The Southold Town Highway Department is working on Nassau Point in Cutchogue this week to mitigate erosion by placing boulders along the bluffs.
The Southold Town Highway Department is working on Nassau Point in Cutchogue this week to mitigate erosion by placing boulders along the bluffs.
PSEG Long Island has selected Southold to be one of the first towns to receive system upgrades as the company embarks on a $729 million project to repair and safeguard the region’s electric grid from extreme weather, according to an agency release.
As part of an effort to remain eligible for federal emergency mitigation funding, the county is asking residents to fill out a survey which explores locals’ knowledge of natural disaster issues.
The Suffolk County Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee is offering the 21-question survey, the results of which will be used to “coordinate activities to reduce the risk of injury or property damage in the future.”
Funding available in part from offering the survey, according to Southold Town’s website, will be used for beach re-nourishment, elevating structures, and offering backup power for schools and critical facilities.
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.”
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.
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.”
It’s never too early for area homeowners to prepare for the next big storm. So hear’s a guide to everything from choosing the right insurance coverage to setting up a generator.
Review your coverage
Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1 and ends Nov. 30, and the busiest time of the season is just starting, weather officials said. Last season’s superstorm caused $18.75 billion in insured property losses across the Northeast, a figure that does not include damage covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded nonprofit group.
Now, almost a year since Sandy ravaged the Northeast, many homeowners still find themselves paying for repairs that weren’t covered by insurance.
One of the first things homeowners should do to make sure they’re ready for this storm season is re-examine their policies, said Elizabeth Hanlon of Allstate in Riverhead.
“Understand what your policy covers,” she said.
Standard homeowner insurance policies cover damage due to fire, lightning, hail, explosions and theft, according to local agents. The policies do not cover flood damage, a major component of the most recent storm.
Instead, all primary flood policies are underwritten through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, explained Peter Sabat, senior partner at Neefus Stype Agency Inc. in Aquebogue.
A primary flood policy provides up to $250,000 of building coverage and $100,000 of contents coverage, subject to a chosen deductible, Mr. Sabat said.
A homeowner considering flood coverage should realize that there is a 30-day waiting period for a policy to take effect, unless a mortgage closing is involved, he said. So people who find themselves scrambling for generators, water and batteries in the run-up to a storm won’t also be able to quickly buy some flood insurance.
Neither standard homeowners policies nor the National Flood Insurance Program, however, cover flood damage to sewer systems, which can cause raw sewage to back up into homes. Ms. Hanlon recommends that homeowners who have experienced such problems before purchase sewer backup coverage as a separate policy or as an addition to the standard policy.
Another potential consideration for homeowners is that if a home is badly damaged in a storm, repairs or rebuilding will have to adhere to updated building codes. Standard insurance policies don’t take into account the increased costs usually associated with conforming to revised codes, Ms. Hanlon said. For example, an older house may need to meet updated electrical codes, she said. Customers can purchase what’s called an ordinance or law endorsement, another add-on, to cover the costs of updating to meet new requirements.
And residents shouldn’t forget to consider contents of the home.
Mr. Sabat and Ms. Hanlon both recommend that homeowners inventory their possessions, everything from televisions to jewelry and furniture, and write down all purchase prices, dates, serial numbers and receipts, according to the Insurance Information Institute website, iii.org. There are now several apps available for smartphones that can help homeowners in this task. Both iii.org and allstate.com provide links to these applications.
Ms. Hanlon said homeowners could also simply throw receipts in a fireproof box, as long as they do so consistently after purchases.
Stock up on essentials
With the right insurance in place, homeowners should head to the hardware store before the last minute to get storm necessities and the proper tools and materials for post-storm cleanup (and to avoid lines at the stores!)
Aside from a radio, flashlights and batteries, “the number one priority is the generator,” said Chris McBride, store manager at Carl’s Equipment and Supply Inc. in Riverhead. Most homes in the area need around 5,500 watts he said.
Make sure a generator is kept outside but protected from the elements, he said, and that the muffler is not facing the inside of the house — the exhaust can be deadly.
For gasoline-powered generators, homeowners should keep at least 10 gallons of gas on hand, he said.
Dead trees or limbs should be trimmed before the storm, to help minimize wind damage, said Chris Mohr, owner of Chris Mohr landscaping in Cutchogue.
“Trees are the most dangerous thing during a hurricane,” he said.
You also want to put away or tie down anything, from lawn furniture to barbecues, that could get swept up and blown into the home, he said.
