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Mineola Mayor’s Message: Hurricane Sandy Aftermath and LIPA

Mayor Scott Strauss offers remarks on village and LIPA response to Hurricane Sandy.

The following are the opening remarks of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss made during the public meeting of the Mineola Village Board on Nov. 7, 2012:

It seems we’re all being tested this week; these last 10 days. A hurricane, a snowstorm that wasn’t supposed to be a snowstorm. But if we stick together, there’s no doubt in my mind we’ll get through this like we’ve gotten through every other bump in the road along the way here; we’ll pass this test, no doubt in my mind.

Unfortunately, people have lost their lives, their homes, lost everything they had and nine days out from the storm, way too many people in Mineola and other areas remain without power and in cold temperatures. These conditions have a serious affect on our seniors. We all hope the current conditions we’re struggling through will soon rectify.

Before I get into the situation of the hurricane recovery effort, I’d like to mention a few items: next week I should have before the board a recommendation to award the bids on the flood mitigation project on Bruce Terrace and East Second Street. We were hoping to have it ready tonight but this past week’s events have delayed us slightly.

The Jericho Turnpike repaving project has been delayed until the beginning of next year. I’ve been told that we’ll be one of the first ones done when the season starts.

The village Halloween party was a huge success. Marta De Sousa and Anna Athan again outdid themselves; all attended had a wonderful evening.

Last Monday we were hit with a severe storm. We were struck by the upper-right quadrant of that storm, which typically is the strongest part of a hurricane. We began our preparations for the storm five days before it struck. We took a very aggressive approach to debris removal and recovery operations. Our response was well-coordinated between DPW crews, building department and village clerical staff and fire department, ambulance corps. and the auxiliary police. We had plans and back-up plans ready to go. Staffing was scheduled and crews notified. Everyone was on-board and waiting. As it approached we received more accurate information as to where it would hit, we fine-tuned those plans.

Mr. Rini gave a brief overview at the work session as to what we did and what we continue to do through these trying times. Trustee Cusato has a synopsis of how our first responders kept us safe and answered many, many or our alarms and emergencies.

I want to acknowledge the Herculean effort given by all involved. Our DPW crews, clerical staff, ambulance technicians, auxiliary police officers and especially our firefighters. Every one of them left their families to weather the storm alone and went to work. They either stood by in their headquarters for days on end or they worked answering phones or clearing streets and removing debris until LIPA can get in and begin to reenergize the village. Tonight those same people are on duty again. They helped us clear our streets so that power could be restored when many of their own homes were without power and severely damaged.

Two days ago Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order ordering villages to begin picking up garbage. We had already begun doing that since last Wednesday. No one had to order us to do it, we’ve been doing it.

Unfortunately, although village hall is back up and running, we do have limited business capabilities. Our internet access still has not been restored. We have no e-mail access or Cablevision, but we are here doing the best we can.

Water bills were due last week and because of the storm we are waiving the late fees because of them and I think you can pay them within the next couple of days or next week. We’ll certainly continue to waive those late fees.

I personally delivered letters to homeowners who had their sidewalks and curbs damaged by trees and poles during the storm outlining the steps for those portions of the recovery operation. Next week we’ll begin removing the broken concrete from those curbs and sidewalks.

Although initially communications between us and the Town of North Hempstead and LIPA was less than acceptable, the communication between us and LIA has improved. LIPA has been holding conference calls two times a day, every day. With that being said, I have no way of confirming or verifying that the info they are giving us is accurate. I can tell you that the crews – the guys in the trucks – they have amassed are working incredibly hard.

We have, as I mentioned during the work session, been letting them sleep in the firehouse, three dozen or so of them at the firehouse across the street rather than having them sleep in their trucks as what the plan was. I believe the management of these crews has identified some areas for improvement. Unfortunately we still have pockets of our village without power. Our neighbors, friends and families are cold and without light. I ask you to continue to open your homes, provide extension cords and continually check on your neighbors who remain without power.

I know and understand your frustration and I have expressed them to LIPA officials. I continue to voice our concerns and pressure LIPA into giving us timeframes that one can expect power to our residents restored. I know this isn’t much of a comfort to those living in cold homes, but unfortunately we don’t control LIPA. But please know I am doing everything I can, reaching out to everyone I know for help and I will continue to do so.

The community center is open from 10 p.m. tonight until 6 a.m. in the morning and will remain open until further notice. The community center is heated, has electrical outlets for recharging cell phones and other small rechargeable devices. Residents should plan to arrive by 10 p.m. tonight to ensure adequate space as well as tomorrow night. This is not a shelter, so residents are encouraged to bring their own comfort items such as inflatable beds, cots, sleeping bags and toiletries if they plan to spend the night. Residents without heat are urged to take advantage of this resource. Ladies and gentlemen, please reach out to your neighbors, certainly the seniors. If they have struggles getting down here tonight, please reach out to them somehow or put them in your car and bring them down here. There are a tough couple of days behind us and a tough couple more coming at us.

I can’t encourage you enough to access the village’s website and signup for the e-mails that we’ve been trying to get out. We’ve had some challenges with the lack of internet access when we lost our cable lines in the village and power here at the village but we try to push out as much information as possible concerning sanitation pickup, emergency notifications, hurricane situations, storm weather alerts. We try to give you guys as much information so you can better prepare yourselves for whatever might be coming or any event that you might want to attend. So please, tap into that website when all of you get power back and sign up for those e-mails.

I appreciate everything that everyone has done for each other here in Mineola. If you drive around Mineola – this is going to be a challenge for our DPW crews tonight as they’re our plowing – but prior to tonight you could see the extension chords going from house to house, across front lawns, across the streets and through backyards. That’s neighbors helping neighbors and friends helping friends. That’s why we live in Mineola. That’s one of the great things here. When we’re pushed to the limit, we step in, step up and help each other get through it. So please continue to do so, check on the elderly residents  that might not be doing so well and just make sure that they’re ok for us.

Linda Ramos November 14, 2012 at 03:10 AM
The work done by the Village crews needs to be commended. It seemed as if they were cleaning up as branches were falling. The sanitation department came multiple times a day to cart away debris that residents had cleared from their property. I am proud to be a lifetime resident if this fine village. Thank you to all Village employees for keeping our village clean and safe!!

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