U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, the third-highest-ranking member of the Senate’s Democratic majority, spoke at a news conference on Monday in the driveway of a south Merrick home, calling on the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement a comprehensive plan to protect Nassau County’s coastline from future storms.
Schumer said that the plans developed after Hurricane Sandy to repair the county’s barrier islands, such as Long Beach and Jones Beach, and make them more resilient “left everything here on the mainland” unprotected.
“Sandy impacted many, many communities throughout Nassau County, like this one, Merrick, Oceanside, Freeport, Lawrence,” Schumer said. “We have to make sure there is a comprehensive plan in place, and then implement it, to make sure that when, God forbid, another storm occurs, or as a result of global warming sea levels rise, the South Shore of Nassau County is protected.”
In Suffolk, the Fire Island-to-Montauk Point project, which received $700 million in funding through the federal Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, includes plans to elevate some 4,400 homes five to 10 feet, raise miles of coastal roads, protect critical facilities like hospitals and police stations from flooding, enlarge dunes with 8 million cubic yards of sand, and restore wildlife habitats and wetlands, among other projects, Newsday reported. The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the project, still needs to clear several legal hurdles to proceed.
Schumer lamented the lack of an equivalent plan in Nassau. “Now Suffolk County will be protected, but what about Nassau County?” he said. “There was never a comprehensive plan in place, and if we were to ask the Army Corps to do it … it would take about five years and have to be approved by Congress, which is treacherous.”
He stressed, however, that HUD could create a similar plan for Nassau using available Community Development Block Grant funding, without the need for further congressional approval.
“This is a different way to skin that cat,” Schumer said. He set a goal for HUD of drafting a comprehensive plan for Nassau’s South Shore by next spring and beginning construction in January 2015.