After it’s over
Once the storm has passed, assess the home for any damage, but be sure to call an insurance provider before making any repairs, Ms. Hanlon, the insurance agent, said.
“You’ve got to know the steps you need to take when making a claim,” she said. “You don’t just start fixing things.”
You can make emergency repairs to prevent further damage, such as removing a tree from a home, she said. But homeowners should call insurance providers for an assessment right away. People who took to fixing things immediately after Sandy sometimes found they got less money from their claims than they might have, she said.
When it comes to the yard, water anything that may have been hit by salt water, keeping in mind that salt spray can make its way inland in high winds, Mr. Mohr said.
“The salt water kills the roots, he said.
He recommends applying gypsum, which draws out the salt, “and you may have to use it a couple of times,” he said.
White pines are very vulnerable to damage from salt spray, he said. Try to rinse off the spray as soon as possible to prevent browning. Often, the spray has only hit the needles and not the roots, so the tree can be saved – but it may take up to a year to see improvement, he said.
About eight months after Hurricane Sandy, some Long Island municipalities are still waiting for cleanup and repair funding promised by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Southold Town is on that list, but while the town has received the bulk of the reimbursement it requested, it has yet to receive more than $400,000 in funds related to a winter nor’easter that tore up Town Beach and part of Soundview Avenue in Southold .
The blizzard struck on Dec. 26, 2010, causing significant erosion along the bay and ripping away parts of two houses. Much of the asphalt in the parking lot at Town Beach along the Sound also was damaged.
FEMA declared the storm a “major disaster” about two weeks later, and received federal aid requests totaling more than $37 million, according to the agency’s website.
Town comptroller John Cushman said Southold sought $564,268 in storm-related expenses but has received only about $100,000.
The town is also waiting on about $175,500 of the town’s $685,000 claim related to Hurricane Sandy.
Riverhead Town is also waiting for Sandy-related FEMA funds, said Police Chief David Hegermiller, who handled the funding applications.
Donald Caetano, a representative for FEMA, said any funding provided by the federal government through FEMA would be doled out by a New York State management office.
“We don’t pay the applicant directly,” Mr. Caetano said. “We pay the state and then the state pays them.”
Mr. Cushman said the town is working with a state emergency management office to try to resolve the issue.
A representative for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services could not immediately be reached for comment.
Supervisor Scott Russell said the town had also been waiting on FEMA funding related to damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, but that money was recently delivered to the town.
He said discussions about reimbursement for the 2010 nor’easter, like any storm designated a disaster by FEMA, is complicated in that it includes several agencies.
“We have been contacting our representatives at FEMA and the New York Emergency Management with regularity to find out what happened to our reimbursement,” Mr. Russell said.
He said the town has not yet alerted Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) about the missing funds.
“I have waited on contacting Mr. Bishop until I have exhausted all other options,” Mr. Russell said.
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.
While Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer, Southold Town beaches will not be in tip-top shape until the season’s official start on June 22, according to deputy director of public works Jeff Standish.
Town maintenance crews have worked for several months to clear debris left behind by superstorm Sandy and a series of winter storms that battered the North Fork this past year. Although hazardous debris has been removed from the shore, “it’s not pristine,” Mr. Standish said.
Dramatic erosion remains an issue for the town’s Sound and bay beaches, he said.
In January, the U.S. Senate approved roughly $5 billion in federal aid to help mitigate the damage. In Southold, much of the funding provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency was allocated to cleaning up and filling in portions of lost beach with sand, Mr. Standish said. However, restrictions imposed by the state Department of Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers have made it more difficult to obtain permits for traditional beach restoration techniques, such as dredging, he said.
Bay beaches were hit particularly hard by Sandy’s storm surge, according to town engineer Jamie Richter.
The beach at Greenport’s Norman Klipp Park, better known as Gull Pond, extended out only 10 feet following the storm. But even six months later, Mr. Standish estimates only 30 feet of shoreline remains during high tide.
“There’s not much of a beach,” he said.
In the short term the town is focused on preserving what’s left of the shoreline.
“My objective is getting the beaches up and running with the little resources we have,” Mr. Standish said.
In the future, Mr. Standish hopes to move the guardrail at Klipp Park back to widen the beach. The town is actively working with FEMA to obtain additional federal aid to offset costs of that and similar projects, according to officials.
