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Hurricane Sandy

Nassau County's Supreme Court. Photo from Facebook

A Smithtown home improvement contractor who pled guilty to scamming Hurricane Sandy victims out of more than $100,000 will serve jail time — on weekends only.

Lee Moser, 50, was sentenced to 45 days in jail, to be served on weekends, and five years of probation. In addition, he also paid $50,000 in restitution that will be returned to the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery.
Moser had previously pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class D felony, and first-degree scheme to defraud, a class E felony, June 1 in Nassau County Supreme Court before Justice Robert Bogle.

Lee Moser. Photo from Nassau County district attorney’s office

“Cases like this are especially outrageous because homeowners were victimized first by Superstorm Sandy, and again by their contractor,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement. “This defendant stole from relief funds that were the lifeline victims needed to rebuild their homes and lives.”

From April 2015 to August 2016, Moser signed contracts with five Nassau County homeowners to perform work on their homes that have been severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to Singas. In most of these cases, the defendants wrote Moser a down payment check for the work, using funds from NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, made payable to his business Capstone Remodeling.

NY Rising is the state-run program that assists homeowners impacted by natural disasters. The homeowners had applied for and received money from NY Rising to rehabilitate their homes after they were damaged by the Oct. 29, 2012, storm.

Instead of performing the contracted work, Moser repeatedly provided excuses as to why his business had not started, such as he was in the hospital or caring for his sick mother, according to prosecutors. In total, Moser admitted to stealing $100,885 from Nassau homeowners. Moser spent these funds on gasoline, dining at restaurants, telephone services and other expenditures to continue running his construction business that were unrelated to the homeowners’ contracts, according to the district attorney’s office.

The Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs received five complaints from victims of Capstone Remodeling between June 2016 and April 2017, which were forwarded to the district attorney’s office. An investigation immediately commenced.

NY Rising has since reimbursed the Nassau homeowners who were scammed by Moser.

Sheryl Cohn stands in her home’s guest bedroom where the ceiling crashed and fell onto the bed during Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though it’s been more than five years since Hurricane Sandy ravaged Long Island, many people, including Huntington Station resident Sheryl Cohn, are still feeling its effects like the storm only happened yesterday.

Black mold in the basement of Cohn’s home is an aftereffect of Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Kyle Barr

In an interview after the April 11 public hearing at Stony Brook University conducted by the Suffolk County Legislature’s Superstorm Sandy Review Task Force, Cohn said her roof was ruined in the wake of the storm, and her house is falling apart around her. The ceiling in her guest bedroom fell and crashed onto the bed, and black mold has sprouted in many rooms around her house. The masonry on the outside of her home — finished only a few months before Sandy hit — fell to pieces on her driveway. She lives in fear that a piece of ceiling will fall on her head while she sits or sleeps.

“My grandson, he turned five in March, he has never been here,” Cohn said. “I would never be able to forgive myself if, God forbid, he contracted something or a piece of sheetrock fell on his head. It makes me feel horrible. He lives a half an hour away, and he’s never been to Nana’s house.”

She first looked into a contractor to fix her roof, but the firm she hired disappeared with all of the money she had already given them. She said the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, the state program that was created to provide aid to people whose homes were damaged during the storm, has constantly told her wrong information and switched caseworkers with her multiple times. Now she says they have stopped returning her calls and emails. Five and a half years later she still has no progress on acquiring any financial aid.

As some of the effects of Sandy linger on, Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), the Legislature’s presiding officer, helped to create the Superstorm Sandy Review Task Force, a 27-member committee of government representatives, scientists, engineers and other experts to make recommendations on how to deal with the lasting effects of Sandy as well as prepare Suffolk County for the next big storm.

“My grandson, he turned five in March, he has never been here. I would never be able to forgive myself if, God forbid, he contracted something or a piece of sheetrock fell on his head.”

— Sheryl Cohn

The task force is divided into four working groups including emergency response, resiliency, recovery and infrastructure.

“As we go and narrow down the issues they want to focus on, we want to look at what went wrong, what are the recommendations, what are the solutions,” said Joshua Slaughter, Gregory’s aide. “We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but we want to come out with things to make it better.”

The task force plans to have more meetings and come up with a document by December that will provide recommendations for the county.

While much of the focus of the task force is focused on the South Shore, where the damage was much more severe, problems from the North Shore not only deal with damaged property but the severe risk of beach erosion and property loss for people living close to the shore.

Professor of oceanography at Stony Brook University and task force member Malcolm Bowman said there is not enough solid data to say that “storm of the century” Sandy won’t be repeated in the near future and that rising sea levels will make each new storm do more damage.

“Five, 10, 25 years from now it will take less of a storm to do the same amount of damage,” Bowman said. “That is the challenge that we have to think about and be prepared for.”

Malcolm Bowman discusses ways to fix Long Island’s receding beachline at a Superstorm Sandy Review Task Force public hearing held April 11 at Stony Brook University. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are both natural solutions and engineered solutions up in the air for trying to fix Long Island’s receding beachline, according to Bowman. Natural solutions include planting seagrass and reestablishing oyster beds to hold the land in place, while engineering solutions include barriers and other human-made structures. Bowman said that both will come into play when preparing for upcoming storms.

Regarding aiding those who are still affected by Sandy navigate their recovery, Slaughter said the task force was thinking about recovery advocates, somebody who can be hired by the state to work with people on a consistent basis.

