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Suffolk County Sandy task force set for 1st meeting today

Committee to review local, state and federal recovery programs and come up with recommendations to prepare for future storms, officials say.

Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory sponsored the 2017 legislation

Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory sponsored the 2017 legislation creating the task force. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A Suffolk task force formed to evaluate the response to superstorm Sandy by government agencies, nonprofits and the private sector will start preparing a plan to be ready for future storms when it hold its first meeting Thursday.

The committee of approximately two dozen unpaid members is expected to produce a report over the next six to nine months, according to the county Legislature’s Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, who sponsored the legislation creating the task force. The committee, which is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. at the Suffolk Legislature in Hauppauge, will include a review of state and federal recovery programs and recommendations for future storms, Gregory said.

“It may be another 50 years before we have another superstorm Sandy,” he said, “but we have to look back and analyze what went right, what went wrong. Did we make improvements where we need to make improvements?”

Gregory (D-Copiague) said he put forward the legislation five years after the superstorm made landfall because many residents are still struggling to recover. People are continuing to deal with fraudulent contractors and complex recovery plans, he said. The resolution was approved unanimously by the Legislature in December.

He will recommend David Calone, former chairman of the Suffolk Planning Commission, to head the task force.

“The overall goal is to be completely prepared as we can be for the next storm, and that means constantly asking the question, ‘How can we do better?’ ” Calone said.

Suffolk County is better prepared in 2018 than when Sandy hit, but “we will undoubtedly find ways to improve more,” Gregory said.

The committee is expected to focus on the municipal response, consumer and residential recovery after the storm, coastal resiliency and protection, he said, as well as infrastructure and new technologies that could improve communication during a storm.

Given the strong storms in the Gulf Coast last year, Calone said there’s an urgency to be ready.

“We need to be prepared to take that punch,” he said. “We need to take a look back to look forward.”

Representatives on the committee will include Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) and state Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), as well as representatives of County Executive Steve Bellone, towns, villages, builders and a resident activist.

Gregory said the committee will be staffed by members of his legislative office, and he hopes to partner with Stony Brook University as well.

Michele Insinga, who leads Adopt a House, a Lindenhurst-based nonprofit advocating for those impacted by Sandy, said that residents still struggle and recovery programs and the government’s response deserve scrutiny.

“I wish it would have been done earlier, but better late than never,” said Insinga, who recommended a storm victim, Beth Walters, to the task force.

Bellone spokesman Derek Poppe said, “We look forward to working with the presiding officer and Task Force to assist homeowners still reeling from Sandy and support ongoing efforts related to storm mitigation and enhanced infrastructure.”

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