For the past seven months, the Village of Freeport has been building a new emergency management center in preparation for the next big storm the likes of Hurricane Sandy, or any other disaster that might strike. It is now located at 9 North Long Beach Ave., outside the 100-year flood zone.
The center is a new addition to the village. Before Sandy, emergency vehicles and tools were stored near Freeport Bay at the Department of Public Works on Albany Avenue, which was destroyed during Sandy.
At an Oct. 26 ceremony to mark the opening of the new center, Village Mayor Robert Kennedy addressed a crowd of New York, Nassau County and Town of Hempstead officials, along with leaders of non-profit organizations such as the United Way of Long Island, American Red Cross and LI Cares.
“Happy 125th anniversary to the Village of Freeport,” Kennedy said. “While we celebrate the rebuilding of approximately 3,000 homes and 60 business that were damaged or destroyed during Superstorm Sandy.”
The new facility cost roughly $750,000. The village plans to store an additional $500,000 worth of equipment there in case of a flood or other emergency. The facility will store emergency generators, temporary lighting, bottled water, food, blankets, cots, pumps and other equipment. The facility will also store emergency boats.
“What you see in the building right now are called super-high-axle vehicles,” Richard Holdener, Freeport’s emergency management director, said as he walked through the facility. “They can respond in three or four feet of water in any portion of town. I say any portion because [when] we get heavy rains at two to three inches per hour, the northeast floods just as well as the south does.
“All of the equipment that you see now,” Holdener continued, “are new trucks, because older trucks had to stay out and were destroyed during Sandy. Now that they have housing and [they are] out of the elements, these are going to last longer and perform better. This is going to be used to save a lot of lives and properties, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The village has also been working to alleviate persistent street flooding in its southern neighborhoods by installing backflow valves along with dewatering pumps. Village officials said they hope to alleviate or prevent the next big flood.
“We, the elected officials, must develop policies and procedures to minimize the damages caused by flooding Kennedy said. “And make readily available the equipment our residents and businesses need.”
“I’m confident,” he added, “that the assets stored within [this facility] will meet the needs of our Police Department, Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management when responding to any and all future emergencies in the village of Freeport.”
Kennedy has advocated for construction of two surge-barrier gates — one at Jones Inlet, between Point Lookout and Jones Beach’s West End, and the other at the East Rockaway Inlet, between Atlantic Beach and Far Rockaway. During the official opening of the new facility, he thanked U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer for assisting with a $3 million federal grant to support a three-year study by the Army Corps of Engineers to study the back bays and feasibility of flood gates. The Corps is scheduled to release draft report in 2018.