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Cuomo to name Rising to Top Sandy recovery winners

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday will announce the winners of a statewide competition meant to inspire innovation and collaboration among communities rebuilding after superstorm Sandy -- giving each an additional $3 million to further their recovery goals.

The New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program was designed to help residents identify and solve infrastructure problems with the goal of becoming better prepared for future storms.

Committee members have been meeting for months to craft their proposals, which will be revealed to the public Wednesday.

The winners of the Rising to the Top competition will be chosen based upon their use of technology in the planning process, inclusion of vulnerable populations in their efforts and incorporation of green infrastructure in their proposals, among other factors.

William Van Wagner, 85, a resident of Massapequa Park for 42 years, said his group applied in several categories. Much of the group's plan focuses on the protection of "lifeline streets," those critical for evacuation, he said.

Van Wagner believes his group's proposal is airtight, but worries about the $26 million in funding that his region could receive.

He won't feel at ease until the projects are paid for. "Show me the money," he said.

Nassau County had 13 New York Rising community groups and came up with 133 proposed projects; they can get as much as $195 million in funding, state officials said.

Suffolk had eight communities and put forth some 65 projects. The county can spend as much as $49 million.

The final proposals were due to the state March 31.

Experts from the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery will spend months analyzing the plans, looking for projects that are feasible and cost-effective.

Once selected, the state will identify a "subrecipient" who will then apply for funding to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will pay for the projects through reimbursement.

Almost all of the plans feature drainage improvements along with shore restoration and protection. Several, including Baldwin, Bellmore, Merrick, Seaford and Wantagh, hope for better street lighting. Some are pushing for updated equipment and improved communication among emergency services.

Others, including Bay Park, The Village of East Rockaway and the Five Towns, want to investigate the use of alternative energy solutions including microgrids.

Superstorm Sandy, which struck in October 2012, damaged or destroyed more than 95,000 buildings on Long Island, causing $8.4 billion in property and economic losses for Nassau and Suffolk.

Some communities were without power for weeks.

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