“We are not going to dump money into that project until we hear back from FEMA,” Mr. Standish said, adding that he hopes the project can be completed before the fall. At the moment the town is not looking to develop long-term solutions to the continuing problem of shoreline erosion.
“Living on the water you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” town Trustee David Bergen said. “All we can do is come up with projects to help prevent erosion.”
The town is working on a coastal erosion plan that would address factors such as rising sea levels and the current infrastructure’s effectiveness in protecting the coastline, said Supervisor Scott Russell.
Aquebogue resident Cecily Jaffe is finally regaining some sense of normalcy. She returned to her house three weeks ago, but is stilling trying to make it feel like home.
“I just got my bed two days ago,” she said.
Hurricane Sandy caused $100,000 worth of damage to her Harbor Road home. Floodwaters also swept away half of her belongings, including furniture, family photos and other items she said could never be replaced. Ms. Jaffe, who owns Cecily’s Love Lane Gallery in Mattituck, is now in the process of rebuilding her life in the cottage she’s called home for decades.
Like many homeowners with insurance, Ms. Jaffe did not receive federal grant money for reconstruction. She was only eligible to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money for temporary housing. In the interim, Ms. Jaffe was forced to wait weeks for her insurance check, causing construction delays. She moved five times to different area hotels and apartments before work was completed on her home.
“I’m still living as if I have to move tomorrow,” she said.
North Fork Sandy victims received a low amount of federal aid in comparison to other areas in Suffolk County. According to the FEMA, 564 households in Riverhead Town received $111,000 in federal aid, for an average of $197 per affected household. In Southold Town, 451 households received $366,000 from FEMA, or $811 on average per household. In comparison, Lindenhurst’s 4,000 eligible homeowners received more than $22 million, averaging out to $5,500 per household.
In all, more than $73.5 million in FEMA funding was provided to homeowners in Suffolk County to mitigate storm damage. Less than one percent of that was awarded to the North Fork, according to FEMA figures.
FEMA aid was awarded on a case-by-case basis, said FEMA regional director for Suffolk County, John Mills. The amount awarded to individual homeowners varied according to the severity of the damage and whether the homeowner had flood insurance, he said. No aid is provided for a person’s second home.
A spokesman for Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said Mr. Bishop’s office has been inundated with calls from homeowners who have been struggling to pay household bills since Sandy, with many requesting assistance with mortgage modifications or forbearance, which is an agreement between a borrower and lender that delays foreclosure
Greenport resident Jean Eckhardt’s Pipes Cove area home needed $15,000 in repairs after wind damaged the roof and floodwaters poured into the basement.
“I was the first person in line when I heard FEMA officials were going to be at Town Hall,” she said. “They only gave me a little.”
Ms. Eckhardt, who did not have flood insurance, received $1,500 in federal aid.
Her homeowner’s insurance covered some of the expenses, but she needed to pay for the majority of the reconstruction herself, she said.
“I had to eat most of it,” Ms. Eckhardt said. “I was hoping for more, but I am grateful for what I got.”
Sandy victims now face another costly consequence of the storm. Many North Folk homeowners will need to raise their houses — or face rising flood insurance premiums.
FEMA now requires homeowners who receive federal funding to rebuild their homes in accordance to the National Flood Insurance Program.
“There are so many laws coming out that people are not being made aware of,” said Flanders resident Dhonna Goodale.
Ms. Goodale, her husband and two young children were displaced for three months after the storm. The family received no FEMA assistance, footing the bill for home repairs before finally receiving an insurance check six weeks ago, she said.
“There were fish swimming in our basement,” she said of the family’s experience during Sandy. “Now, during high tide the water floods our driveway.”
The Goodales are now wondering what to do next at the 135-acre estate.
“Should we raise the house? Should we move it? We don’t have a clue what do right now,” she said. “We need answers [from the federal government].”
Flanders resident Sandra Cirincione is in the process of raising her house in the Bayview Pines neighborhood without any FEMA assistance.
Seven inches of floodwater poured into her first floor during Sandy, she said.
“No one told me I needed to raise my home,” Ms. Cirincione said. “I decided to do it anyway. I never want to go through this again. You learn a few things when things like this happen.”
Flood insurance covered much of her home’s interior reconstruction, but that work has come to a halt until the raising work is completed.
She’s living at a friend’s house in Westhampton and hoping to return to Flanders by mid-summer.
Mr. Bishop’s office is working to inform homeowners about programs available for raising their homes. The office has a full-time caseworker to help those affected by Sandy to access relief and benefits. Anyone in need of such assistance can call (631) 289-6500.
