It’s been one month since Hurricane Sandy struck Long Island, and in North Hempstead, the impact of the storm continues to linger.
Sandy’s economic toll is still being calculated, experts say. But on Thursday, some hope arrived from Sen. Chuck Schumer, who announced $15.9 million of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for Nassau County to reimburse cleanup costs.
There was hope too from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He said businesses and homeowners can receive expedited payments from insurance claims, thanks to a new regulation that aims to cut by more than half the amount of time insurers have to send adjusters to homes and businesses to inspect damage.
This news comes as village and North Hempstead officials monitor the ongoing impact from Sandy and continue to examine their response to the storm with an eye toward the future. They are also informing residents and business owners about new and existing efforts and resources.
For example, Nassau County Police Department increased patrols in the severely affected patrol areas since the storm. Those in North Hempstead who are concerned about the security of their unoccupied home or business can contact the Third Precinct in Williston Park at 573-6300, or Third Precinct Policing Center at in Manhasset at 573-6600.
Meanwhile, in some North Hempstead neighborhoods, piles of chopped trees still await carting. To date the town has collected nearly 10,000 tons of debris, a portion of which is stored in a corner of a North Hempstead Beach Park parking lot. Some is being carted upstate and to Pennsylvania, while still more is designated for composting.
The town is tallying the economic impact created by overtime.
“It’s more complicated than just adding man hours,” a town spokesman said. “Certain workers receive higher compensation than others and particular times and so forth.”
Still, there is no anticipated impact on taxes as the town budget already passed, and most of the costs from cleanup would be reimbursed by FEMA, a town spokesman said.
All the while, local officials look to the future. The Village of Port Washington North, for example, held a forum on Tuesday for residents and officials. Going forward, the village will examine amending its code for generators, without compromising safety.
“Part of planning for the future will be exploring the feasibility of arranging a bulk purchase and installation on behalf of homeowners,” said Mayor Bob Weitzner.
Trustees will also look at the procedure for assessing dangers posed by trees on public and private property.
Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said her village government will help facilitate proactive measures to help residents deal with future storms. Leaders there aim to discuss natural gas hook-ups, tree trimming and generator installation.
"We are still doing tree removal ... and certainly there are many areas that need to be replanted from the loss of trees, anywhere from 20-30," Celender said.
Some villages have already adopted special building department procedures to assist residents and business owners affected by recent storms. Modifications to village codes in places such as Kensington and Great Neck Village are making structural repairs, tree removal and generator installation easier.
"These procedures that we adopted are designed to expedite the community recovery process,” Great Neck Village Mayor Ralph Kreitzman said.
In Mineola, officials noted that preparations before the storm – including the securing of a large crane – helped the village clean up ahead of most municipalities.
On a grassroots level, the core team of volunteers at the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management Recovery Center recently formed the Port Washington Crisis Relief Team. Volunteers served nearly 1,300 residents daily in the two weeks following Sandy. The group's mission now is to arm itself with volunteers and resources ready to help in the event of a future crisis. A newly launched website offers resources and news, and a prompt to recruit additional volunteers.
Kensington Mayor Susan Lopatkin said the village has “recovered from the effects of the storm with the exception of some tree trimming and stump grinding efforts which continue.”
School officials, too, had to grapple with making up instructional time. Port Washington Public Schools, for instance, will open Feb. 19-21 during Presidents Week. New Hyde Park-Garden City Park School District will make up mixed instructional time on April 1-2 and June 24. And Great Neck Schools will open Feb. 19-22 for students, June 24-25 for staff only.
Still, summing up Sandy’s impact, Lopatkin echoed sentiments expressed by many throughout North Hempstead when she said, “We are thankful that damage to the village was not that extensive.”
With reporting by Rich Jacques, Geoffrey Walter and Linda Portney Goldstein.