“I know it will be difficult, there are a lot of cases, but if you leave it to that one on one, people will be running forever, and not every consumer can get out as well as others,” Slaughter said.

“The vast, vast majority of our contractors did the best to their ability, but of course the ones we hear about are those who put people in a bad position or were unscrupulous,” chair of the task force Dave Calone said. “Our job as a governmental entity is to make recommendations to limit that as much as possible.”

Another task force meeting took place April 18 at the Southampton Town Hall. Two more meetings are scheduled for April 26 at Patchogue-Medford High School and May 2 at Babylon Town Hall.

A portion of Sunrise Highway during Hurricane Gloria, 1985. Photo from LIM
Exhibit examines the many facets of dangerous storms

By Rita J. Egan

Five years after Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of Long Island, and as our country continues to recover from recent hurricanes, the new exhibit, In Harm’s Way, at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook delves into the effect such storms can have on communities.

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 30, 2012. Photo by Edward Kent

Nancy Solomon, executive director of Long Island Traditions, an organization dedicated to preserving local traditions and heritage, curated the exhibit. Through artifacts, hands-on activities, photographs and paintings dating back to the 1938 hurricane nicknamed “Long Island Express” and earlier, Solomon has created various vignettes where museum visitors can discover how residents and government agencies prepared and recovered from natural disasters through the decades.

“It’s really about how we have coped and prepared for storms both on a personal level and on a community level through history up to the present and looking forward,” Solomon said.

The curator said In Harm’s Way is an exhibit she’s been working on for a few years. Before Sandy hit Long Island, she was working on an exhibit about boaters and boatyards and talking to those who worked and lived along the coastlines.

“During Sandy I said to myself these people are going to have to cope with a lot of damage and to think forward to how they are going to prepare for this [in the future] since these storms are becoming more frequent,” she said. “And I thought of that while [Sandy] was happening. Chances are there are things they know that other people might benefit from, as well as things they don’t know that we might learn from that have happened over the last 100 years.”

Solomon, who has a M.A. degree in Folklore and American Studies from George Washington University and is an active member of the American Folklore Society, said the title of The Long Island Museum exhibit came about after talking to a fisherman who explained to her that those who work on the water have many ways of monitoring conditions to get out of harm’s way. “Ordinary people have tremendous knowledge, and we can learn from those things,” she said.

Solomon said one story she was told was about a boat captain who noticed the barometer went down one full point in an hour, signifying a tremendous drop in atmospheric pressure, during Hurricane Carol in 1954. While he used a ham radio to alert other captains to head back to shore, they didn’t heed his warning. While his crew made it back safely to Jones Inlet, the others didn’t. Solomon said the story had a big impact on her.

“That was my first major understanding that there are things that you have to pay attention to,” she said. “You have to pay attention to bird migration. You have to pay attention to fish migration because they are natural warning signs that fisherman are keenly aware of as well as people who live in places like Fire Island.”

A 1938 clock with a watermark from the “Long Island Express” hurricane. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Visitors to the exhibit will find it separated into three sections. The first — Looking Backwards — includes museum objects and items from personal collections from the 1938 Long Island Express to the 1991 Halloween nor’easter. Among the pieces are damaged items from 1938 including a clock that was mounted high on a garage wall that still bears the watermark from the Long Island Express hurricane.

A second section is dedicated to the hurricanes Irene, Lee and Sandy that occurred in 2011 and 2012 and their impact on Long Island and upstate New York. A featured artifact is a piece of the Long Beach boardwalk. Another piece that is a favorite of Solomon’s is a bay house, built by museum staff member Joseph Esser, where visitors can see what measures one can take to protect themselves when in harm’s way, including the use of bags filled with sand or clamshells.

The last section of the exhibit, Looking Forwards, focuses on solutions such as flood-proof homes and new technologies. There is also an interactive table where museum-goers can build their own home or community, taking into account safety measures for those who live along the coastline.

The museum’s curator Joshua Ruff compared the timely subject of battling storms to how generals and military planners talk about how the last war is still being fought as a new one is starting.

“I think that the exhibition really does a wonderful a job of looking at recent memory and looking at how memories have been guiding experiences for Long Islanders storm after storm after storm,” Ruff said.

Neil Watson, director of the museum, said he is pleased with the collaboration with Long Island Traditions and the exhibit that he said is informative and entertaining due to being visually stimulating. “For our museum to do a show that is focused on Long island and has a global overreach, I think is really terrific,” he said. “It’s what we do. It’s the mission of the museum to have an exhibit of this caliber, especially at this time given what’s happened recently, it’s become almost a timeless problem.”

The remnants of a steeple from the Old Whaler’s Church in Sag Harbor destroyed by the 1938 hurricane. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Watson said the narrative is personal for everybody and the objects included in the exhibit are varied and effective. “They really give you a sense of place,” he said. “They put you in the moment as opposed to looking at a photograph of a house. So, I think in that way it’s a very ambitious installation of the exhibition, and it’s very effective. It’s pretty wonderful in that way.”

Solomon hopes that visitors will think about how waterfront and coastline communities are changing after viewing the exhibit. During her research, she said she learned a lot about the importance of high dunes and how hardening the shoreline may not be the best approach. “I hope they start asking questions of planners and our public agencies about the rationale for doing things and when there might be some better ways,” she said.

