Thomas and Marion Mason were devastated after their longtime Freeport...

Thomas and Marion Mason were devastated after their longtime Freeport home was damaged by Sandy -- and then burglarized. (Dec. 7, 2012) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Superstorm Sandy destroyed or left uninhabitable more than 2,000 homes in Nassau and Suffolk, but that total may grow, county officials said.

The number of Nassau homes destroyed or rendered unsafe for occupancy likely will top 1,400, while the number in Suffolk has reached 675, officials said.

The toll in Nassau County includes more than 1,000 residences in the Town of Hempstead alone. Figures were still being compiled from local building departments, county officials said.

The Suffolk total, broken down by the affected towns, consists of 308 homes in Babylon, 214 in Brookhaven, 65 in Southampton, 63 in Islip, about 12 in Huntington, 10 in Riverhead and three in Smithtown, county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said.

These homes are part of the roughly 100,000 Long Island residences that officials estimate were either severely flooded, damaged or destroyed during the storm. Last month, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requested nearly $8.4 billion in federal aid, including housing funding, for Long Island to help cover Sandy's cost.

Long Islanders displaced by Sandy are making do in a range of living circumstances, with many continuing to stay with friends and relatives nearly six weeks after the storm. Sandy devastated areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and flooded the Island's South Shore with a storm surge rivaling that of the great hurricane of 1938.

The American Red Cross shelter at Nassau Community College, the organization's sole remaining shelter, had 96 occupants as of Monday morning, a spokesman said. Just after the storm, that shelter housed more than 1,000 people.

Among the Sandy evacuees are Thomas and Marian Mason, of Freeport, whose Front Street home was engulfed by a 9-foot storm surge, and who are staying with relatives in Queens.

The couple have been back and forth, checking on their home daily as contractors work to gut the first floor. Ten days ago, they suffered further insult: vandalism and theft from the home's padlocked second floor.

Marian Mason, 54, a public health official who supervised a shelter at the height of Sandy, said she cried most days on her return to the house in which she and her husband, 60, had lived with their two children since 1999.

"Now," she said quietly, "I think I'm numb."

Hundreds of other residents are hunkered down in their homes without hot water and heat, awaiting boilers and water heaters that have been in short supply.


How aid to LI stacks up

Since Sandy struck Oct. 29, more than $762 million in FEMA aid has been approved for New Yorkers' rental assistance, home repairs, medical and personal property losses and other needs.

Long Island accounts for about 40 percent of all federal housing aid granted in New York, which tops out at $31,900 for a single household and can be used for only a primary residence.

More than $309.6 million has been granted to individual homeowners and renters in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to numbers released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Just more than 35,000 Nassau households have received $253.0 million of the money, and around 8,200 Suffolk households have been approved for $56.6 million.

A total of 71,296 Nassau households and 26,131 Suffolk households have applied for FEMA help.

The figures for Long Island continue to eclipse those for New Jersey, where $292.0 million in FEMA housing aid had been approved to homeowners and renters.

FEMA still taking requests

Michael Byrne, FEMA's top official appointed to Sandy response and recovery in New York State, said the agency has moved more federal aid in this disaster "faster than anyone's ever done in the history of FEMA."

The 60-day deadline to apply for assistance was extended Monday until Jan. 28 by Cuomo. FEMA continues to receive about 1,000 new applications a day from New York's 13 affected counties, Byrne said.

The magnitude of the disaster is reflected in an unusually high overall approval rate for FEMA assistance in New York, which is running at more than 50 percent, compared with 20 percent to 30 percent in other recent disasters, Byrne said.

"What it's really showing me is that people really need our assistance at a much higher rate than we usually see," he said.

FEMA aid, which does not have to be repaid, goes predominantly to the underinsured, uninsured and those seeking rental assistance while their homes are being repaired.

Byrne urged Long Islanders unsure of whether they might qualify for assistance to register with the agency in case their insurance claims are denied later.

But even Long Islanders who do not qualify for FEMA aid can get help at the agency's disaster recovery centers -- low-interest loans, access to counseling services or even help battling insurance companies, Byrne said. There are eight such centers in Nassau and three in Suffolk.


Home is all they want

The Masons are among those who haven't seen any money from their insurance companies.

FEMA provided $3,100 for shelter, food and clothing for two months, but the couple -- like so many -- were forced to bunk with Marian's 87-year-old father in Jamaica, Queens, because no hotel accommodation or alternate rental housing was available.

"We've got flood insurance with Hartford Insurance Co. and a homeowners policy with New York Central Mutual," said Thomas Mason, a public safety chief with the 30,000-resident Rochdale Village cooperative housing in Queens.

"But so far, not a cent."



Help Requested


A look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency aid granted to individual homeowners and renters, by county. All figures are as of Monday.

NASSAU: 71,296 applications filed; $253 million in aid approved

SUFFOLK: 26,131 applications; $56.6 million approved

BRONX: 44,463 applications; $1.98 million approved

BROOKLYN: 47,890 applications; $164.72 million approved

MANHATTAN: 19,749 applications; $11.21 million approved

QUEENS: 50,514 applications; $196.42 million approved

STATEN ISLAND: 19,589 applications; $79.03 million approved

Source: FEMA

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