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Residents grill leaders about policies after Sandy

Flooding in Ocean Beach is shown from the

Flooding in Ocean Beach is shown from the Albatross Restaurant at Bay Walk and Dehnhoff Walk. (Dec. 27, 2012) Credit: James Mallott

More than five months after Sandy slammed the coast, the South Shore of Long Island is still reeling. And residents who are rebuilding their lives and homes came to a Bay Shore summit last week to hear how local leaders are preparing for the next superstorm.

"It seems a day doesn't go by that you can't pick up a newspaper and find something about Sandy," said Edmund Frazier, interim superintendent of Bay Shore schools. He moderated the 19th annual Bay Shore-Brightwaters Community Summit, which focused on life after Sandy.

Thursday's was the first of the annual meetings to feature a panel discussion with politicians and local stakeholders instead of a series of speeches.

In the standing-room-only auditorium at Bay Shore High School, panelists -- including local and regional representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and the New York State Assembly and officials from the Islip Town Board, Fire Island and Suffolk County -- answered questions about how the storm would affect tax assessments, and a controversial Sandy-created breach in Fire Island that some believe is causing more flooding in shoreline areas.

While Assemblyman Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore) supports closing the breach, he said addressing the widening cut in Fire Island's wilderness area "is not necessarily the answer to all our problems . . . there's something else going on here." He did not elaborate.

Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott said the main flooding concern for Fire Island and the South Shore is the lack of protective dunes, which Sandy wiped from the barrier island.

"The protection is what we all need out there. We have to be prepared," Mallott said, adding that Fire Island officials, the towns and the county have been working to start a joint dune replenishment project this fall.

Yvette Platt, a member of the Brook Avenue Parent Faculty Association, asked how taxes would be affected by reduced assessments for homes that the storm severely damaged.

Islip Councilman Steve Flotteron said of the 17,000 parcels in Bay Shore, less than 1 percent sustained substantial storm damage.

Panelist Susan Barbash, president of nonprofit Protect Long Island, said Fire Island protected the community from a heavier blow. "Bay Shore might have been very lucky this time," she said, "but I don't think anyone thinks Sandy is going to be a one-time event."

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