Officials urge FEMA, LIPA to boost recovery effort

Newsday -- by Keith Herbert

It was a question uppermost in everyone's mind Tuesday, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano posed it first.

"What's the power situation?" Napolitano asked as she walked down Marinor Street in South Seaford, a collection of tidy homes on the bay.

"Down here -- zero," said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Napolitano toured two Seaford neighborhoods a day after King and Nassau Executive Edward Mangano announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Long Island Power Authority need to do more to help residents recover.

Seaford residents, including Frank McIntosh, 69, a retired NYPD officer, peppered Napolitano with complaints. He told her about the seven boats that washed up on his property during superstorm Sandy's wrath and the dire need for electricity.

"If she can help, I'm glad to see anybody," McIntosh said. "If they just want to walk around, we don't need it."

Joining Napolitano and King on the tour were Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington); state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick); Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa), who said the storm destroyed his South Shore home; and Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray.

FEMA workers and volunteers dotted the debris-strewn neighborhood. Still, Napolitano said more Disaster Recovery Centers, where residents can register for FEMA assistance, were needed.

"We need a couple of extra DRCs in here today," Napolitano told an aide. "We're tired of waiting."

Napolitano, in an interview, called for residents to get ready for a nor'easter coming today and tomorrow, and scolded LIPA for being unable to restore power to thousands a week after the storm.

"They need to move faster," she said of LIPA. "There are still whole neighborhoods that don't have power restored. And that's not acceptable. It's time to get moving."

Napolitano took a short ride to nearby Neptune Avenue, where she visited the home of Maureen Haskell, 69, who lost two sons -- FDNY Capt. Tom Haskell Jr. and firefighter Tim Haskell -- on Sept. 11, 2001. Tom Haskell was posthumously promoted to battalion chief.

Haskell said she had more than 3 feet of water in her home. Repair work was already under way Tuesday, with the floor stripped and waterlogged drywall cut from the walls.

"I appreciate the interest," Haskell said of Napolitano's visit. "There are so many areas that haven't seen anything yet and are worse off."

Before leaving South Seaford, Napolitano promised more FEMA representatives would be on the way.

"We're bringing in hundreds of people," Napolitano said. "They're going up and down, door-to-door."