers withstood freezing temperatures and placed biodegradable trees in a V-shape on the beach edge, from Pacific to Neptune boulevards, an area that has no boardwalk and less natural protection.

"It is a new initiative after the destruction from Sandy," said City Council president Scott Mandel. "The goal is to catch sand from blowing into residences and build up our dunes."

Volunteers are expected Sunday to place trees on the beach from New York Avenue to the West End. About 90 percent of the once 17-feet-high dunes on the East End were washed away, and 75 percent in the West End were lost, said Tommy Canner, superintendent of the city's Beach Maintenance Department.

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City officials had built two 12-foot-high temporary sand barriers as the first line of defense against flooding, tidal surges or a nor'easter after Sandy. The sand barriers should be removed by spring, Canner said.

"It's crucial that we take immediate measures to create temporary barriers," City Manager Jack Schnirman said.

In Freeport, lifelong resident Margaret Meyveci had about 20 volunteers gutting her childhood home on Irving Street that was severely damaged when water surged from Baldwin Harbor. Volunteers with the Friends of Freeport spent three hours ripping out walls and floors from the split-level ranch.

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"It is amazing when you see all these amazing people sacrificing their time and energy," said a teary-eyed Meyveci, 52, who lives with her husband, two children and a grandchild. "I know better days are coming."

In Mastic Beach, a Sandy-inspired group -- Mastic-Shirley Community Organization Active in Disaster -- dispatched 45 volunteers to help with home construction, assess needs, distribute food and serve hot meals, said operation manager Jon Siebert.

"We're always moving forward," Siebert said. "We'll be here every week."

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