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The Spotos of Seaford: Early to raise, with no regrets

Charles and Laura Spoto stand outside their elevated

Charles and Laura Spoto stand outside their elevated home on Somerset Drive in Seaford on Oct. 5, 2017. Credit: Charles and Laura Spoto stand outside their elevated home on Somerset Drive in Seaford on Oct. 5, 2017.

Charles and Laura Spoto were among the first residents of Seaford’s Somerset Drive to elevate their home after superstorm Sandy. Today, the street — once a quiet dead-end — still resounds with the whir of construction activity.

Of about 40 houses on Somerset, at least 10 have been demolished and another eight or nine have been raised or are in the process of being raised, said Charles Spoto, 58. Workers arrive daily and a construction crane is parked along the narrow roadway.

“I never thought — ever in my life — I would be able to say it is commonplace to see a home being lifted,” said Spoto, who has lived on the block for almost three decades. “Five years ago, it was unheard of someone lifting their home; now it is almost unheard of for them to not lift.”

In all the years he lived there, he said, storm-driven water never invaded the two-bedroom bungalow. Then Sandy’s floodwaters destroyed the first floor.

Now the home sits atop 10 feet of concrete, with one set of steps leading to the front door and a second set to the back deck.

Living above ground level has taken some adjustment.

“It is incredible — you don’t realize how many times a day you walk in and out of your house. Now you have 15 or 16 steps and it is a lot,” said Spoto, a customs broker. “But I don’t regret doing it. I was blessed to be able to do it.”

Nearly 700 houses in the Town of Hempstead have been elevated and another 1,124 are in the process, according to town officials. Islandwide, more than 3,400 elevations have been scheduled, figures from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery show.

Elevation heights are based on FEMA flood base levels and vary by location. An estimated average cost of elevation today is more than $250,000, according to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery’s Action Plan.

Spoto, who had insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, did not have exact figures of the cost of elevating his home, saying it was part of the overall rebuilding project. He and his wife evacuated along with three dogs, a bird and a fish, staying in Lynbrook until they were able to move back to Somerset Drive in June 2013.

Since the house was raised, Charles Spoto has noticed several changes. There have been a few leaks and some cracks, and the need for other minor repairs as the house settled and where reconstruction work was done in a hurry.

He also had thought that living so far above ground level would be quieter. “It is much noisier and I thought it would have been less noisy, but sound travels,” he said.

He and his wife, Laura, 51, said elevating the house was the right decision. They have a sweeping view of the water out back and can see the ballfield at Seamans Neck Park across the canal.

“I love my home,” said Laura Spoto, who grew up on the waterfront in Babylon.

These days, Charles Spoto watches the tides daily and says he sees that the water is rising. He predicts that Sandy won’t be the last storm to flood the neighborhood.

“Unless you live through it, you don’t know what it is like, losing your home,” he said. “Coming back home was one of the best days of my life.”

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