Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone spent Monday visiting FEMA's local disaster recovery centers, the busiest of which was housed in the basement of the Lindenhurst Memorial Library.
Before he could even get into the room where temporary assistance applications were being filed, he heard the plight of Jim and Pat Stramezzi.
The couple rent the bottom floor of a home on South Sixth Street in Lindenhurst; their adult daughter is in the upstairs unit. Sandy brought 4-1/2-feet of water into their home, leaving the home uninhabitable and wiping out most of their belongings.
It was so bad, Jim Stramezzi said, that when he retrieved his clothing and had them cleaned at a laundromat, his daughter threw it all out, worried about diesel fuel and oil that may have seeped into the floodwaters that soaked them. But yesterday, navigating the federal government system was a bigger problem.
“This is the fourth time we're here,“ Jim Stramezzi told Bellone, describing a labyrinthine paperwork process that has bounced them between FEMA and the Small Business Administration's loan center in search of assistance. “We can't find apartments, either.“
Stramezzi, 63, said that the closest hotel to use temporary housing funds is in upstate Kingston. He and his wife are now staying with friends in Seaford.
“We're starting to look at capacity issues,“ Bellone promised them, punching their information into an iPad.
Later, in an interview, Bellone said that temporary housing availability was moving to the top of Suffolk's priority list, now that the gas crisis has been addressed and power has returned to most county residents. He still could not estimate the number of mobile homes he will ask for from FEMA.
“This is still somewhat fluid and evolving, as it does involve capacity issues and people's preferences,“ Bellone said. “I think the preferences here would be to rent an apartment in your neighborhood or have a trailer you could rent yourself on your property.
“The question is, do we have enough capacity in trailers and capacity in apartments? The housing issue, this is our top priority right now.“