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After Sandy, Lindenhurst looks at long-term plans

Village of Lindenhurst workers use heavy machinery to

Village of Lindenhurst workers use heavy machinery to remove debris left over from superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 10, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Six months after superstorm Sandy, with the debris hauled away and residents rebuilding their homes, Lindenhurst Village is turning to larger goals.

Village officials are meeting with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to work on a long-range master plan.

"We're focusing on long-term recovery and in particular our housing recovery and looking at the whole issue of moving people away from the shoreline," said village clerk-treasurer Shawn Cullinane. "We think it's a great opportunity and may solve a lot of problems."

Village officials said they had been pondering long-term planning before Sandy, but after the storm, said Deputy Mayor Kevin McCaffrey, "we realized we need to start getting back on track."

Village building inspector Tom Maher said that of the 1,600 village homes located south of Montauk Highway, as many as 1,400 had some level of flooding from the storm. At least 180 were substantially damaged or destroyed, he said.

Between 75 and 100 homeowners have filed paperwork with the village indicating they want to take part in the state's buyback program. More may have applied directly to the state, Cullinane said. Officials said the true economic impact on the village may not be felt for another year or more.

Cullinane said the village may look toward "smart" planning: creating apartments over stores downtown, making the shoreline more recreational rather than residential and creating more green space.

Officials are starting with a parking study, but will also look at ways to attract new residents and businesses.

At FEMA's recommendation, the village has begun organizing a five- to seven-person coordination committee of community and village leaders and business owners.

"Through this committee . . . a plan will be developed in order to address community recovery issues . . . as well as the opportunities available for the village to build back in a more resilient and sustainable manner," said FEMA spokesman John Mills.

McCaffrey said FEMA can steer them toward funding sources to help offset planning costs.

"The idea is to be at the head of the line," he said. "By starting now, we can be leaps and bounds ahead of everybody else."

Office space has been set up in Village Hall for a planner from FEMA's Community Planning and Capacity Building department. McCaffrey said FEMA officials told the village they can help as they did in Vermont after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Steve Lotspeich, community planner for Waterbury, Vt., said FEMA brought in a team of about 20 experts and helped organize public meetings to set project goals.

"They really let us direct the process," he said. "I think it was good for Waterbury, and it resulted in these projects, and we're in the midst of implementing a whole group of them."

He said such long-range planning is the silver lining after events such as Sandy.

"Disasters are awful . . . but they also create opportunities for moving communities forward," he said. "And for the next time a flood or hurricane or other disaster comes along, hopefully the community is a little more resilient."

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