In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, before the full extent of the damage had been realized, State Sen. Dean Skelos was standing at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment plant with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.
The plant had been hit by a nine-foot tidal surge, wiping out most of its equipment. The facility was offline, and a disaster was looming: If nothing was done, raw sewage would start backing up into the homes of thousands of Nassau County residents.
Skelos went back to his car, pulled out his phone and made some calls. It turned out that New York City had a pump that could help alleviate the problems at Bay Park. Better yet, the pump wasn’t being used.
But the city was just as ravaged by Sandy as Nassau County was, and getting the pump out during the crisis would be a tremendous feat. Nevertheless, Skelos managed to get it done. He called Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“He understood the emergency,” Skelos recalled. “They had pumps that were needed for Bay Park that weren’t in use. They immediately arranged to bring them to Nassau County.”
That was one of the first things Skelos did in the wake of the storm, but it was not the last. As the majority leader of the Senate, it would have been easy for him to take on the role of an overseer and delegate duties to others while he sat in his office in Albany. But Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre, was on the ground. His district was one of the hardest-hit on Long Island, and most of his constituents were without electrical power.
His office, staffed by a total of five people, fielded 3,500 calls in the first week after the storm. Disaster relief isn’t part of Skelos’s job description, but he and his staff did what they could.
“We became a clearinghouse,” said Tom Locascio, the senator’s director of district operations, “connecting people with needs with groups that could help them.”