The land resources section of Southold’s new comprehensive plan covers everything from protecting historic trees to destroying phragmites to rebuilding salt marshes and conserving energy.
But it was a discussion of rising sea levels and the need for a way to deal just with climate change that dominated the discussion at a public information session on the draft chapter, held at the Peconic Lane Community Center this week.
The discussion began to turn toward climate change at the mention of “alternative shoreline hardening” methods in the chapter.
Principal planner Mark Terry, who drafted much of the plan, said the draft was referring to alternative materials, such as caged rocks, known as rip-rap, instead of traditional wood or other bulkheads.
“We know we need to harden the shoreline,” he said. “What materials are most effective?”
The responses given were varied.
“Caged rip-rap on the Sound doesn’t work,” said Ron McGreevy of Mattituck.
“Hardening systems prevent terrestrial land erosion into the bay,” said agricultural committee chairman Chris Baiz. Stronger bulkheads during Sandy would have prevented further erosion during the 36 hours in which tides were five feet or more above normal, he added.
Some environmentalists say such structures are at best stop-gap measures.
“You must realize there’s no defense against rising sea level,” said Doug Hardy of Southold, a retired marine biologist who has studied climate change and is a member of the town’s conservation advisory council. Mr. Hardy said sea levels in 2080 could be 2 1/2 feet above current levels.
“It’s not going to get better,” he said. “I hate to be the messenger of gloom.”
Lillian Ball of Southold said she hopes the town examines “rolling easements,” which would allow land swallowed by the tide to revert to public property.
“When something is destroyed, at what point do you abandon it?” she asked.
North Fork Environmental Council president Bill Toedter said there’s a need to further discuss the role salt marshes play in protecting the coastline. “We need to rebuild them to prevent the effects of tidal insurgence,” he said.
Ms. Ball agreed that restoration of salt marshes could protect the coastline against climate change.
“There needs to be room for the marshes to move,” she said. “They will do that if there’s enough room for them.”
Jennifer Hartnagel, an environmental advocate with the Group for the East End, suggested that climate change alone could easily be the subject of an entire chapter of the comprehensive plan.
Mr. Terry said the planners thought long and hard about how best to incorporate climate change into the plan, and had decided that it was such a dominant influence that it should play a role in many chapters, including the upcoming land use and emergency management sections.
Mr. Hardy suggested that the town will need a plan just to address climate change.
“It’s going to dominate your plan,” he said. “This has never happened to a civilized society before.”
Planning Director Heather Lanza said the draft chapter calls for the town to create a “coastal resilience plan” to address climate change.
Ms. Ball added that sea level rise predictions made by the state in 2010, which were used to prepare the chapter, have been called into question since superstorm Sandy.
Mr. Terry agreed that there will be changes due to the storm, particularly with regard to flood insurance, which he said FEMA will likely no longer subsidize in the future.
“They’re going to phase that out completely over the next five years,” said Planning Board chairman Don Wilcenski. “If your policy is $2,000 this year, in five years it’s going to be $12,000. It’s not sustainable.”
Jack McGreevy, who also sits on the town’s conservation advisory council, which inspects properties before wetland permits are issued by the Town Trustees, said the group has seen consistent evidence of rising sea levels.
He said aging septic systems near the water will create more damage to the marine environment as climate change progresses.
“Rising sea levels are a big problem right now,” he said. “We should put together a comprehensive plan for that now. Do we need to buy properties back from homeowners?”
A smattering of other environmental issues was also part of the discussion.
Ms. Hartnagel urged the planners to more strongly urge the town to adopt new energy efficient building standards.
“Southold is one of only two to three towns on Long Island that is not part of the Energy Star Program,” she said.
Planners said the Town Board would need to adopt those changes.
Invasive species were another hot discussion.
Mr. Baiz has it in for two invasive species: Norway maples and Norway rats.
In the chapter, planners said trees such as native oaks and American beeches should be planted to replace diseased Norway maples, which are on the state’s invasive species lists.
No one other than Mr. Baiz seemed to want to talk about Norway rats.
“What is this business with Norway? They keep giving us their rejects. It’s a nice place,” joked Ms. Ball.
Mr. Toedter added that he would like the chapter to mention that boat owners should clean the axles of their boat trailers to avoid bringing invasive species from one body of water body another.
The full text of the chapter is available at http://www.southoldtownny.gov/index.aspx?NID=124.