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Sandy's Ultimate Cost Not Measurable

Final figure may rival Katrina's, but rebuilding throughout Town of Oyster Bay also means renewal, experts say.

One month later, Hurricane Sandy's economic and human toll is still being felt and will linger in Oyster Bay communities for months to come, experts said.

The economic impact of the storm that struck one month ago Thursday is literally incalculable. There is no firm economic figure to put on the storm, only estimates of what it has cost so far.

"No one knows what this will cost," said Pearl Kamer, chief economist for the Long Island Association, Inc., Long Island's key business organization. "We don't know how this will net out."

The current damage estimates being tossed about by public officials only tell one side of the story, said Kamer. Sandy's cost could approach that of Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 superstorm which caused $128 billion in damage in inflation-adjusted dollars.

But these figures do not translate into a total loss. Kamer used this example: Some mom and pop stores may not have access to the capital to rebuild, and some homeowners will suffer personal devastation and not have the means to repair or replace their homes.

Meanwhile, the construction trades, hard hit by the long recession, are likely to boom on Long Island as federal money floods in to the area, Kamer said, in turn infusing money into the local economy.

The Town of Oyster Bay places its current costs at $15 million and rising. But that number – increased from an initial estimate of $6 million – only includes the government's cost of removing tons of downed trees, running heavy equipment and the cost of keeping an army of workers on duty around the clock, said town spokeswoman Marta Kane.

As a point of comparison, Sen. Charles Schumer announced Thursday nearly $16 million in federal aid to Nassau County for the kinds of refunds being sought by Oyster Bay. At present, FEMA’s public assistance program reimburses 75 percent of a project’s eligible costs.

Oyster Bay is only now capable of assessing the damage to some of its facilities. The opening of Ocean Parkway this week gave the town its first glimpse at storm ravaged Tobay Beach. “The dunes are non-existent” on the ocean side, Kane said.

The concession stand and bathroom were heavily damaged and the tunnel leading from the ocean to the bay side was completely filled with sand. The town's building on Philip Healy Beach in Massapequa may have to be razed. Kane said it's not clear yet what has to be done to repair or replace these facilities.

The town's North Shore beaches are better off, where the biggest job has been removing debris and downed trees, Kane said. An approximation of the amount of wood and household debris collected so far was not immediately available, but the town has removed most of the wreckage to 10 different collection areas, Kane said.

The eastern portion of Bayville is cut off from Oyster Bay, where West Shore Road was torn apart by the force of the hurricane. Nassau County has authorized emergency repairs, but Bayville Mayor Doug Watson said "It's gonna be a big job."

The big-picture, region-wide costs are staggering: Gov. Andrew Cuomo puts New York State's estimate at $44 billion – $33 billion to repair housing and improve infrastructure and $9 billion to protect the transit system, power networks and sewage treatment facilities from future storms, the New York Times reported.

By comparison, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie estimates the damage to his state at $29.4 billion. State officials have asked for billions of dollars in federal assistance at a time when the U.S. Government is facing a showdown on taxes and the federal deficit.

The human toll will also linger. Oyster Bay residents and their homes were left scarred by the storm's fury; hundreds of homes were damaged, many irreparably, especially in Massapequa. The bulk of the major damage came south of Merrick Road near the water where homes flooded. Experts said it will take months before many of those communities return to normalcy.

The Nassau County Police Department increased patrols in the severely affected areas since the storm. Those in Oyster Bay concerned about the security of their unoccupied home or business can contact the Second Precinct at 516-573-6800 or the Seventh Precinct in Seaford at 516-573-6700.

Kamer said many should expect some increases in their homeowners insurance. Some will find it more difficult to flood insurance, particularly along the South Shore.

Town officials said it is unlikely that the storm will have any impact on local taxes. Oyster Bay's budget is in place for 2013 and it's too early to determine what impact, if any, the storm will have on 2014's budget.

Most school districts are expected to cancel all or part of their February break in order to reach the state-mandated 180 days of a school year. For example, Farmingdale's Board of Education is expected to vote Dec. 5 on canceling four February break days. Syosset and Oyster Bay have already added school days back to their February calendars. Most others are likely to follow suit, school officials said.

School officials are waiting for estimates from insurance adjusters on damage to school property. In Farmingdale, officials expect to have a figure next month for relatively minor repairs to school buildings, said Paul Defendini, the district's assistant superintendent for business. That will include replacing the scoreboard at the high school football field, which was mangled by the force of the storm.

Patch editors Micah Danney, Ed Robinson and Heather Doyle contributed to this report.

Ian G November 30, 2012 at 01:46 PM
What damage did the POB schools sustain?

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