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Mayor focuses on storm resiliency: $17M for protection plan

Includes cable intended to keep the lights on in another Sandy

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Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy was sifting through a stack of reports on his desk at Village Hall on Tuesday. They offered details about the village’s storm-resiliency projects to guard against future hurricanes. Five days earlier, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had announced that $20.4 million worth of projects were set to begin or had already begun on Long Island, including one in Freeport to re-place a 50-year-old power cable that was severely damaged in Hurricane Sandy.

The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery has allocated roughly $17 million for Freeport to harden its infrastructure so it can withstand future storms, according to Kennedy. Of those funds, $7 million will be dedicated to the electric cable, which starts at Hanse Street and runs beneath Freeport Channel and across South Main Street and Atlantic Avenue. It provides power to one-quarter of Freeport’s 43,500 residents.

“In the face of increasingly destructive weather, it’s critical that we continue to protect New Yorkers by rebuilding and hardening our communities and infrastructure,” Cuomo said.

The cable was damaged by loose boats and floating debris during Sandy, which disrupted power for 3,700 homes, an unknown number of businesses, three flood sirens, two firehouses, two sewer pump stations, two schools and the Nautical Mile.

Kennedy said that replacement of the cable is long overdue. “The cable is underneath the creek,” he said. “All it needs is for a boat or something to get caught in it, or that it finally just breaks, and we’d lose power in the village.”

The state-funded project to repair and protect the cable, the mayor said, “will help Freeport to become more resilient without increasing village taxes. We’re grateful for the support.”

The other $10 million in state funding set aside for storm resiliency projects will go to the Recreation Center, to pay for installation of hurricane-proof windows, watertight doors, air conditioners and an information system for disaster planning and reporting. The village also plans to use the money for flood-control measures behind Village Hall.

Kennedy has been a staunch advocate of constructing tidal floodgates across Jones and East Rockaway inlets, and said that in the next two weeks he expects to review a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers feasibility study that was ordered to determine whether the gates are feasible from a structural point of view.

“I’m wildly optimistic this is going to happen,” Kennedy said.

In April, Kennedy and a group of Nassau County and Town of Hempstead elected officials and residents visited New Bedford, Mass., to inspect the city’s floodgates, which have prevented flooding there since 1961. Such gates can be found around the world, the mayor noted, in places like Stamford, Conn.; New Orleans; the Netherlands; London; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Germany’s northern coastline.

If approved, construction of the floodgates would cost $300 million and could take up to six years to 10 years, according to preliminary estimates. The Army Corps study, though, will provide a better sense of the cost and timeframe, Kennedy said.

In Sandy’s aftermath, the mayor said, hundreds of millions of dollars were allocated for local projects to rebuild homes and businesses and to elevate houses that suffered substantial damage. He believes that building the gates could save billions of dollars in the long run, he said.

“We’ve seen the effectiveness of this,” Kennedy said. “We need to move in on this as quickly as possible to get this done and keep the South Shore community in business.”