The Long Island Museum will host In Harm’s Way until Dec. 31. Special programs include the symposium “In Harm’s Way: Past, Present and Future” Oct. 28, a panel discussion “Learning from our Neighbors” Nov. 12 and the curator’s gallery tour Dec. 3. The museum is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. For more information call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

Huntington Hospital volunteers pose with MD Anderson Cancer Center nurses in Houston. Photos from Meghan Billia

Huntington nurses went to work and rolled up their sleeves to help out the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Three Huntington Hospital nurses stepped forward to answer a call for aid from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Texas hospital had put out a nationwide request for volunteer nurses to provide relief for their own staff members impacted by the storm.

“I got into nursing because I wanted to help people,” Meghan Billia, an oncology nurse at Huntington Hospital, said. “When you hear there’s a greater scale on which you can help people, it feels like something you should do.”

Billia, of Huntington, stepped up for the first time as she knew firsthand the havoc that storm and flooding could wreak on one’s personal life. She had lived on the South Shore of Long Island when Hurricane Sandy hit Oct. 22, 2012.

ER nurse Demetrios Papadopoulos, of Bellmore, traveled to Houston from Sept. 9 to 16 with Billia.

“When I got down there, the first thing I asked was if I could work every day,” he said. “Houston is a lovely city, but I’ll go down another time to see it.”

Papadopoulos said he learned that roughly 70 percent of the employees of MD Anderson had been affected in some way by the storm. To further add to its problem, the Houston hospital had been forced to cancel approximately 300 surgeries scheduled the week that Harvey hit.

Meghan Billia stands with co-worker and friend at MD Anderson. Photos from Meghan Billia

“They were adding on 100 cases a week in order to catch back up,” Papadopoulos said. “In addition to being understaffed, they were overbooked.”

The volunteers were given a one-day crash course on MD Anderson’s computer systems then immediately scheduled to work up to 12-hour shifts. By taking over Houston nurses’ schedules, Huntington Hospital’s staff was providing much-needed time for them to file insurance claims on flooded homes, begin ripping out damaged floors and sheetrock, and grieve the death of loved ones.

“We were covering nurses who were affected by the hurricane personally,” Billia said. “It’s not often you get to go somewhere and help other nurses. You usually go to help the patient. This was helping the staff and giving back to fellow nurses.”

While rolling up their sleeves and putting in long hours at the hospital, the volunteers also said it turned out to be an unexpected learning experience.

“There are parts of MD Anderson that are highly specialized,” Papadopoulos said. “I got to see what they have and what they are capable of. They had a few ideas that I hope to bring back here.

MD Anderson is nationally ranked as the No. 1 hospital for adult cancer treatment by U.S. News & World Report.

Billia said working in oncology she learned about a different style of IV pump and equipment that allows chemotherapy to be administered differently to cancer
patients. She brought a sample product back to Huntington Hospital for staff members to review and discuss.

Both first-time volunteers said they were surprised, and nearly overwhelmed, by the appreciation and gratitude of MD Anderson’s staff. Papadopoulos said Houston staff members attempted to take him out to dinner on his last night in the city, while Billia was given a few small presents for her hard work including a T-shirt.

A third nurse who volunteered, Shaneel Blanchard, could not be reached for comment.

Dr. Gerard Brogan Jr., the executive director of Huntington Hospital, said he fully supported the actions of his employees taking time to volunteer in Texas.

“I’m very proud of our dedicated staff who went down to Houston to help the people
affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Brogan said in a statement. “As a hospital that turned into a community resource during Hurricane Sandy with caregivers who constantly go above and beyond for their patients, it’s not surprising that our staff would feel compelled to help people whenever they can.”

Billia and Papadopoulos said they have both stayed in touch with those they met while volunteering. Papadopoulos hopes to make a trip down once the city has recovered, while Billia is keeping in touch via text messages.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, town highway superintendent Dan Losquadro and Miller Place Park Homeowners Association Vice President Marc Mazza inspect the newly fortified Gully Landing Beach.Photo from Brookhaven Town

By Desirée Keegan

The North Shore is growing stronger.

After another shoreline stabilization project, this time, at Gully Landing Road, Miller Place can now weather the storm.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy’s high winds, heavy rains and tidal surge severely damaged Gully Landing’s beach. The site suffered severe damages, including 3,000 cubic yards of soil erosion, 2,000 square feet of vegetation loss, structural damage to the existing wooden walkway, as well as irreparable damage to 1,548 cubic feet of gabion retaining wall, according to Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). This site not only contains a drainage outfall system that handles storm water from the upland residential roadways, but also provides waterfront access to the local community and emergency responders.

In order to stabilize the bluff and ensure the drainage facility’s permanent reconstruction, Brookhaven Town replaced the ineffective gabion baskets, which are boxes or cylinders filled with rocks or concrete used for erosion control, with 7,325 square feet of epoxy-coated, steel sheet dividing wall for slope stability. Behind the steel sheet bulkhead, 2,364 cubic yards of heavy armor stone retaining wall was installed to protect the area from high storm surges, combined with wave action, or undermining, according to Losquadro. Erosion control and slope stability measures included native plantings, geotextile filter fabric coverings and geo-grid slope reinforcement solutions.

“Hurricane Sandy had such a devastating effect on so many communities across Brookhaven Town,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). “Superintendent Losquadro and the men and women of the highway department are still repairing the infrastructure damage nearly five years later, but we are very fortunate that Congressman Lee Zeldin has been so responsive to our need for repairs at Gully Landing Road and other locations in the town.”

The project was funded with a $1.4 million federal grant, secured by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This revitalization effort will go a long way to improve water quality while strengthening local infrastructure,”  said in a statement.

