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Fire Island homeowners discuss Sandy rebuilding efforts at Manhattan meeting

This photo, looking north, shows the new breach

This photo, looking north, shows the new breach on Fire Island caused by superstorm Sandy on March 9, 2013. Credit: Doug Kuntz

New York City residents with connections to Fire Island examined projects proposed for the island and its 17 communities -- from rebuilding docks to upgrading emergency equipment -- at a Manhattan meeting of a committee handling the island's Sandy recovery efforts.

The Fire Island Planning Committee held the open-house-style meeting in New York City on Tuesday to reach out to city residents about 10 proposals for the $3 million granted to the island. The federal storm-reconstruction funds are distributed by the state-run NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program.

The planning committee's priority projects include rebuilding docks, installing backup generators at critical facilities, and upgrading emergency communication equipment. Other projects were also presented in less urgent categories for long-term rebuilding goals.

Suzy Goldhirsch of Manhattan, president of the property owners' group Fire Island Association and co-chairwoman of the planning committee, said coming up with priorities was not hard, since residents are "used to working together."

"We did decide early on to present projects that have an islandwide benefit," she said. She has a home in Seaview.

Sharon Kennedy of Brooklyn and Fair Harbor praised the committee for hosting one meeting in Manhattan for city denizens to attend. "I'm just learning about this process," she said as she examined the list of priority projects.

"This isn't about my home," she added, noting her house suffered minor wind damage and erosion in the superstorm. "This is about the future of our little barrier island."

Eddie Greenfield of Manhattan and Seaview said he hoped the committee would heed his suggestion of rebuilding bulkheads that also help the island's wetlands. "It strikes me as more interesting than saying that we need the same old bulkheads," he said.

Dave Lipsky of Manhattan and Ocean Beach said he wished the process was less rushed.

"Some of these discussions are happening after decisions are made, and they're not thinking outside the box," he said.

Still, Goldhirsch called the process of determining how to use the funding "beneficial."

"It has gotten us together in a planning mode," she said. "The unintended consequence is the dialogue itself."

Final proposals are due to the state by the end of March.

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