11/07/13 10:47am
11/07/2013 10:47 AM

FILE PHOTO | Damage in Orient from superstorm Sandy.

Southold Town has set a public hearing on a proposed program that would allow homeowners who suffered property damage during Superstorm Sandy to receive a refund or credit back on their next town tax assessment.

On Wednesday, board members scheduled a hearing on the Superstorm Sandy Assessment Relief Act for Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m.

The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October, proposes moving the property evaluation assessment date from March 1, 2013 to Oct. 29, 2012 – the day after Sandy wrecked millions of homes across the state.

Related: Timeline of the days leading up to, including and after Superstorm Sandy touched down on the North Fork

The law would reassess the value of the property at the height of the storm damage, instead of at the increased value it was assessed at in March, after repairs were made.

Gov. Cuomo’s bill allows counties and municipalities to opt in to the program, which provides homeowners who filed a for Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive an adjustment on their property tax assessment to account for losses in value due to Sandy.

The amount of the tax refund, credit or assessment reduction would depend upon the FEMA damage assessment determination and inspections that were conducted by the assessor’s office based on bills paid to licensed contractors or paid homeowner insurance claims, according to the law.

If adopted, the town would be required to refund the homeowners the difference. Assessor Bob Scott estimated that about 35 to 50 homeowners might apply for the reassessment.

“There weren’t that many properties there that were affected,” he said during a phone interview Wednesday. “That is the problem we just don’t know how many people could qualify.”

Suffolk County would front the initial pay out to homeowners, Mr. Scott said, and Southold taxpayers would see the difference reflected in their next tax rate – under the real property tax line. According to Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for county executive Steve Bellone, the county is planning on adopting the legislation after interested towns pass it on the town level. The legislation will allow the county to bond to reimburse homeowners if federal funds are not available.

The law requires each taxing district, including school districts, to hold public hearings before opting into the policy.

The first town hearing will be held on Nov. 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Town Hall Meeting Room.

The deadline to opt-in is Dec. 6 and homeowners would be required to submit their claims to the assessor’s officer before Jan. 21, 2014 for reimbursement.

10/29/13 7:00am
10/29/2013 7:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO

One year ago, Superstorm Sandy touched down on the North Fork, bringing with her a wrath – or more precisely, a combination of tidal surge, winds and rain – unseen by most in the area.

A full year later, the Town of Southold is still owed $2 million in federal funding to help reimburse the cost borne by the storm.

This timeline takes a look back at some parts of the chaotic week that hit the North Fork.

Paul Squire contributed to this project.

10/29/13 7:00am
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | North Ferry in Greenport during Superstorm Sandy.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | North Ferry in Greenport during Superstorm Sandy.

One year after Hurricane Sandy swept across the North Fork, knocking down trees and power lines, flooding downtown Greenport and causing damage to town beaches and roadways, Southold Town officials said this week they are still waiting for roughly $2 million in federal funds after months of red tape, employee turnover and mistakes by the state have held up the town’s money.

Town officials said the delays have pushed back repair projects across town, including $600,000 in road reinforcement and more than $1 million in repairs to the Fishers Island airport.

“The delays are a setback, really a hardship for the town,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “[We’re] having to duplicate everything we did. It was kind of like a double whammy.”

Related: Timeline breaks down Sandy’s arrival to the North Fork area

Town officials said they collected data like employee hours, contractor estimates and labor costs to fi ll out project worksheets — detailed documents explaining why the town needed funding for everything from employee overtime to repair costs.

The worksheets would then be completed by state contractors, who would pass them along to the New York State Office of Emergency Management. The state was supposed to review the worksheets and give them to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for final approval.

Click here to read past coverage of Superstorm Sandy.

Funds from FEMA would then be distributed through the state.

But consultants in the state office incorrectly filled in details on some of the worksheets, forcing the town to resubmit its data, town officials said. Town accountants were the first to notice the discrepancies in the worksheets, said Lloyd Reisenberg, the town’s network system’s administrator and liaison to FEMA.

“[The state] put our data in the wrong columns on some of these spreadsheets. They mixed up the rates of some employees,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. It slows the rate of payment for the town.”

The town has had to resubmit the data for the worksheets in “Category A,” the classification for debris removal and cleanup that totals about $500,000, Mr. Reisenberg said.

