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Schumer: Nassau storm plan needs to be done soon

Senator Charles Schumer inspects the remains of the

Senator Charles Schumer inspects the remains of the Long Beach boardwalk as he aims to ensure the Long Beach boardwalk Is built stronger to survive future storms. (Feb. 25, 2013) Credit: Steve Pfost

A federal storm-protection plan for Nassau County's South Shore needs to be designed by spring and work begun in early 2015, Sen. Charles Schumer urged Monday.

At a news conference in Merrick, he proposed the aggressive timeline to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under HUD's Rebuild by Design program, 10 teams were selected from 143 to come up with resiliency measures for the New York region. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said HUD should direct some of those teams to look at Nassau County, consult with local officials, and devise a plan.

Federal officials have "done it for Suffolk County. They're doing it for the Jersey shore. They're doing it in the Rockaways in Queens," Schumer said. "We can do it here."

He said the agency should direct design teams to complete a plan by late spring, and that construction should start in January 2015.

On Sunday, Schumer announced the details of his storm plan to match one being developed in Suffolk County.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers developed a Fire Island to Montauk Point plan, called FIMP, to raise 4,400 homes and dump tons of sand on Suffolk beaches.

That study process was first authorized in the 1960s. The $700 million plan was funded after superstorm Sandy.

But while some Nassau areas such as Long Beach have been subject to federal protection plans, the broader area had not been studied, in some cases because officials and residents didn't expect the danger to reach those areas.

John D. Cameron Jr., chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, praised the broader look at protection. "This is not a problem that's going to be resolved with a piecemeal approach, dealing with it neighborhood by neighborhood. We need a comprehensive plan," he said.

Among the projects Schumer laid out in his plan, which could cost up to $1 billion, was looking at sewer systems that backed up during Sandy.

Steve Zalewski, 53, said he thought his Merrick home was far enough from the shore to be safe from flooding. But the danger, he found out when Sandy hit, came from below.

"Storm sewers were bubbling like geysers," Zalewski said.

Merrick, Freeport and Oceanside all experienced flooding from sewers, according to Schumer's office. Schumer proposed installing a South Shore flood-mitigation system that includes additional catch basins and pumps.

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