COPIAGUE, N.Y. – Five years have passed since Superstorm Sandy decimated shoreline communities, displaced families, and caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage, and some Suffolk residents are still struggling to put their lives back together.
Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory, at a press conference on Saturday, announced his intent to establish the Sandy Recovery Assessment Task Force to look back on the last five years of rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy to assess what went well and identify areas for improvement.
In the five years since Superstorm Sandy hit, we have made great strides in recovery efforts, but our work is far from over,” said Presiding Officer Gregory. “As government, it is our responsibility to look back and take note of what we did right and what we did wrong and to use that institutional knowledge to create better outcomes in the future. The intention of the Sandy Recovery Assessment Task Force is for us to learn from our experience and provide recommendations in a report to our federal, state and local officials so that when they are developing programs in the future, they have a guide at their fingertips. We want to streamline government’s response to these kind of crises and create a roadmap from start to finish.
The Presiding Officer made the announcement at the Copiague Fire Department one day before the five-year anniversary of the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. At his side were residents whose lives were turned upside down after Sandy. In expressing their support for this new initiative, the residents shared stories of their anxiety-ridden, torturous battles of paperwork and fights for funding.
A comprehensive effort, the task force will be made up of about 20 experts, planners, municipalities and community stakeholders. Among them will be David Calone, former chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, and Melissa Luckman, director of the Touro Law Center Disaster Relief Clinic, which has been providing pro bono legal services to survivors of Superstorm Sandy since just days after the storm.
“As we mark the fifth anniversary of Sandy, the people of Suffolk can legitimately ask: When it comes to our emergency response, our public safety, and our resiliency, are we better prepared than before Sandy? The answer to that question is clearly, ‘yes.’ But the people of Suffolk can also legitimately ask: Are we as completely prepared as we can be for the next storm? The answer to that question, is clearly, ‘no.’ The goal of this task force is to set priorities and make recommendations for how our region can continue to improve and continue to better prepare,” said Calone, whom Presiding Officer Gregory intends to appoint as the task force’s co-chair. The other co-chair will be appointed by the County Executive.
“This task force will have the ability to reflect upon the last five years, and think critically about what New York did right and where improvements can be made,” Luckman added. “The past five years is where we learned many lessons, and the future is where we will apply those lessons. I am honored to be a part of this new Sandy initiative and thank Presiding Officer Gregory for including me.”
Presiding Officer Gregory said if the recent onslaught of hurricanes in other parts of the country has taught us anything, it’s that another storm is always on the horizon.
“We have to make sure we are ready,” he said.