In addition to storm hardening the shoreline and reconstructing the drainage outfall, the town installed an upstream storm water treatment structure that’s 10 feet in diameter to properly treat storm water prior to its discharge into the Long Island Sound. This downstream defender reduces the environmental impact of storm water runoff from the 75-acre beachfront property that contributed to the pollution, by capturing contaminated sediment before it reaches the outfall. By installing these coastal hardening features, Brookhaven officials believe the town has prevented future damage to the slope, Gully Landing Road, the waterfront access, residential homes and the drainage system.

“The revitalization project at Gully Landing will not only help us from an erosion standpoint, but it will also assist in preventing pollution from storm water runoff,” Losquadro said. “We have successfully hardened our infrastructure to ensure we are less vulnerable to damage from future storms.”

He thanked Zeldin for expediting the federal funding necessary to complete the project and improve the resilience of the shoreline. Miller Place Park Homeowners Association Vice President Marc Mazza also thanked deputy highway superintendent Steve Tricarico for his involvement, and was glad to see the project come to fruition.

“Because of all the hard work and dedication, the Long Island Sound will be cleaner,” Mazza said. “The bluffs and the beach will remain secure and aesthetically pleasing for many years to come.”

Sarah Anker talks local issues at a debate at Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Kevin Redding

As Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) gears up to run a campaign in the hopes of serving the 6th District for a fourth term, two political newcomers — Republicans Gary Pollakusky and Frank Vetro — also each hope to occupy the seat in November.

Anker, who assumed office in 2011 and won her last election by a total 19 votes, said the most important part of running for public office is knowing the community. As someone who’s lived in the area for more than 30 years, she said her experience “literally trumps the [predominantly Republican] political system.”

“I will continue to do my job working for the people and not for the party,”
said Anker, who founded the Community Health and Environmental Coalition, advocated to build Heritage Park in Mount Sinai
and created the Jobs Opportunity Board connecting graduating seniors with local jobs. She has also provided sports safety forums to local schools to prevent deaths and serious injuries among student-athletes, helped reduce county government costs by streamlining services, and takes pride in being heavily involved with civic groups and always being accessible to constituents.

The legislator said she wants to build a stronger economy by revitalizing our communities, sustaining the district’s environment and continuing her work in the prevention and intervention of those addicted to opioids.

“I think I’ve proven myself through my past experience [through] community advocacy and by getting the jobs done,” she said. “I’m here to serve for our quality of life and environmental legacy.”

Gary Pollakusky

Gary Pollakusky

Pollakusky, 41, a Rocky Point resident who served as campaign manager for Anker’s 2015 Republican challenger Steve Tricarico, and recently secured the Republican nomination, said he believes Suffolk County is in the greatest physical crisis it has ever faced in our history.

“After 10 years of Democrat control … we have an opioid problem that is out of control, and gangs and drugs are pushing into our community like they belong here,” he said.

If elected, he said he aims to fix the county’s outstanding debt, eliminate excessive fees, make the area more affordable to its seniors and young people, stamp out the opioid problem and do more to support small businesses.

As the self-starter of Media Barrel LLC, a Rocky Point-based marketing and advertising business that strives to solve problems for companies and various local organizations, Pollakusky said his business experience and community activism will support his candidacy and ultimately his election.

“Beyond the barbecues and concert series are very important issues that need to be addressed,” Pollakusky said. “How are we going to get out of debt? How are we going to inspire companies to stay in Suffolk and on Long Island? This is what I do for a living. I help businesses solve problems by giving them solutions. I will bring business into the county, and work on our debt and balance our budget.”

On his opponent, Pollakusky said while Anker is well meaning, he said he thinks she’s misguided and ineffective.

“I help businesses solve problems by giving them solutions. I will bring business into the county and work on our debt and balance our budget.”

— Gary Pollakusky

“We’re in a pretty sad state,” Pollakusky said. “Not a lot has changed in our county since 2015. You know we’ve hit rock bottom when our county legislator is more concerned with making a pocket park surrounding a boulder than figuring out ways to actually retain the structural deficit. We’re drowning in debt and she wants to sink us with a rock.”

Upon graduating from Cornell University with a bachelor of science degree in industrial labor relations, Pollakusky ran the human resource department of AHL Services before working at Columbia Business School as assistant director of admissions.

Outside of his small business, he said he created the nonpartisan North Shore Community Association in 2013 to tackle community problems through transparency and advocacy, including educational drug forums. He was recently among Long Island Business News’ 40 Under 40 Awards list.

A former resident of Long Beach, Pollakusky and his wife, Jeanine, moved to Rocky Point after Hurricane Sandy destroyed their home. He said he loves the hamlet’s close-knit community.

“We love our open space, our beaches, our main street, small-town lives and the people,” he said. “We have such amazing people here that would do anything for their neighbors. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Frank Vetro

Frank Vetro

Vetro, 45, the host of a LI News Radio show, a real estate agent and longtime educator from Miller Place, is currently in the process of gathering petitions to run against Pollakusky in the September primary. He said although he isn’t used to the political world, speaking publicly to residents on the radio for years pushed him to throw his hat in the ring.

“My listeners, after hearing me day in and day out, would always say, ‘Why don’t you run? You should run, you’re passionate, you really care,’” said Vetro, who wants to stamp out county corruption. “I have always fought for underdogs.”

He also discussed keeping the area affordable to those young and old.

