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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Mayoral candidates discuss Sandy recovery

A dog wanders through the neighborhood of homes

A dog wanders through the neighborhood of homes damaged by superstorm Sandy in Breezy Point. (Jan. 8, 2013) Credit: AP

Candidates at a New York City mayoral forum on Thursday began wading into the tricky issue of rebuilding homes in flood zones. Their exchange reflected the tensions -- now felt from Long Island to New Jersey -- between seeking to restore what stood before superstorm Sandy and guarding against future calamities.

A resident of devastated Breezy Point in Queens asked candidates whether they supported requiring property owners to raise their buildings -- and whether they back Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to buy out some homeowners.

Nobody gave terse yes-no responses. "It's not going to be a quick answer," warned former Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., a Democrat, who called for expertise and resources to be pooled into a "larger plan."

Thompson said questions include: "How do we rebuild to code? Do we put boilers in basements where we'd just seen them flood? Do we put the electrical panels back in the basement? How do we in fact mandate through code what materials need to be used?"

In the Rockaways, some clusters of homes flooded, but others did not because "grades were built up, they built dunes and other things," he noted.

Newspaper publisher Tom Allon, a Republican candidate, said, "We need to feel the fierce urgency of now . . . We need to get our heads out of the sand, pardon the expression, realize this may be a new normal" and act accordingly.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn cited differences in what neighborhoods may want. "There are some communities like Breezy that do not want to be bought out," Quinn said. "And we need to respect that voice. But I also want to be clear: There are communities in Staten Island that right now are organizing because they want to be bought out . . ."RE-EXPLORING: North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman met with more than 20 Democratic colleagues in his home Jan. 19 to discuss whether he should run for Nassau County executive after all.

He told Newsday the previous week he had not "given much thought to a county executive run lately." Meanwhile, former Nassau executive Tom Suozzi hasn't budged from saying in public that he isn't running. "We brought people together to have a discussion," Kaiman said Friday. The conclusion? "No conclusion yet," he said.

One participant who declined to be identified said "it's starting to get late" in terms of raising the necessary $3 million or so needed to challenge incumbent Republican Edward Mangano.

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