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Second-responders on Fire Island: Contractors

A home damaged by superstorm Sandy in Atlantique

A home damaged by superstorm Sandy in Atlantique on Fire Island. (Nov. 3, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Contractors filed into Islip Town Hall West early Tuesday morning, anxious to see if they were on a list to receive permits allowing them to work on ravaged Fire Island homes for the first time since Sandy struck.

Their main goal -- before a nor'easter hits the region Wednesday -- was to secure properties battered by the superstorm last week.

Because of still-hazardous conditions on the barrier island, only contractors, electricians and plumbers have been allowed to perform "essential services," town officials said.

"Right now, there are houses that are not livable," said Mike Fiore, a member of the Kismet Fire Department who handed out the permits. "All that destruction out there has to be cleaned up first."

Sam Wood found out Monday night that his Kismet-based construction company would be allowed to start working.

The president of the Fire Island Contractors Association said his workers spent Tuesday boarding up windows and covering roofs in Kismet damaged by Sandy with tarps.

Fire Island contractors act as "second responders" after big storms, Wood said.

"Most contractors, no matter what type they are, are acting as some kind of a caretaker for most of the homes over here," he said. "Thirty years ago, people used to do their own painting; now it's not like that. We are relied on for everything."

The nor'easter probably won't deal a heavy blow to the island, but oceanfront houses already damaged by Sandy now lack the protection of sand dunes that were flattened last week and are particularly vulnerable, Wood said.

"We'll have a major concern for the rest of the winter about even minor storms," he said.

More than a week after Sandy, homeowners still haven't been allowed back on the island. A mandatory evacuation order is still in effect, and residents who stayed during Sandy were told if they left, they wouldn't be allowed to return.

"I know there are homeowners and especially the year-round residents who are frustrated," Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said.

"There is nothing to support residents over there," he said, noting the continuing lack of power on the island. "There are leaks, hazmat issues, the structures are unsafe."

Some residents are irritated that they couldn't secure their homes themselves before the nor'easter hits.

"That's my frustration," said Saltaire homeowner Noel Feustel, who said a third of the roof on one of his Fire Island homes was ripped off last week.

"I'm not a contractor, but I'm a homeowner who knows how to hammer a nail into a roof and I could have taken care of it if I could have gone over there."

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