“A last straw for me was that me and my family are so close, and a lot of my family is moving off Long Island because of the cost of living and better opportunities elsewhere,” he said. “I’m losing them and I can’t take it anymore — the taxes, the mismanagement, people being in office and leadership positions not on their merit but because they knew somebody. When is enough, enough?”

Vetro said his daily experiences, educating and rehabilitating young gang members and drug addicts, give him an advantage over other politicians.

“I think when you have your finger on the pulse and you’re in the trenches doing it, it gives you a better understanding of what’s going on,” Vetro said.

“A last straw for me was that me and my family are so close, and a lot of my family is moving off Long Island because of the cost of living.”

— Frank Vetro

As a principal at Hope House Ministries School, Vetro said he works with youth in great crisis, some of whom have been kicked out of school, and he helps them get reacclimated to a “normal” life. He said working with recovering addicts puts him in close quarters to what he sees as a major problem in New York.

“My body of work sits hand in hand with what’s going on on Long Island,” he said of the opioid crisis.

His job as a realtor, he added, gives him hands-on knowledge of the housing market.

In 2006, while principal of Hampton Bays High School, Vetro was arrested for alleged phone harassment of several women. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges, which were later reduced to violations. Ever since, he has been fighting corruption in the court system and rebuilding his life, and even wrote a book last year called “Standing on Principal,” detailing his arrest and injustices he faced.

“I know about Suffolk County corruption better than anybody and what I do to help people and what I stand for … I really, in my heart, believe that I’m the most qualified,” he said.

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro and Councilwoman Jane Bonner inspect the Sound Beach shoreline stabilization project. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Sound Beach’s shoreline is now stabilized.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy changed the typography of much of the North Shore’s beaches and dunes. In Sound Beach, the bluff at Shore Road and Amagansett Drive became severely eroded. With roads and homes at risk, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department began a four-year, multiphase $1.3 million project in May 2013 to steady it.

“The hardening of our infrastructure leaves us less vulnerable to damage from future storms,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said. “In the long run, the results of this project will save taxpayer dollars due to fewer erosion costs in the area.”

To stabilize the bluff, almost 2,000 cubic yards of clean fill was added and an outfall pipe replaced, which broke during Hurricane Sandy. The work was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and $233,651 in federal assistance was received to help with the cost of the project.

The work on the bluff and the repair of the pipe were never meant to complete the project, but, according to Losquadro, was just a first phase.

“In the long run, the results of this project will save taxpayer dollars due to fewer erosion costs in the area.”

— Dan Losquadro

“It was just a temporary ‘Band-Aid’ so the bluff wouldn’t erode any further and jeopardize the structural integrity of the drainage pipe,” he said. “Our ultimate goal was to eliminate the outfall over the bluff completely, abandon the drainage pipe and direct all of the water from this stream into a newly constructed recharge basin to the east of Amagansett Drive.”

He said the project offered the town the rare ability to eliminate an outfall pipe, preventing stormwater runoff from flooding the beach and entering the Long Island Sound, while also taking erosion pressure off the face of the bluff.

Once construction of the recharge basin near the intersection of Amagansett Drive and Shore Drive was completed in 2015, the final phase of the project began, which included the abandonment of the pipe and permanent stabilization of the bluff through the installation of a three- to four-ton armoring stone revetment wall, erosion control matting, wood terracing and native plantings. The project also included the installation of a new staircase from Shore Drive.

“As a town, we need to make sure there is reliable access that will be there season after season for our fire department and police in the event of an emergency,” Losquadro said.

This phase was completed with in-house resources and came in under budget.

Although the temporary stabilization of the bluff received funding from FEMA, the storm hardening and total bluff restoration was paid for through town capital funds. The total cost for Phase II — construction of the recharge basin — was $633,333 and for Phase III — storm hardening and bluff restoration — was $450,000.

“Completion of this project on time and under budget after being stalled by [Hurricane] Sandy is a welcome event to the residents of Sound Beach,” Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said. “The bluffs along the North Shore are especially vulnerable to erosion, but the more we can do to stabilize our shoreline, the safer it will be.”

Ryan Madden from the Long Island Progressive Coalition leads a march calling for renewable energy in the form of wind. Photo from Ryan Madden

Scientists and politicians are relied upon to do the bulk of the work to reduce the effects and pace of climate change, but local activist organizations on Long Island are taking on the burden as well.

“I think it’s really important for grassroots and local solutions to tackle this crisis — to be at the forefront of the solutions,” Ryan Madden, with the Long Island Progressive Coalition said. “A lot of the problems we see in this country, in New York State and on Long Island, whether it’s rampant income inequality, access to education, just issues of local pollution and ailments related to the combustion of fossil fuels, all of this connects into a larger system that informs why climate change is a problem in the first place.”

The LIPC, a community-based grassroots organization that works on a range of issues related to sustainable development as well as achieving social, racial and economic justice, has a program for improving energy efficiency. The group helps low- to moderate-income homeowners take advantage of free energy assessments and obtain financial resources to be able to go through energy-efficient retrofits and ultimately help reduce carbon footprints. The organization also recently entered the solar arena.

Members of Sustainable Long Island’s youth-staffed farmers market in New Cassel. Photo from Gabrielle Lindau

“It’s part of a larger push to democratize our energy system so that communities have a say in the build out of renewable energy and have ownership or control over the systems themselves,” Madden said. “We’re pushing for constructive and far-reaching changes, which is what we think is needed in this time.”

