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Feb 19, 2013 9:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Three Months Post-Sandy, Southampton Town Residents Still Struggle

Feb 20, 2013 11:57 AM

The fetid floodwaters were about 5 feet high when they lapped against Joe Corr’s Shinnecock Hills home during Superstorm Sandy last fall and rushed inside, wreaking havoc.

He and his family were displaced from their first-floor bedrooms, appliances were shot after bathing in the brown waters, floors and walls were ruined, wardrobes lost, and the roof ripped open. Their pet birds hung upside from the top of their cages to keep their feathers dry from the rising tide.

Today, the water is gone, but rust and wreckage remain.

On top of it all, there are new headaches of a financial nature—how to get reimbursed for damages and how to mend, often while trying to cut through stubborn red tape.

More than three months post-Sandy, the Corrs and scores of other Southampton Town residents are still struggling as a result of the storm.

Marty Shea, the town’s chief environmental analyst, whose office deals with granting emergency authorizations to stabilize conditions and environmental permitting, said last week he has worked with at least 200 property owners and expects at least 100 more will come in.

Residents have been streaming into his office “virtually every day,” he said. It has taken a while for many because they were waiting on their insurance adjusters.

Inside Mr. Corr’s home, his metal desks and broken stove are pockmarked with rust stains. A sense of storm damage and disarray pervades the entry room. A slide show of photos taken of his home just days after Sandy rotates through his laptop.

“The water came right up to here,” Mr. Corr said as he walked into his Little Neck Road home on Monday afternoon, pointing to a chest-high spot against the wall.

He and his wife, Sherry, and their 17-year-old daughter, Carissa, told of trudging home through the chest-deep waters, with what felt like long eels slithering past their legs.

They credited the Southampton Fire Department—Mr. Corr is a member and ex-chief—and the owners of the nearby Tidewater bar and grill for helping out, but the worst part now, Mr. Corr said, is trying to get financial assistance.

“As of about eight days ago, we received our first check,” Mr. Corr said, “$5,000, that’s it.” He estimated the overall damage to total about $800,000.

He expressed frustration with federal agencies and even showed an email from one that said because so many new programs were being developed to help residents affected by Sandy, “there are no details to share.”

He also accused the Long Island Power Authority of saying it could do nothing about a toppled pole on his property, and that residents he knew without insurance were getting federal help more quickly than those with it.

“Your life is affected because you’re at a hold,” he said. “You can’t move forward without having answers.”

Lisa Goree, the acting town assessor, said that in her 12 years in the assessor’s office, Sandy is the first storm she can recall that has had an impact on assessments. She anticipates many affected property owners will file formal grievances in May.

Meanwhile, another resident who lives near the water in Shinnecock Hills, Frank Zappone, says he and his wife, Gail, are still in a state of disrepair from Sandy.

“Our biggest problem is getting access to the funds that came to us as a result of our flood-insurance claim,” Mr. Zappone, who is also the deputy Southampton Town supervisor said. “The process of accessing those funds so that I can accept some repairs is a very cumbersome, slow-moving, bureaucratic process that is compounding the frustration of being able to move ahead with repairs.”

The Zappones’ house was flooded, his heating system, appliances, floors and electrical systems were all damaged by Sandy.

Today, their furniture is still being housed in a temporary pod outside and there are no coverings on the floor, he said. Day in, day out, it takes a toll.

When he goes home at night, there is no dining room table or sofa in the living room, Mr. Zappone pointed out. “We can deal with it, but it’s not the kind of home that we had been enjoying for the last several years.

“I recognize that there have been so many people much more severely impacted by the storm. My experience is, ‘Oh my God, if this is what I’m going through in a scenario that’s much less severe than others, I can only imagine the grief that other people are going through.’”

Over in hard-hit Flanders, Tamara Olson, who has lived in a house at the end of Sylvan Avenue for the last 12 years, had to kayak out of her home after Sandy struck.

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My heart broke when I read this story about Joe Corr and his family; a man that has devoted so many years of his life helping others and his community during his tenure with the Southampton Fire Department and as its Chief. Remember when Joe and a Village police officer jumped into a freezing Atlantic Ocean a few years back to try and save a man in his truck?
By Robert I Ross (250), Hampton Bays on Feb 21, 13 3:31 PM