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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Democracy in action: rebuilding Island Park

On March 18, many Long Island villages conducted local elections to fill the positions of mayor, trustee and other municipal posts. Democracy prevailed, even on the smallest scale.

I always stay connected to local politics, and still admire those who dedicate themselves to public service. In my hometown, Island Park, this was the first contested election since 1990. It was good not only for democracy, but also for the people of Island Park.

Nearly a year and a half after Hurricane Sandy, Island Park is still suffering from its devastating effects. The election raised many issues — the village’s roads and infrastructure, and other needed repairs — that are still being debated 17 months later. Believe it or not, there is still no village hall in Island Park. Instead, village officials are operating out of trailers.

In order to make Island Park storm-ready in the event of another catastrophe, the village has applied for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

During the storm, Island Park was inundated with 6 to 8 feet of seawater. Every single home and business was flooded. The village lost its elementary school, firehouse, village hall, library, post office and houses of worship.

The stories only get worse. Many residents were trapped in their attics for hours as the floodwaters destroyed their homes below. Three residents drowned in their own homes. It was horrific. Seventeen months later, Island Park’s infrastructure is still not storm-ready, and has nothing in place to prevent damage on this scale from happening again. Village residents deserve a better future.

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