Madden added he has fears about the future because of comments President Donald Trump (R) has made in the past regarding climate change and his previously stated belief it is a hoax. Trump signed an executive order March 28 that served as a rollback of the Clean Power Plan, an initiative meant to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. The order infringes on commitments to the Paris Agreement, a universal, legally binding global climate deal.

“We’re trying to meet that with really bold, visionary climate policy that has a wide range of economic transformative impacts, while also remaining on the ground helping homeowners and institutions make that switch through energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Madden said.

Other organizations like the Sierra Club, a nonprofit, are also focused on renewable energy, but in the form of offshore wind.

“Offshore wind is the best way to meet our need for large-scale renewable energy that can help us fight climate change and provide good jobs for New Yorkers, but we aren’t used to getting our energy this way in the United States,” Sierra Club organizer Shay O’Reilly said. “Instead, we’re used to relying on dirty fossil fuels, and our energy markets and production systems are centered on these ways of producing electricity.”

Gordian Raacke, with Renewable Energy Long Island also works on this front. He and his group advocated for and eventually convinced the Long Island Power Authority to do a study on offshore wind power.

“January of this year, LIPA agreed to sign a contract for New York’s first, and the country’s largest, offshore wind project,” he said.

New York Renews hosted a town hall to get community members together to talk about climate change issues. Photo from Ryan Madden

Deepwater Wind will build and operate the 90-megawatt project 30 miles east of Montauk Point in the Atlantic Ocean. The project will generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes.

In 2012, the group also commissioned a study to evaluate whether Long Island could generate 100 percent of its annual electricity consumption from renewable energy sources. The study, The Long Island Clean Electricity Vision, showed that it would not only be possible, but also economically feasible.

Currently, the LIPC has a campaign to pass the Climate and Community Protection Act in New York State, which would decarbonize all sectors of New York’s economy by 2050, redirect 40 percent of all state funding to disadvantaged communities — which would decrease pollution over decades — and ensure a transition away from fossil fuels.

These topics and others are taught in classes at Stony Brook University under its Sustainability Studies Program. Areas of study include environmental humanities, anthropology, geology, chemistry, economy, environmental policies and planning. Students do hands-on and collaborative work and take on internships in the field. They also clear trails and develop businesses to help increase sustainability among other hands-on initiatives.

“Our mission is to develop students who become leaders in sustainability and help to protect the Earth,” Heidi Hutner, director of the program said. “Climate change and pollution is the most important issue facing us today. We have to find a way to live on this planet and not totally destroy it and all of its creatures. Our students are skilled in many different ways, going into nongovernmental or not-for-profit organizations, becoming law professors, lawyers, journalists, scientists, educators, but all focused on the environment. A former student of ours is the sustainability director at Harvard Medical School.”

Students from the program organized to march in the People’s Climate March in 2014, and will be doing so again April 29. The purpose of the march is to stand up to the Trump administration’s proposed environmental policies.

Students and staff at East Islip High School work with Sustainable Long Island to build a rain garden. Photo from Gabrielle Lindau

Undergraduates in the program also work closely with environmentally active local legislators like state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), and county Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport). There is also a Sierra Club on campus.

The LIPC regularly hosts round tables to show other environmental groups what it’s up to and town halls to let community members share their stories and even visit assembly members to lobby for support. Sustainable Long Island, a nonprofit founded in 1998 that specialized in advancing economic development, environmental health and social equality for Long Island, also focuses on low-income communities through its programs.

Food equality and environmental health are the group’s biggest areas of concentration because according to Gabrielle Lindau, the group’s director of communications, the issues are tied to each other.

“There is a polarization here on Long Island,” she said. “We have extremely rich communities, and then we have extremely poor communities.”

According to Lindau, 283,700 people receive emergency food each year, so Sustainable LI builds community gardens and hosts youth-staffed farmers markets to combat the problem.

“It’s a game-changer for low income communities,” she said. “These communities gardens are great because they give people access to fresh, healthy food, and it also puts the power in their hands to find food and also, the learning skills to be able to grow that food. It’s also a paid program, so it’s giving them an opportunity to earn what they’re working toward.”

The youth-staffed farmers markets, which began in 2010, have been a real catalyst for change in communities like Farmingdale, Roosevelt, Freeport, Flanders, New Castle and Wyandanch where access to fresh food is not a given.

Children help Sustainable Long Island build a community garden. Photo from Gabrielle Lindau

“We have so much farming going on out east here on Long Island and I don’t think people who live here ever step back to look at all the food we have here in our own backyard,” Lindau said. “These markets are an incredible program because they’re not only teaching kids in communities about agriculture where they wouldn’t have necessarily had the opportunity to do that, but they’re also teaching them financial literacy skills, and, at the same time, they’re bringing in healthy food items to their neighbors.”

Shameika Hanson a New York community organizer on Long Island for Mothers Out Front, an organization that works to give women a voice for change — empowering and providing them with skills and resources to get decision makers and elected officials to act on their behalf — does specific work with climate change, also calling for the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. As a national organization, the topics range depending on the needs of an area from getting methane gas leaks plugged, to stopping oil trains for moving through the area, to getting involved in carbon offsets. Specifically on Long Island, women are creating a task force to ensure the drinking water quality across the island is standardized.

“Democracy doesn’t work without civic engagement,” Hanson said. “There’s a need for a conversation to happen that is united. Even though the water authorities are separate, the water isn’t.”

Sustainable Long Island also works on building rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff into local waters.

