On the Town: Easing the Road to Rebuilding Post-Sandy

Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino
Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino
Fourteen months since Hurricane Sandy struck our South Shore, much relief money has yet to arrive and much building has yet to begin.  Therefore, my colleagues and I on the Hempstead Town Board are extending the permit fee waivers for the fourth time…until March 31, 2014.

It’s our way of easing the financial pain for hundreds of residents still struggling to repair and/or replace homes, offices and vital personal documents…particularly since an individual permit fee can be as high as $2,500.  So far, the town has waived more than $1,000,000 in such fees.

The waived fees are for Sandy-related, in-kind repairs.  That means they apply to refurbishments that conform to the original dimensions of the structure, Board of Zoning Appeals variances for FEMA-required height elevations, temporary housing trailers and storage pods used during construction, and replacement of such important records as birth and death certificates, passports and marriage licenses that were lost or damaged as a result of the superstorm.The initial waiver was to last for six months from the day of destruction in late 2012.  As that deadline approached, FEMA and other fiscal relief remained far from sight.  The waivers were extended until June 1, 2013.  

As a new hurricane season came upon us, reconstruction money was still slow to dribble in from insurance companies and FEMA, so we stretched the fee moratorium to September 1.

But as we slid through the Dog Days of summer, financing was still slow and rebuilding even slower.   Again, we offered relief from permit fees.  The next extension takes us to the last day of the year, Dececember 31, 2013.  And since many continue to experience delays in payments, at the Town Board meeting on Dececember 10, the waivers were once again extended until March 31, 2014.

That’s not all.  At that very same meeting, the board for the third time took action to permit Sandy-related construction on weekends.

Before Sandy, town code specified that structural work on buildings was permissible on weekdays from 7 am to 6 pm, except in the case of urgent necessity.  Repairing the enormous devastation Sandy left in its wake is an urgent necessity.  That’s why the Town Board has again suspended the weekend building ban, allowing construction on Saturdays and Sundays, between 10 am and 6 pm.  Like the fee waivers, the suspension of construction hours lasts until March 31, 2014.

Hopefully, now, with New York State Rising coming into its own, more relief funds will begin to filter through the red tape.  In the meantime, the town will continue to ease the pain…at no cost. 

Anthony J. Santino is the Hempstead Senior Town Councilman representing Councilmatic District 4.  Town of Hempstead Councilmatic 4 will include the communities of Barnum Island, Bay Park, East Rockaway, Harbor Isle, Hewlett, Hewlett Bay Park, Hewlett Harbor, Hewlett Neck, Island Park, Lynbrook, Oceanside, Rockville Centre, South Hempstead, Woodsburgh, Woodmere and portions of Cedarhurst, Malverne, North Lynbrook, and Valley Stream in January 2014.   Those in need of his assistance or service may contact him directly at 516-812-3200 or via e-mail at asantino@tohmail.org .


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