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Filler: Welcome recovery along the Nautical Mile

Along Freeport's Nautical Mile, the delightful follow-up to

Along Freeport's Nautical Mile, the delightful follow-up to devastation is coming along nicely. What was destroyed by Sandy is being rebuilt, stronger and better. Photo Credit: Lane Filler

A year ago, a day after Sandy hit and passed, driving along the South Shore on Sunrise Highway was treacherous. Most traffic lights were out. Some drivers crept, but others, frustrated, roared around.

Most gas stations and convenience stores in Massapequa and Seaford could dispense neither coffee nor gasoline, the two liquids on which Long Island runs. Those that could, with generators or intact wires, had lines long enough to make us consider kicking both caffeine and car addictions.

On Sunday, a repeat of that year-ago drive from Babylon to Freeport was again treacherous. The throughfare didn't sustain lasting damage from Sandy, mind you. It's just an ugly, traffic-snarled way to get from Point "Eh, watch where you're going" to Point "Be glad we don't come this way often."

And, having suffered almost no permanent impact from Sandy, that route probably won't see dollars to improve it.

By the water near Babylon Village a year ago, the Great South Bay had expanded to include about six blocks of neighborhood. Two-story residences sat surrounded by water, like eccentric houseboats. Blocks inland, where water had receded, the hums and whines of generators, pumps and chain saws played an energetic melody.

Today, on and around East Shore Drive, there are homes torn down, homes rebuilt and homes in between. Houses perch on temporary stilts, and stilts sit waiting for houses. "For Sale" signs abound, evidence waterfront life has lost its charm for some.

Residents are looking out for each other, and for scams. One neighborhood man was suspicious of the "I'm a journalist and that's why I'm snooping" story until ID proved it. Satisfied, he turned friendly, pointing to houses and saying, like a litany, "He got taken for $20,000 by a guy that put those steel beams under his house and ran off. That house, too, but I don't know how much."

Like moths to light, the scammers haunt these recoveries.

Along Freeport's Nautical Mile, the delightful follow-up to devastation is coming along nicely. A week before the storm, that stretch was quaintly charming but badly in need of freshening up. A day after, it was as if a giant infant had lifted the Nautical Mile up and smashed it on the ground. Boats, thrown out of the channel, littered parking lots. Cars looked like fish tanks. And the bars and restaurants were trashed and trampled.

Owner Joe Hughes opened the Bamboo Bar and Grill five months before Sandy hit. After, he made it a rallying place for locals, bringing in generators to stay open. People charged phones, got warm and used the place as a clubhouse.

The building had taken on four feet of water, and Hughes closed in the winter for major construction, reopening on Memorial Day. Although the Mile was mostly quiet, Hughes' bar hummed on Sunday, nearly every seat and table taken by drinkers and diners who seemed to know each other and were glad to spend a beautiful day where they'd been offered shelter from such ugly ones.

What was destroyed by Sandy is being rebuilt, stronger and better. There's a long way to go, but we're on our way. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said that 3 million gallons of gasoline will be stored on Long Island to deal with such situations. If we can just figure out how to store 3 million gallons of hot coffee, we'll be ready for anything.

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