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Brookhaven buys Sandy-damaged houses in Mastic Beach to keep homes out of flood plain

This home at 46 Shore Drive in Mastic

This home at 46 Shore Drive in Mastic Beach is one of seven properties in this south shore community that were damaged by superstorm Sandy. The Town of Brookhaven is purchasing the seven homes and plans to tear them down and preserve the land as open space. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Seven Mastic Beach houses severely damaged by superstorm Sandy will be purchased and demolished by the Town of Brookhaven, officials said.

The properties will remain under town ownership to serve as natural buffers against future storms, officials said.

Town officials said they have agreed to pay a total of $125,000 to buy the low-lying properties from New York State, which had bought them from their owners after the houses were flooded by up to 6 feet of water during the October 2012 storm.

The Nature Conservancy's Long Island chapter has agreed to pay the town $105,000 to cover the cost of tearing down the houses.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Brookhaven officials plan to "return them to their natural state," which will help stem future flooding.

The houses are rotting away and moldy from water damage, Mastic Beach Mayor Maura Spery said Monday. She said as many as 19 other Sandy-damaged properties in the village also may be preserved as open space.

"Wetlands are actually good for storm protection. They lessen the wave action," Spery said. "It's going to be awesome to take them down. They'll help the village. They'll help the bay."

The properties -- on Beaver Drive, Diana Drive, Jefferson Drive, Lincoln Drive, McKinley Drive, Oceanview Drive and Shore Drive -- all lie within a 100-year flood plain, as defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Nature Conservancy officials said.

The state's New York Rising program bought many houses damaged by Sandy from their owners and agreed to sell some to municipalities, rather than to potential homeowners.

Many of the Mastic Beach houses destroyed by Sandy originally were summer bungalows, but were converted to year-round houses.

The properties include cesspools that leak harmful effluents and nitrogen into local waters, officials said.

Spery said she was "grateful" that town officials agreed to buy the properties.

"We are trying to say, maybe we don't want to have so many of these homes that were meant to be summer homes that people are living in year-round," she said. "It made sense to put them back to wetlands."

Randy Parsons, a conservation finance and policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy, said the group's goal is to reduce the number of cesspools in areas susceptible to flooding.

"It's a tough transition for people who love living there," he said. "But as a long-term policy in those areas, it really makes sense to gradually move out."

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