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Cuomo details Sandy-damaged home buyout plans at Stony Brook meeting

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers a State of

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delivers a State of the State and budget message at Stony Brook University. (Feb. 25, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave more details Thursday about plans for state-subsidized buying out of properties and home elevations in flood-prone areas as part of efforts to help Sandy-battered Long Islanders recover and relocate.

At a state budget briefing at Stony Brook University, the governor said the administration will offer pre-disaster market prices to a limited number of homeowners who have suffered through multiple flooding and want to move.

Earlier this month, Cuomo indicated he plans to use federal housing money to set aside $400 million statewide to fund a buyout program in areas ravaged by the Oct. 29 storm.

On Thursday, the governor said the state wants to give homeowners who prefer to sell the option. "They're trapped because no one will buy their home, because it's destroyed and in a flood area," he said.

The state will offer "100 percent pre-hurricane value," though he did not say how that value is to be determined.

Asked afterward whether he is concerned local tax revenue could be harmed by too many buyouts, Cuomo hinted the program will be targeted at the hardest-hit areas.

"If everyone took us up [on it], it would be a problem, but this is not going to be done on a widespread basis," he said.

To qualify for a buyout, a home must have sustained damage of 50 percent or more of its pre-Sandy market value, or be in a limited geographic area to be set in conjunction with county and local officials, an administration official said Thursday night.

The state also will partner with Nassau and Suffolk counties to provide money to assist homeowners seeking to elevate their houses and rebuild stronger, the governor said.

"I would rather spend more money and build back a home the right way, with the right design and the right technology, than build it back in two years and in four years and in six years," Cuomo told the invited audience of local politicians, officials, students and university staff.

With $30 billion awarded to New York by the federal government, Cuomo expressed confidence that "We're going to have the funds available to cover most of the immediate need."

During his briefing, Cuomo said reconstruction of the Jones Beach boardwalk will cost $20 million, and reiterated his goal to have that beach, like those at all other state parks, open in time for Memorial Day. The governor noted that infrastructure hardening for fuel supplies and electricity remain top priorities.

Recalling the gas lines Long Islanders suffered through, the governor said: "All that chaos about fuel was caused .?.?. [when] we lost delivery for one-and-a-half days. It created weeks of chaos. There is no backup system, no reserve system. The fuel system runs on electric pumps [and] when the electricity goes out, they can't pump the fuel .?.?. It's amazing how unsophisticated the system is."

Of the utility system, he said: "It can't be that every time the wind blows, a tree falls, a line comes down, you're deep into the dark for two weeks .?.?. You can't operate like that."

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