North Hempstead, NY
– The destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy has left a lasting impact on the lives of all Long Island residents. With the one-year anniversary of the storm now here, clean up and reconstruction efforts are winding down in many communities with the focus in North Hempstead shifting to planning and preparing for the launch of several infrastructural projects designed to help residents stay safer and more informed in the event another natural disaster strikes the area.
“The devastation of Superstorm Sandy left an indelible impact on the entire Northeast Region, including the Town of North Hempstead, and is changing the way we look at how we prepare ourselves for natural disasters,” said former Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who presided over all Town storm-relief efforts.
As a result of the devastation caused by Sandy, the Town collected and disposed of over 55,000 tons of tree and landscape material and 12,000 tons of construction and demolition material from cleanup efforts. Town crews cleared and removed over 5,000 downed trees post-Sandy, more than 2,000 of which were reported through the Town’s 311 Call Center by residents. Many of those trees were re-planted this past summer, and that effort has continued throughout the fall.
The storm also caused damage to sidewalks, curbs and gutters at 300 different locations. By the time the final restoration of the broken sidewalks and curbs is completed sometime this month, more than 5,000 feet of sidewalk will have been repaired.
Throughout the cleanup and restoration process, the Town has aggressively pursued Federal aid. To date, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has reimbursed the town a total of $7.3 million, with an additional $6 million approved for disbursement to the Town of North Hempstead. These costs are in addition to the damage to the Town’s Parks system and shoreline erosion, which could reap as much as $10 million in FEMA funding.
Additionally, the Town is currently applying for $86 million in grants through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program in order to rebuild crucial infrastructure including shoreline reconstruction, the rebuilding of storm basins and seawalls, and upgrades to Town Dock in Port Washington.
In dealing with any storm, communication is key. During Sandy, the Town communicated with residents via daily robo-calls updating them with the most current status of cleanup and restoration efforts. And just as importantly, residents were able to call the 311 Call Center, which took in more than 37,000 calls during the two weeks following the storm.
Now, the Town is stepping up efforts to protect residents during future natural disasters by focusing on communications as a top priority.
Specifically, the Town is moving forward with the creation of a wireless network that will connect its three primary emergency management locations – Town Hall, the Department of Public Works Yard in New Hyde Park, and the Community Center in Westbury. The network, which would overlap the Town’s current wired system, would provide voice and data services, ensuring that the Town never loses connection or its ability to contact constituents, even in the event of a power failure.
Former Supervisor Kaiman, who has since taken a post as Special Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo for the Long Island Storm Recovery effort, said, “Communication is of utmost importance during a natural disaster which was evident during Superstorm Sandy. This wireless network enhances the Town’s ability to talk to its residents during emergency situations.” Kaiman also said that the Town has the ability to provide all 31 villages within the Town access to the new communication system.
Town Emergency Management Consultant and former New York State Homeland Security Chief Michael Balboni said, “Though the Town has the largest number of villages of any Township in the state, we can harness all of the resources of these municipalities by creating a seamless and dependable communication system so that everyone has the information they need, when they need it.”
Town tree crew attends to an uprooted tree in Great Neck.
The tree debris field at North Hempstead Beach Park after Superstorm Sandy.
The Town’s Highway Department works tirelessly to remove a tree.