“It’s a long, long, drawn-out process,” he said, though he conceded that red tape — not just human error — is responsible.

“They’re not trying to screw us, that’s just the nature of the beast, I guess,” Mr. Reisenberg said.

A representative for the state Office of Emergency Management said she would look into the hold-up but did not provide comment as of presstime.

Town officials said another reason for the delay was constantly rotating staff at the state level who needed to be caught up to speed multiple times.

“People [at the state level] get reassigned, so we keep dealing with a different set of minds,” Mr. Russell said. “We had to literally go through the personnel, identify the office they worked for and re-enter all the hours.”

Federal funds related to paying for emergency personnel have already fl owed into the town, Mr. Reisenberg said.

But town officials said they’re not even sure yet exactly how much money they’re owed, because the total of requested funds keeps changing with amendments to the incorrect worksheets.

“Until they get their act together, it’s a moving target,” said town comptroller John Cushman.

In the meantime, town officials are holding off on repairs or finding other ways to fund the projects, trying to buy time until FEMA funds arrive, so they don’t have to dip into the town’s budget to pay for the projects.

The biggest outstanding project is a series of major repairs to the Fishers Island airport, Mr. Reisenberg said. Lighting was damaged at the airport during Sandy and still hasn’t been repaired, he said. Estimates place the cost for those repairs at more than $1 million.

Additionally, the town is holding off on roughly $600,000 in mitigation projects that would strengthen the ends of about 30 roads damaged by the storm, said town engineer James Richter. When Sandy hit, the ends of roads — like Nassau Point Road — were “attacked” by the surge, he said.

Town employees filled in with sand where the road was eroded, which Mr. Richter said would support everyday traffic and use. But if another storm hits, the road ends would still be vulnerable.

“Those repairs didn’t make it erosion-proof,” he said.

The $600,000 in funding would pay for the town to use large rocks to fill in underneath the roads, he said. Workers would then fi ll the remaining space with sand. Mr. Richter said if the ground eroded again, the road would suffer less damage as a result.

Southold Town is also applying for just under $120,000 to to rebuild a footbridge in Greenport that was wiped away by the surge. The wooden walkway at the end of Pipes Neck Road was knocked apart and its concrete supports were damaged beyond repair, Mr. Richter said.

The new bridge, which provides access to a nature preserve, would be rebuilt with aluminum and could be dismantled and removed if a storm occurred nearby, he said.

Work on that bridge will not start until the town gets the FEMA money, he said.

“It’s all about the money,” Mr. Richter said.

With FEMA money held up, officials are pursuing other ways to pay for repairs or debris cleanup where possible. At its meeting Tuesday night, the Southold Town Board authorized the town to apply for a $30,000 state historic preservation grant to pay for cleanup around Fort Corchaug in Cutchogue.

Mr. Russell said that although the structure , nears Downs Farm, wasn’t damaged in the storm, the nearby popular hiking trail was clogged with fallen branches and trees. The town has already paid for cleanup at the site and is now seeking the state grant to refill its coffers, he said.

Mr. Russell said the town could use money from contingency lines to pay for the other outstanding repairs like the road ends and Fishers Island airport. But if the contingency lines ran out during the projects, any remaining costs would have to come out of the town’s fund balance.

“That would be a worst-case scenario,” he said. “We have a lot of work that’s left to be done, but we’re waiting.”

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06/28/13 9:59am
06/28/2013 9:59 AM

FILE PHOTO | Superstorm Sandy caused millions in damage to Orient Beach State Park.

Orient Beach State Park is on the receiving end of more than $1 million of federal funding eight months after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the parts of the shoreline.

On Thursday, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand announced the New York Department of Transportation had been awarded approximately $1,783,778 to repair and upgrade the beach’s heavily damaged parkway.

During the storm, the two-mile-long entrance road and Gardiners Bay shoreline sustained serious erosion, and four sections of asphalt roadway were damaged and buried utility lines along the entrance drive were exposed. All of the buildings in the park were flooded and the storm surge and flooding destroyed dozens of trees and washed a lifeguard shack and picnic tables back from the beachfront.

“Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc along the parkway of Orient Beach State Park,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “These federal funds will ensure that local taxpayers are not on the hook for repairing this critical infrastructure. “

In addition to funding repairs, the money will be used toward hazard mitigation prevention measures to protect the facility from future natural disasters and flooding.

