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Storm-tossed house barges moved to marina

Peter and Sally Kopher of Seaford hold each

Peter and Sally Kopher of Seaford hold each other while their house barge is moved. Repairing it will cost at least $50,000, they say. (Nov. 21, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

For the beleaguered owners of beached house barges in Seaford Harbor, Thanksgiving came a day early -- in the form of a crane and assurance that their homes would be saved.

Superstorm Sandy washed several houseboats and larger house barges into the streets and front lawns, leaving owners homeless and the neighborhood inconvenienced by 20-ton roadblocks. Nassau County went so far as to issue a notice to barge owners that their properties would be demolished if not moved by this weekend.

But Wednesday, Nassau sent a crane contractor to the neighborhood to move the barges to a nearby marina where they can be repaired and returned to the water.

Owners of the barges said they were just glad their homes would be saved.

"On the eve of Thanksgiving, I can't think of anything to be more thankful for," said Peter Kopher, whose barge -- his only residence -- was tossed onto Ocean Avenue by the storm.

The crane removed the three house barges that remained ashore -- two were in streets, one on a front lawn.

The county had informed the owners on Monday that the barges would be destroyed in five days if not moved. But the county decided instead to move the barges itself because they present a public health hazard and "to eliminate any potential dangers they caused on the streets and private property," Nassau spokesman Mike Martino said in a statement.

The cost of moving the barges -- and who will eventually pay the bill -- was not clear Wednesday.

The barges of course need repairs. Sally Kopher, Peter's wife, said that and moving their barge back into the water will easily cost more than $50,000, for which the couple has no insurance.

Barge owners at the scene said they were working with FEMA for help.

June Rose, whose barge, "Junique," was tossed into someone's front yard, said she had "no intention of demolishing that barge -- it's my home." She said she's glad she can soon begin repair work on the barge, also her only residence.

The unusual scene of a crane lifting a house barge from a street and planting it in a marina attracted a slew of gawkers to the neighborhood, located around the corner of Ocean Avenue and Nimrod Street. Some watched from their roof decks in the hard-hit neighborhood, where many homes sustained flooding damage and some roofs were covered in blue tarps.

The owner of the marina where the barges were returned declined to comment. It was the same marina where the barges had been located before the storm, barge owners said.

Kristina Lindenberg, whose houseboat in the marina was destroyed by Sandy and remains tilted in the water, said she was glad the barge owners will be able to come home.

"I love my neighbors," Lindenberg said, adding she's "just really happy to see some good come out of this."

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