Obama has chance to reinvest in suburban U.S.

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Building inspector Rebecca Furst puts a warning sign

Building inspector Rebecca Furst puts a warning sign at a house Barnes Avenue. (Nov. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

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Joye Brown Newsday columnist Joye Brown

Joye Brown has been a columnist for Newsday since 2006. She joined the newspaper in 1983 and has

Thank you, Mr. President.

For mentioning the "people of Long Island, who are going through some really tough times" after touring areas damaged by superstorm Sandy Thursday.

That meant a lot to us in the nation's first post-World War II suburb, especially since so many have been displaced from their homes. And let's not forget about those who -- three weeks after the storm -- still have no electricity.

President Barack Obama, after a helicopter tour of Staten Island and the Rockaways, announced the appointment of Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, to coordinate local redevelopment efforts.

That was good news, too. Because the region will require significant help -- beyond the current emergency efforts -- to rebuild.

As Obama pointed out, Donovan, a former city official, knows New York.

And it was heartening that Donovan and Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, went beyond city borders to Long Beach before joining Obama Thursday.

At the Long Beach disaster recovery center, they talked to residents. And met with state and local officials.

The region's recovery will take years. But Sandy also represents an opportunity for the Obama administration.

On Long Island, as in many other suburban areas, our infrastructure is fraying. The assault from Sandy laid bare our challenges, as system after system began to fail.

Among the Island's failures:

Transportation: Shutdown of the Long Island Rail Road, and the Long Island Expressway and the Northern State Parkway in the Nov. 7 nor'easter.

Sewers: Raw sewage leaking into Reynolds Channel in Long Beach, and into homes in Lawrence, Baldwin and East Rockaway.

Gasoline distribution: Supplies were short and lines were long. But the late imposition of an odd-even system -- which ends Friday at midnight -- and increased fuel deliveries stopped the problem of snaking gasoline lines.

Electric service: L-I-P-A. Need we say more?

Emergency housing: There's something wrong when visiting repair crews have to sleep in their cars, and something very wrong when residents displaced because of flooding are left scrambling for temporary quarters.

For us, Mr. Obama, the presidential election seemed to be sandwiched between the struggle for post-Sandy restoration and nor'easter snow.

According to unofficial results, the president carried Long Island by 51.8 percent over Mitt Romney's 47.2 percent. In Suffolk, Obama pulled in 51 percent; in Nassau, it was 53.

That makes Long Island purple territory, halfway between blue and red state status. And Sandy's aftermath makes Long Island fertile ground for refashioning federal policy to better serve suburbs, where most of the nation's people (and coveted voters) live.

Rebuilding Long Island's infrastructure is necessary, and the region's crisis presents an opportunity for the federal government to reinvest in suburban America. Other suburban areas will -- and should -- be watching.

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