The repairs and hazard mitigation funding is being provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency through the state transportation department, which is responsive for maintaining the beach parkway.

In April the beach official re-opened following an extensive restoration, including the removal of hazardous trees, repairing the water treatment facility and elevating all utilities to above the flood zones.

Orient Beach State Park is open daily at 8 a.m. year-round.

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05/07/13 11:00am
05/07/2013 11:00 AM

FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Rabbit Lane in East Marion following Superstorm Sandy.

State officials will be available Wednesday to assist victims of Superstorm Sandy looking to apply for recovery and aid that the federal government approved last week.

Representatives with the New York State Department of Financial Services’ Mobile Command Center will provide free help to homeowners and business owners at Southold Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We fought hard for the federal aid Long Island deserves to recover from this devastating storm, and I urge those affected to apply for the support you need for your home or business,” Congressman Tim Bishop said in a release. “Attending this session is not a requirement to access aid, however it will be especially useful for senior citizens and others who are not as comfortable using computer-based forms.”

Those impacted by the storm may also apply for recovery assistance online using this link.

[email protected]

11/10/12 8:00am
11/10/2012 8:00 AM
North Fork, Hurricane Sandy

TIM KELLY PHOTO | The sound of the chain saw isn’t particularly pleasant, but landscaping crews, like this one working in Cutchogue early last week, are quickly turning downed trees into logs.

You might be tempted to remove that fallen tree from your front yard yourself this week. And some of the tiny ones are fair game.

But that giant oak resting on your rooftop? Some things you just shouldn’t try at home.

“Anything that requires a ladder should be left to professionals,” said Josh Carrick of Carrick’s Tree Service in Aquebogue. “Ladders and chain saws don’t mix.”

Mr. Carrick’s company is one of many on the North Fork with their hands full of tree limbs since Hurricane Sandy swept across the North Fork Oct. 29, as they remove trees from atop North Fork homes, cars and driveways.

By Monday Mr. Carrick’s company had removed about fifty trees throughout the Riverhead, Jamesport and Mattituck areas. “We’ve had three crews working almost non-stop since the storm,” he said.

Mr. Carrick said that in addition to trees with rotten centers, his company has seen a lot of trees downed due to poor landscaping techniques, as well as tree limbs fallen from un-pruned trees.

“Trees that are planted too deep have roots that grow straight up and ones in wire baskets that are too big for them can have their roots grow in a circle,” he said. “If the roots aren’t well-established, there’s nothing anchoring the tree down. We saw a lot of that in the storm, as well as more established trees that hadn’t been pruned regularly.”

He said trees with dense crowns, due to lack of pruning, tend to get damaged by the wind more than regularly pruned trees.

Chet Ciaglo of Peconic-based Pine Oaks Lawncare and Landscaping Inc. said his crew has also been busy clearing downed trees farther east.

“I’d say we’ve removed about two dozen already so far,” he said Friday. “There were a lot of trees down in Nassau Point, along Peconic Bay Boulevard in the Mattituck/Laurel area and in Southold, the Bayview and Cedar Beach areas, as well as by Kenney’s Beach.”

Mr. Ciaglo and Mr. Carrick said that while homeowners can certainly take it upon themselves to safely remove trees from their own lawns, trees on houses should be left to landscaping professionals.

“Sometimes you need to use a piece of heavy equipment to get trees off of houses and it may need to be tied off in a special way so it doesn’t hurt the house any more than it already has,” Mr. Ciaglo said.

He added that trees that fall on top of electrical wires should be exclusively reserved for removal by LIPA, as no landscapers are certified to remove them.

Dotty McKnight of Wading River said she returned this week from a trip down south to find that a large tree in front of her North Country Road home had fallen onto electrical wires.

While she said four tree companies had left fliers for her she was told nothing can be done until LIPA comes to clear the tree.

“We couldn’t even get through our front door,” she said.

It’s a scenario playing out all over the North Fork, but as much as residents might be tempted to take matters into their own hands, Jonathan Shipman of Shamrock Tree Expert Co. in Mattituck urges people not to.

“If a large tree falls on a smaller sapling and you cut the smaller sapling the wrong way, the tree could spring toward you,” Mr. Shipman warned. “It’s called spring pull and trees can fall on top of a person that way, knocking them unconscious or even killing them.”

