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Lawrence Mayor on Sandy: It Fell Down at the Highest Level

Officials lament how limited they are when it comes to a crisis.

While Village of Lawrence officials said the municipality did the best it could during and after Superstorm Sandy, the village is very limited in what can be done during a crisis.

“There was a limited amount of resources. We as a village undertook everything we could do,” Mayor Martin Oliner said at the village’s board meeting on Thursday. “Village and county government did all it could. It fell down at the highest level.”

Or, as Trustee Michael Fragin put it, “We don’t control our destiny.”

In a sort of impromptu postmortem of the storm and its aftermath, the mayor and board members said there were many things that could have been done to ease the situation earlier. On a local level, communication was a problem in the village, with many residents not having access to phone and email. Trustee Joel Mael suggested in the future that village hall be used as a center for information.

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Above the village level, the board said that the governor could have sent in more National Guard, while LIPA should have provided the village with accurate information.

“You had instance after instance of misinformation,” Oliner said about LIPA. “Regrettably, we’re stuck with LIPA.”

He pointed out there are places, such as Rockville Centre, with their own power grid, “but they did that before costs were prohibitive.”

Oliner thanked the first responders, auxiliary police and local aid agencies that helped out during the storm.

“We had a very challenging experience,” he said. “Everyone in this village can be proud of themselves for helping their neighbors and community.”

A more than usual number of residents were in attendance of the meeting, and asked the board what could be done to prevent flooding.

Oliner said the village would soon have to address the issue of “mega mansions” — homes that occupy their entire lots. The lack of grass, essentially nature’s way of getting rid of water, helped certain areas flood more easily.

“Every home that’s built has to take on its own rainwater,” Oliner said.

A group of residents from the Isle of Wight area in the village also informed the board that their homes were flooded twice a day after the storm. The dikes that usually protect them have broken, they said.

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