“We’re in a dire situation here on Long Island when it comes to our aquifers,” Lindau said. “We have an intense amount of nitrogen that’s already going into the ground.”

The nonprofit works with the Environmental Resource Management Foundation and PSEG Foundation and builds rain gardens like the one at the Cove Animal Rescue in Glen Cove and others in East Islip and Long Beach.

“It’s about educating communities on the importance of the rain garden and why green infrastructure practices are pivotal for environmental health on Long Island moving forward,” Lindau said. “If we don’t have clean drinking water, we’re going to be in trouble, if we don’t have usable soil to plant in, we’re not going to have farms growing the produce we need to survive and if we don’t have that produce, then we’re not going to be able to bring food into these low-income communities for people who can’t get it otherwise. They’re all connected in a number of different ways and a lot of them root back to health.”

Students in Stony Brook University’s Sustainability Studies Program participate in the 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC. Photo from Heidi Hutner

Sustainable Long Island has done work with local municipalities following superstorms like Hurricane Sandy. They helped communities rebuild, hosted peer-to-peer education meetings to better prepare locals and business owners for another devastating storm and provided job training to bring businesses back.

“A big part of this is going into communities and educating them and helping to advocate in order to facilitate change,” Lindau said. “Working with other groups is extremely important as well. We’re not a lone wolf in the nonprofit world — we not only find it important to work with governments and other municipalities — but to connect with other nonprofits who have something unique to offer as well.”

Melanie Cirillo, with the Peconic Land Trust, reiterated the need for local organizations to team up. The Peconic Land Trust conserves open space like wetlands, woodlands and farmland. It keeps an eye on water quality and infrastructure like Forge River in Mastic, which is a natural sea sponge that absorbs storm surge.

“Wetlands are key in so many of our waterfront properties,” she said. “We have a finite amount of drinking water that we need to protect for our own health. The protection of land is integral to the protection of the water.”

She said although every organization may have a bit of a different focus, they’re all working under the same umbrella and premise, with the same goal in mind: maintaining the health of Long Island.

“I think it’s important for groups to have the ability to bring people together, especially because the impact of climate change affects people in a lot of different ways, whether it’s high energy costs, the impact of superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, sea level rise or coastal erosion, or ocean acidification that impacts people’s fishery and economic way of life,” Madden said. “We have to meet the immediate visceral needs of people — of communities and workers — but we also need to be thinking decades ahead on what it will take to decarbonize our entire economic system. It’s really important for groups to be oriented toward that long term focus, because this is an all hands on deck situation.”

This version corrects the spelling of Stony Brook University’s Sustainability Studies Program Director Heidi Hutner’s last name.

Scenes of destruction after Hurricane Sandy hit the North Shore. File photo

Climate change is going to cost us. The prohibitive costs in both dollars and loss of life for past hurricanes in the New York area might be just the beginning if recent trends continue.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based nonprofit whose mission is to “safeguard” the Earth, the cost of ignoring climate change will be as high as 3.6 percent of gross domestic product — hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs and water costs alone could cost the United States as much as $1.9 trillion annually by 2100.

For Long Island the first two pose the greatest risk.

Sea level has been rising consistently for the past several decades and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation predicts sea levels will continue to rise to a high projection of 10 inches by 2020 and 30 inches by the 2050s. As sea levels have been rising so have water temperatures.

Scientists have repeatedly said rising sea levels will lead to an increase of storm surge-related flooding and rising sea surface temperatures will lead to stronger and more damaging hurricanes.

This October will mark the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which resulted in 48 fatalities and caused more than $30 billion in damage for the state of New York alone. Former President Barack Obama (D) declared a state of emergency for New York, and although it was classified as a post-tropical nor’easter or superstorm when it touched down in New York, it led to hundreds of Long Islanders losing their homes and businesses, thousands losing power for weeks, school closures and much more damage.

Scenes of destruction after Hurricane Sandy hit the North Shore. File photo

According to Suffolk County, Sandy damages cost Brookhaven Town a total of just less than $30 million, and Huntington Town slightly more than $30 million. Considerable costs came from debris removal; aid for school district repairs; repairs to boardwalks, stairs, docks and sidewalk repairs; and fire department costs.

“Even with storms of the same intensity, future hurricanes will cause more damage as higher sea levels exacerbate storm surges, flooding and erosion,” a study done by the NRDC said. The study said in recent years hurricane damages have averaged $12 billion annually and more than 120 fatalities. “With business-as-usual emissions, average annual hurricane damages in 2100 will have grown by $422 billion and an astounding 760 deaths from just climate change impacts.”

In 2013, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) created the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to manage the $4.4 billion in relief funds that was made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A billion dollars in aid went to assisting 1,100 New Yorkers with reconstructing their homes, more than $76 million was awarded to rebuild 750 rental properties, and at least $49 million was awarded to 1,043 small businesses to support the replacement of essential equipment and renovations.

“Superstorm Sandy demonstrated that New York as we know it faces a different reality — a reality of increasingly frequent extreme weather events that cannot be ignored,” Cuomo said upon the two-year anniversary of the storm.

Sustainable Long Island’s executive director L. Von Kuhen said Sandy helped many residents realize the seriousness of the potential future. The nonprofit works to advance sustainable development for Long Island communities.

“I think Sandy … made a lot of people wake up and realize how vulnerable our coastal communities really are,” Kuhen said in a phone interview. “People are used to periodic flooding from normal storms but never anticipated anything of what Sandy caused. It was a wake-up call.”