He added that anything more than 14 feet off the ground should also be left to professionals.

For homeowners looking to chop up downed trees that have fallen in their yards, Mr. Shipman and Mr. Ciaglo both said extreme caution should be used when wielding a chain saw, a tool they agreed needs to be held with both hands at all times.

Mr. Ciaglo added that homeowners also need to make sure they’re cutting in front of them, instead of off to one side. To prevent possible injury, he said, chain saws should be placed in the “lock” position while running but not in active use, so the blade stops turning.

According to Mr. Shipman, another way to prevent injury is to wear proper clothing.

“You also don’t want to wear loose-fitting clothing when you’re using a chain saw,” he said. “Baggy T-shirts and pants can get sucked into the equipment and pull you into the blade.”

Both tree professionals said protection of one’s face and hands are also at the top of the list for chain saw safety.

“There are helmets out there with screen shields in the front to keep wood chips from going into your eyes,” Mr. Ciaglo said.

Mr. Shipman said in addition to face and hand protection, ear protection and “chain saw chaps” should be considered.

“Wearing chain saw chaps prevents you from cutting into your leg through your pants,” he said. “Because of the artery that runs through the femur in the leg, it’s very important for people to do that.”

Mr. Ciaglo said leather chain saw chaps can also be helpful when climbing trees in the absence of a bucket truck.

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Sandy, chainsaws, safety

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jason Binkus, owner of Binkus Landscape Inc., cuts up a tree that landed on homeowner Garret Moore’s East Main Street house during last week’s hurricane.

11/09/12 8:00am
11/09/2012 8:00 AM
Sandy, North Fork, hurricane relief, Long Island

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Naomi Cichanowicz, 8, collects donations at a fundraising relay race event for Hurricane Sandy victims Sunday.

Across the North Fork, benefits for victims of Hurricane Sandy are springing up.

A by-no-means complete list is below. Please contact Times/Review to have any additional events added to our online listings.

Or, load the event yourself — for free — through our online events calendar.

• Southold Rotary and its youth Interact Club will hold a food drive at the Cutchogue King Kullen from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 11, to help local food pantries and other Suffolk residents affected by Sandy.

• The Riverhead Knights of Columbus are holding a food drive on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Riverhead King Kullen to benefit the food pantries at St. Isidore R.C. and St. John the Evangelist churches.

• A coalition of local businesses, including San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport, Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic, Greenport Wines and Spirits and JABS in Mattituck are all gathering cleaning supplies, toiletries, generators, food and other supplies, as well as gift cards, for distribution to the Red Cross for hurricane victims.

• A coalition of local businesses, including San Simeon by the Sound in Greenport, Catapano Dairy Farm in Peconic, Greenport Wines and Spirits and JABS in Mattituck are all gathering cleaning supplies, toiletries, generators, food and other supplies, as well as gift cards, for distribution to the Red Cross for hurricane victims.

For online financial donations: http://igg.me/p/269036

San Simeon will continue to accept  non-perishable/clothing/supplies/gift card donations until Friday, Nov. 9 after that they will be delivered.to the following businesses who will continue to collect donations until Saturday, Nov. 10, for distribution to the Red Cross

JABS, 605 Pike Street, Mattituck NY 11952
(indoor and outdoor collections)

Catapano Dairy Farm, 33705 North Road, Peconic, NY 11958

Greenport Wines and Spirits, 132 Front Street, Greenport, NY 11944

• Town & Country Real Estate is donating a portion of each of their rental commissions to the American Red Cross and the Group for the East End to help with the relief efforts. They are also collecting clothing and soft goods at their offices, for distribution in Breezy Point on Nov. 23.

• First Parish Church in Northville, on the corner of Sound Avenue and Church Lane, will be collecting cleaning supplies; toiletries; underwear and socks for men, women and children; warm clothes such as sweatshirts, hats, gloves; blankets; non-perishable food; and bottled water. Emergency response kits will be made and distributed throughout Long Island. Food items can be dropped off at the church on Sundays between 10:30 a.m. and noon. For more information, contact Pastor Dianne Rodriguez at 516-673-1231.

• Peconic River Yoga in Riverhead is collecting non-perishable food for the Mastic-Moriches-Shirley Community Library’s community outreach and for the Riverhead food pantry. For more information, call 369-9569.

