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Poll: Threat of future Sandys doesn’t hurt LI’s desirability

The scene in Long Beach's west end on

The scene in Long Beach's west end on Oct. 31, 2012, just days after superstorm Sandy hit Long Island. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Despite worries about climate change, an overwhelming number of Long Islanders don’t believe the possibility of another destructive hurricane makes Nassau and Suffolk counties a less desirable place to live, according to a Newsday/Siena College poll taken for the five-year anniversary of the storm.

By a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, most Long Islanders believe “human activity” is to blame for rising global temperatures and nearly three-quarters think the Island will experience another storm like Sandy in the near future, the poll found.

The poll surveyed 1,007 registered voters. It was taken Oct. 17-22 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

If and when another Sandy-like storm hits, three-fourths of respondents supported using government resources to help rebuild homes and businesses on the coast. Further, they don’t believe the government has done enough to protect against future hurricanes.

Still, the survey found the threat of storms wasn’t triggering residents to leave: 75 percent said it had “no effect” on their view of Long Island’s desirability as a place to live. Only 22 percent said the threat makes the Island a less attractive place to reside.

They are more likely to feel like Louis Alleyne of Freeport.

“Where you gonna go? California? They have terrible earthquakes. Florida? They have even worse hurricanes,” said Alleyne, 73, who said he had no plans to move from his house even though Sandy swamped it with 4 feet of water five years ago.

“No, I wouldn’t move out,” Alleyne said. “I’ve been here 37 years.”

“This seemed to speak to that overall Long Island pride,” said Donald P. Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute. He noted there was no “meaningful difference” among Nassau or Suffolk residents when asked that question, even though Nassau suffered more Sandy damage: 74 percent of Nassau respondents said the likelihood of future storms had no impact on their view, compared to 76 percent of Suffolk residents.

The poll sought Long Islanders’ views on a variety of hurricane-related issues five years after the superstorm, as it was called, pummeled the East Coast and killed 48 New Yorkers. It damaged 95,000 homes, businesses and government buildings on Long Island alone, knocked out power to much of Long Island, crippled transportation, and altered the dunes and channel at Fire Island.

Since then, more than 7,000 Long Island homes have been rebuilt and more than 1,300 elevated to avoid future storm surges. Thousands more still have not been fully repaired or addressed.

“You know how I view Long Island? Like the California of the Northeast,” said Thomas D’Angelo, 57, of East Northport. “California has fires. It has earthquakes. But people still live there because it’s beautiful. I like Long Island, the people like Long Island. It’s that stubborn streak that people tap into. We’re playing the odds.”

There was a slight difference depending on political view: 81 percent of voters who consider themselves conservative said future storms didn’t affect their view of the Island’s desirability compared to 65 percent who called themselves liberal.

Among the other Sandy-related findings, 50 percent of those surveyed said they had a household evacuation plan now — up from 30 percent before Sandy — while 48 percent don’t. Asked whether the government has “done enough” to enhance Long Island’s ability to withstand such storms in the future, 60 percent said no, while 25 percent said yes.

“Truthfully, I don’t know what you can to do plan against the storm. You can’t stop water and you’ve got water all around,” said Susan Byrnes, 55, of Lindenhurst. She said perhaps drainage could be improved, but added “I don’t know how you can prevent [storm surge] from breaching the Island.”

“Absolutely not,” D’Angelo said when asked if government had done enough. “They are just so slow at doing things. The [U.S.] Army Corps of Engineers, they’re so slow and they don’t do enough.”

Overall, 74 percent of Long Islanders said they supported the use of government resources to help rebuild homes and businesses in coastal flooding areas. But among the 23 percent who opposed that, some expressed very strong opposition.

“I think they should either pay for insurance and have their insurance cover it” or not be allowed to rebuild so close to shore, said Holly Williams, 53, of Port Jefferson Station. “I don’t think my tax dollars should . . . have to pay for a new house for them.”

By a nearly 2-to-1 ratio (60 percent to 32 percent), Long Islanders said they believed human activity is to blame for global warming. That is roughly in line nationally, if slightly lower. A national Gallup Poll earlier this year found 68 percent of Americans blame human activity. On Long Island, like elsewhere, far more voters in the 18-to-34 age bracket agree with that assessment (73 percent) than those 55 and older (56 percent).

“Pollution is ruining the ozone layer, all the scientists say,” said Siku Hamin, 26, an Elmont resident who was among those who said human activity is causing global warming and Long Island is likely to get hit with another severe storm in the near future. “You’re seeing all the other storms happening around the world and what’s going on with nature.”

Some expressed doubt.

“I believe it’s more based on normal weather activity,” Williams said. “The reason I feel that way is I worked for an environmental consulting firm for 13 years and I have a lot friends and co-workers” who believe the current changes are part of natural fluctuations.”

“I know there are skeptics,” Alleyne countered. “But there probably are skeptics that the world is round.”

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