Scenes of destruction after Hurricane Sandy hit the North Shore. File photo

He said many communities responded to that call, reaching out to the organization after the storm to create a plan for their town or village so they’re prepared for the next storm. He said the nonprofit conducted a survey in 2015 to see how many people were prepared for another major storm and the results showed Sandy helped teach many people.

“People knew a lot more than they did before the storm because I think a lot of people hadn’t thought about the possibility of a major storm hitting Long Island to the degree of Sandy,” he said. “I think there was a lot of public education at many levels after that.”

Real estate losses could cost the United States $34 billion in just eight short years, and $173 billion by 2075, according to the NRDC study. As sea levels continue to rise, homeowners on the water are going to see their backyards disappear, and water creep closer to their front doors.

“Our business-as-usual scenario forecasts 23 inches of sea level rise by 2050 and 45 inches by 2100,” the study said. “If nothing is done to hold back the waves, rising sea levels will inundate low-lying coastal properties. Even those properties that remain above water will be more likely to sustain storm damage, as encroachment of the sea allows storm surges to reach inland areas not previously affected.”

They estimated if heat-trapping gasses continue to be emitted at the current rate, in 2100 United States residential losses will reach $360 billion per year — with states like New York and areas like Long Island being especially vulnerable.

One Stony Brook resident has already run into a real estate problem concerning her house and proximity to the water.

“I had been dealing with the same insurance company for more than 35 years,” Donna Newman said in a phone interview. “And suddenly they notified me they wouldn’t be able to offer me home insurance any more.”

Newman said when she spoke with someone at the insurance company, they explained to her they could no longer cover her because she lives too close to the water— about a half a mile from it.

“Even with storms of the same intensity, future hurricanes will cause more damage as higher sea levels exacerbate storm surges, flooding and erosion.”

“I was pretty upset by that,” she said. “We have not moved our house; the water has always been there. I was very angry.”

Newman was told many other residents in her zip code were also no longer going to be insured due to their proximity to the water.

The United States as a whole will also face an increasing demand for energy as climate change continues, as well as exploding water costs for the driest and most water-stressed parts of the country.

“Many economic models have attempted to capture the costs of climate change for the United States,” the NRDC study said. “For the most part however these analyses grossly underestimate costs by making predictions that are out of step with the scientific consensus on the daunting scope of climatic changes and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions.” 

With all the daunting issues facing the United States, if greenhouse gas emission rates are maintained, America is far from the most vulnerable.

“The sad irony is that while richer countries like the United States are responsible for much greater per person greenhouse gas emissions, many of the poorest countries around the world will experience damages that are much larger as a percentage of their national output,” the study said.

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Hurricanes have caused power outages in recent years. File photo

With several emergency services packed into a small area, Port Jefferson Village officials hope to secure a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority toward building a local backup energy grid to be used in case of a crisis.

The village applied for the NYSERDA grant to build the backup grid, known as a microgrid, through a statewide competition because of the critical community services that cannot stop functioning during a power outage, Mayor Margot Garant said.

“During a severe weather event such as we had with [hurricanes] Irene and Sandy, where the hospitals lost power and some of us lost power — some up to 14 days, [and the] hospitals were out eight to 10 days — those … patients that were on critical care services were put in harm’s way,” Garant said at the village board of trustees meeting Monday night. “So basically if we have a microgrid during those severe weather systems … where the overall grid goes down, we flick a switch and keep our critical services online.”

Microgrids are independent of the regional grid and rely on their own power-generating resources. NYSERDA may award up to $40 million total to help communities around New York State build those microgrids.

Port Jefferson Village is not the only municipality on Long Island applying for a slice of the pie. Huntington Town officials recently agreed to pursue the grant funding for their own microgrid, to support buildings like Huntington Hospital and the town’s wastewater treatment plant. And a month ago, NYSERDA awarded the first five grants — $100,000 each — to communities from Buffalo to East Hampton, so the applicants could perform feasibility studies on their projects.

NYSERDA expects to announce the next round of grant winners soon.

“We have two major hospitals, a ferry, a railroad station, our own school district, a village hall, a wastewater treatment facility, a groundwater treatment facility, an ambulance company,” Garant said. “We have a lot of emergency services-related components within a very small radius.”

Port Jefferson is listed on the NYSERDA website as one of five “opportunity zones” on Long Island where microgrids might reduce strain on the regional utility system and have other positive benefits. The other zones are Long Beach, Montauk, Hewlett Bay and Inwood. Statewide, there are eight other regions that have their own opportunity zones.

With a $100,000 grant, the village would work with consultants and local stakeholders, like the fire department, to research the Port Jefferson project. In choosing which projects to award grants to, NYSERDA is using criteria such as the area’s level of vulnerability to outages, how a microgrid would improve community function and the possible effect on ratepayers.

Although power generation and distribution in the United States used to operate at a more local level, the grids have become more regional over time to make the utilities more cost-effective and reliable, according to NYSERDA’s website.

“These systems are, however, vulnerable to outages that can impact large regions and thousands of businesses and citizens, particularly as a consequence of extreme, destructive weather events,” the website said. “Microgrids could help minimize the impact of these outages by localizing power generation, distribution and consumption so that a fallen tree or downed wire will not interrupt critical services for miles around.”

Projects awarded the $100,000 grants to perform feasibility studies will later be eligible to apply for more funding under the NYSERDA program, to advance the microgrid construction efforts.