• Church of the Redeemer on Old Sound Avenue in Mattituck is collecting non-perishable food, warm clothing, baby supplies, bottled water, hand sanitizer, blankets, pillows and sheets, as well as sturdy boxes to transport the donations to a collection site in Suffolk County. Call ahead to make sure someone is at the church: 298-4277.

• Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead is working with Long Island Cares to collect and distribute ready-to-eat non-perishable food, personal care items, blankets, coats and baby items. Donations can be dropped off at the aquarium between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

• The Riverhead Fire Department is collecting goods for storm victims. Click here to learn more.

• Suffolk County National Bank is matching relief donations up to $25,000.

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11/08/12 10:48am
11/08/2012 10:48 AM
LIPA, Sandy, Reeves Park, Riverhead, Long Island

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Roberta’s house in Reeves Park is the only property in the neighborhood still without electricity after Sandy, she says.

By now, a lot of people have their electricity back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I got mine back Tuesday, and when you first get your power back it seems, to you at least, that Sandy is no longer a problem.

But there are many without power. And in some cases, it doesn’t seem to make sense why some houses have power and some don’t, or why fate chose the people it chose to leave in the dark.

Such is the case with Roberta. She lives in Reeves Park and still had no power as of Wednesday afternoon, though she says everyone else in her neighborhood does.

Even without electricity, Roberta, who didn’t want her full name used, has her hands full.

Her 87-year-old mother, a stroke victim, is paralyzed on one side and can’t get around by herself. Her 13-year son has Down’s syndrome. And Roberta doesn’t drive.

When LIPA repairmen came around over the weekend to restore electricity to the rest of her neighborhood, they told Roberta they couldn’t restore hers because the tree that had fallen on her house, pulling power lines down with it, had also crushed the electric meter box.

LIPA told Roberta she would have to get a private electrician to fix the box before they could come back and reconnect the power lines to her house. She had the box fixed, but getting LIPA back to restore the wires wasn’t proving too easy.

“I asked when they were coming back and they didn’t have an answer,” she recalled. “I said, ‘But you told me I had to have all this work done and you would come back.’ And now it’s getting cold.”

On Monday, a neighbor took them to stay at her house.

Roberta said her mother and son are both “out of their routine” and are constantly asking when they’re going home.

A few years ago, I guess, it could have been me grappling with a similar situation.

I had a brother with Down’s syndrome, and my mother was old and had “small strokes” that made it tough for her to get around or communicate. We took it a few steps further, too. We also had an even older father who was perfectly healthy but loved to get mad about things like this and the psychotic dog, which allegedly bit a guy who then sued us for $2 million.

And sometimes, the Down’s syndrome brother would open the gate and let the psychotic dog out of the house, which gave my father something else to get mad about, and I’d have to try to catch the dog before it attacked somebody.

But that was then. Now, it’s just me.

My other brother, who lives nearby, was mentioning the other day that it’s a good thing we didn’t have this kind of storm and power outage back then. There was Hurricane Gloria, but that happened in mid-September when it was warmer — and in 1985, when all those people were younger.

Something like this, in the cold, would be much harder.

As Roberta is discovering.

She has since found that she couldn’t even get LIPA on the phone anymore.

On Monday, the neighbor, who also didn’t want her name use, decided to contact the media. She contacted us. I went down there.

At first, I thought maybe she was calling the wrong numbers at LIPA. So I called the number I had just called the day before, since my power was out too, and, like Roberta, it seemed like everyone else in my neighborhood had gotten power back already.

No dice. Once you’ve made a report, an answering machine tells you they have the report, and it hangs up on you.

So I tried calling the LIPA public relations people. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the ones to come down and fix the power, but sometimes a little press attention will get some action.

The LIPA spokesperson, Karen Ryan, looked into the situation and eventually called back. She said a LIPA crew could be at Roberta’s house at an “estimated time” of 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Of course, on Wednesday, a Nor’easter, and more outages, were forecast. Roberta asked if they could make it Tuesday. The LIPA spokesperson said there are thousands of people in the same situation, and that there were other homes in Reeves Park without power and that Wednesday 9 a.m. estimate was the best they could do.

So Roberta took it.

I drove by Roberta’s house on Wednesday morning at about 10:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. The wires were still sitting on the ground, and the new storm was getting stronger. She was still without power today.

LIPA needs to assign a unit to answer calls such as Roberta’s.

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