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A Bipartisan Rebuilding Strategy for Long Island

A Republican and a Democrat standing together these days is rare. Even though we are from different political parties, partisan politics could not have been further from our minds on October 29, 2012 and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

It was immediately clear that this was not just another storm and that the challenges it placed on our residents and businesses—and on the entire region—were enormous. That’s why President Obama established the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Last Monday, the Task Force released its Rebuilding Strategy to help guide federal investment in the region, marking an important new chapter in the region’s rebuilding effort.

Our work with the Task Force and Governor Cuomo has yielded unmatched results: we worked to secure up to $1.3 billion for Long Islanders in the first round of Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding, the bulk of which will assist homeowners and small businesses in their rebuilding efforts. We know that every day waiting for aid is a day too long and that relief never comes fast enough. The Rebuilding Strategy addresses some necessary changes to cut the federal red tape and get the assistance into the hands of our still struggling homeowners and small businesses, and we commend Secretary Donovan for leading this effort.

As members of the Task Force’s Advisory Group, we are confident that the policy recommendations presented in the Rebuilding Strategy will serve Long Islanders well. Throughout the entire process, the Task Force has recognized that rebuilding must be a locally-driven effort. The Task Force engaged nearly 450 stakeholders to inform the Rebuilding Strategy’s more than 65 recommendations, which will help people to protect their homes, small businesses to get back on their feet and communities to harden vital infrastructure systems.

The Rebuilding Strategy also acknowledges that, in light of new threats posed by climate change and sea level rise, we cannot simply build back to the way things were. In the aftermath of Sandy, we saw firsthand what works best for protecting our homes and communities. For example, shore communities without sand dunes suffered greater damage than neighboring communities that had taken protective measures. These types of resilience efforts are most effective when communities work together.

We agree that regional coordination is common sense and are working together to make that a reality. If several towns working on beach replenishment projects come together to share the expense of bringing in large equipment, they could save millions of dollars. Regional coordination is smart fiscal policy as well as smart resilience policy.

To that point, the next round of CDBG-DR funding is expected to be announced shortly. These funds are intended to be targeted at rebuilding and securing the regional infrastructure needs for Long Island’s future. We have worked closely with Secretary Donovan and Governor Cuomo to ensure Long Island gets the necessary federal investment dollars to meet the infrastructure challenges laid out in the Rebuilding Strategy and look forward to that announcement. Our cash-strapped towns and villages need these federal dollars to make the critical investments that will protect our communities for decades to come.

In the weeks after the storm, the two of us hosted Secretary Donovan on a tour of impacted communities. Though we still have a long road ahead of us, the progress of our communities since that day is extraordinary. In both Nassau and Suffolk, our beaches and parks are open for summer, and our vital infrastructure systems are back up and running.

Although the majority of our homeowners have returned to their homes and our small businesses have reopened, we know that there is still much work to be done. We must rebuild our communities smarter and stronger. The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, released last Monday by Secretary Donovan, will help us to make that vision into a reality.

To view the full Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy, visit