Officials on the East End have revealed, in broad outline, how they intend to make use of some of the $50.5 billion in federal aid money Congress and President Obama approved last week to repair various facilities and public works damaged or destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
The Senate’s passage of bill 62-36 came three months after the storm, and two weeks after the House approval, but was finally pushed through after Republican opponents cut its spending measures unrelated to disaster relief.
“Over 90 days was too long to wait, but a bipartisan coalition has now secured the aid necessary to help those affected by Sandy get back on their feet,” New York Congressman Tim Bishop said in a statement following the approval. “My job is to bring federal resources to the table to solve the problems identified by local government, and I am closely coordinating with the county, towns and villages as we compete for aid to rebuild our communities.”
The legislation contains funding both for short-term emergency needs and long-term work to mitigate damage from future storms. It includes $16 billion for Department of Housing and Urban Development community development programs, $11.5 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, $10.9 billion for transit systems and $5.4 billion for the US Army Corps of Engineers, which will lead the charge rebuilding the Island’s damaged coastline.
New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele explained on Monday that the actual work on local projects would be handled by different entities, depending on the project. On the East End, Thiele said beach restoration for downtown Montauk is a top priority, and the decision to do it will be made by the Army Corps of Engineers, despite previous reports to the contrary.
The Assemblyman added that repairing Dune Road in Hampton Bays would be part of the FEMA mitigation, so Southampton Town would have to apply. Meanwhile, Thiele said local residents and businesses have to apply for aid separately. “In short…the money has been appropriated, but the decisions on public works projects are still to be made,” he said.
Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi said on Tuesday that the Town had applied for several million dollars in FEMA aid. The bulk of it was for debris removal, Nuzzi said, noting that the Town has also applied for money to repair infrastructure, including the Tiana Beach pavilion in Hampton Bays and damage to parks, bus shelters and marinas, among other things.
“I haven’t heard what may or may not be approved,” Nuzzi said. He pointed out that the deadline for residents and businesses to apply for FEMA aid has been extended from January 28 to February 27, so there is still time to apply. The disaster relief agency will accept applications even if residents have insurance, Nuzzi explained, noting that FEMA can pay for things that insurance may not cover. “That’s the important point,” he said.
On Tuesday, East Hampton Town’s Chief Auditor Charlene G. Kagel said the Town has not received any funding at this point, but it has submitted reimbursement requests to FEMA for debris removal and emergency response, which totaled nearly $500,000. “We are meeting our FEMA rep this afternoon to submit the requests for permanent work for storm damage to Town roads and facilities,” Kagel said, noting that amounts to an additional $2.24 million.
All funding, when received, will be used for repair and replacement of damaged facilities or to repay short-term loans used to fund those projects. Kagel said the Town would also discuss with FEMA funding for projects that could mitigate or avoid future storm damage, such as redesigning the staircase at Montauk’s Culloden Beach, which was destroyed by Sandy.
Riverhead Town is also looking into two mitigation projects, according to Chief of Police David Hegermiller. He said Riverhead is rebuilding bathrooms at the Town beach in Jamesport with either brick or cinderblock, rather than wood, to avoid future storm damage. They are also applying to rebuild a damaged culvert on Washington Avenue in Jamesport with a design that will better withstand the elements, no matter how bad they get.
Riverhead has already accrued a $600,000 bill for burning storm debris and the Town is seeking reimbursement for emergency work and infrastructure repair costs. “We’re well in the process,” Chief Hegermiller said, noting that Riverhead is applying for about $1.2 million from FEMA, though that number is not exact.
The Town has not yet received any money from FEMA and it is waiting for the necessary project worksheets.
To apply for aid, call 1-800-621-FEMA or visit DistasterAssistance.gov.