Rebuilding right after Sandy

“If you don’t grow, you die,” said Donald Monti, of Renaissance Downtowns, at the Vision Long Island Smart Growth Summit on Nov. 16. Rebuilding right was the focus of the event that drew politicians and business owners from throughout the island, but this year, Sandy also took center stage.

While Steven Kreiger, a commercial developer at Engel Burman, implored that houses on the Long Beach canals need to be lifted to prevent future flooding, David Schieren, CEO of EmPower Solar, urged residential and commercial solar installations as essential to grid reliability.

The grid, lamented Neal Lewis, of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College, was “shaken” by Sandy’s impact. This, he said, may lead to the dismantling of the Long Island Power Authority. “You can’t ask what LIPA will do in the future,” he said, “because LIPA may not exist.”

According to Lewis, who is also a LIPA board member, while the communication breakdown by LIPA was a colossal failure, he praised the organization for its attempt to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people. It’s unfortunate, he suggested, that the “Herculean effort by LIPA will not be remembered.”

While Long Islanders are quick to pounce on comments that praise LIPA after sitting in their darkened homes for weeks, Lewis said that New York City politicians did have some positive words for the organization’s restoration in the Rockaways, but there is only a one-sided story in the media that pictures everything as a failure, he added.

Due to the unprecedented nature of Sandy, LIPA was unprepared, but, said Lewis, there are ways to improve grid reliability in addition to utilizing renewable resources. Wood utility poles can be replaced with metal ones, which did not fall during the storm, and some electrical lines, like those powering hospitals, police stations and the Long Island Railroad, can be transition from above to underground.

It is clear, more than ever before, that Long Island needs to rebuild right, said Schieren, and solar will play a major role. Backup power, he said, will also be at the forefront and EmPower Solar is ready to provide these services.

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