Bloomfield credits LIPA Sandy response

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Russell Gardens Mayor Matthew Bloomfield said Thursday night that the village had nearly fully recovered from Hurricane Sandy and offered some praise to the Long Island Power Authority, an organization that has heard few positive comments since the storm.

“LIPA put in a major effort,” Bloomfield told trustees and residents at the village board meeting. “They have some good people, but were terribly understaffed.”

“Driving through the Russell Gardens,” Bloomfield added in an interview after the meeting, “you’d never know there were trees missing at this point.” 

The utility came under heavy fire from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, local officials and the public when parts of Long Island were left without power for more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy. 

North Shore mayors including several from Great Neck, blasted LIPA for what they described as insufficient and sometimes inaccurate information provided to them and their constituents.

Bloomfield said 50 trees in the village were felled by the storm and later cleared by an outside contractor.  Five more damaged trees were scheduled to be taken down this week, according to the village’s maintenance report.

In addition to offering some credit to LIPA, Bloomfield attributed the village’s swift recovery to its consistent efforts to trim trees that appear to present a hazard. 

Higher-ups, Bloomfield said,  have said have remarked that Russell Gardens “maintains its trees better than most other municipalities.”   

But at least one person at the meeting thought that Bloomfield gave LIPA and the village’s tree maintenance program too much credit – and himself too little.

“The Sandy rehabilitation was Matthew’s work,” said former Village of Russell Gardens Trustee Ken Sonenberg.

Sonenberg, who received an honor for his service at the meeting,  added “We’re all his support team: If you’re living somewhere, you should make an effort to make it as good as it can be.”

A maintenance report handed out at the meeting said that after three Village Hall meetings, FEMA agreed to cover 75 percent of the cost of the village staff’s storm-related work.  

The reimbursement covers dates Oct. 28 to Nov. 28.  

Speaking as a winter storm approached the region, Bloomfield said village plows were parked in front of the meeting hall on Tain Drive ready to move into action again with a plan to hire another plow operator if necessary.  Russell Gardens, he said, had recently received a delivery of 35 tons of salt, which Bloomfield estimated was enough to cover both the roads and the sidewalks. 

“We’re ready to go matter what comes up,” Bloomfield said.  “I’m confident that our plow crew will stay ahead of the weekend’s seven to 14 inches.”     

Sonenberg was honored at the ceremony with  a plaque thanking him for the ongoing service he has given Russell Gardens – the village he grew up in.

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