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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Brown: LI knows best what it needs post-Sandy

This marsh house on an island north of

This marsh house on an island north of Jones Beach was damaged during superstorm Sandy. The marsh houses, once the homes of bay fishermen, are scattered on the marsh islands from East Rockaway to east of the Wantagh Causeway in the Great South Bay. (Nov. 14, 2012) Credit: Doug Kuntz

The nearly $194 million in federal funding to help local communities decide how to protect themselves from future storms is a huge opportunity for Long Island.

Local communities and individual property owners hard hit by superstorm Sandy will have to change, and this money offers the opportunity for significant input into future storm protection plans.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's idea of giving locals a voice is modeled after the Federal Emergency Management Agency's effort after Hurricane Katrina, and he's right to pursue it.

Nassau and Suffolk leaders are expected to hear more about Cuomo's plan to distribute federal money to local communities during a conference Thursday in Albany.

The conference will focus on redesigning and strengthening vulnerable communities -- in other words, building smarter before the next big storm.

The effort to involve communities and residents comes at a good time for Long Island -- which birthed a new generation of activist neighbors and neighborhoods post-Sandy.

Some of the most effective local outreach, recovery and rebuilding efforts sprang spontaneously from Long Islanders who decided to help other local residents.

There are many communities in Nassau and Suffolk where residents have a font of hard-earned, newfound expertise that should be tapped in developing plans to make communities more resilient.

Under Cuomo's plan, monies from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development grants would be funneled through the state -- via Community Development Block Grants -- to communities most devastated by Sandy and earlier storms.

State officials say it could take eight months to develop plans. While that might not seem like much, for communities such as Long Beach -- which suffered heavy damage in the Oct. 29 storm and have had a strong, organized approach to rebuilding and recovery -- it could be too long.

In considering the governor's plan, the state should be able to make allowances for municipalities that already are far along on rebuilding plans. It would be unfair, maybe even counterproductive, to make areas such as Long Beach wait.

There are other communities, however, that could benefit from eight months of bottom-to-top planning.

Kevin Law, co-vice chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which distributes state business aid, has challenged Long Islanders to think big.

He's right on that.

For the first time in a long time, there will be monies available not just to rebuild damaged communities but to improve them.

And grants to help communities cull ideas for the region's future can only help the process.

But even as the region recovers, there are many Long Islanders who are still waiting for help after the storm.

Yes, the region needs to think and work long term. But we have to help our neighbors regain firmer footing, too.

Long Islanders are resilient and determined.

The region can -- and should -- get what it needs to fortify itself now for storms to come.

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