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Friday, October 31, 2014

The amazing volunteers in Oceanside and Island Park

I’m not going to mince any words about this: the response to the storm from our communities has been breathtakingly amazing.

The work the Island Park village and school district have done since Sandy hit has been nothing short of amazing. It may have taken 16 days, but the Island Park schools reopened last week. They went from two flooded, uninhabitable buildings to holding classes again in just a little more than two weeks. Astounding.

And the village has been a tireless fighter for residents, both inside the village and in the neighboring unincorporated areas of Harbor Isle and Barnum Island. Though the Village of Island Park is small, it gives residents a voice.

I think that’s one of the reasons Oceanside was so neglected by LIPA and all levels of government: there was no one to speak for the community. Maybe if Oceanside had a village government to speak on its behalf, its pleas would have been heard sooner.

I know incorporation has been considered — and rejected — by Oceansiders in the past. But I think, in the wake of this storm, it might be worth considering. I know it wouldn’t be easy, but it might be worth it. If something like this ever happens again, it would make sure that Oceanside doesn’t have to rely on absent town, county and state politicians to speak for it.

And speaking of speaking, Mayor James Ruzicka and the entire Island Park Village Board need to be commended for their efforts during and after the storm. They were just as hard hit as all the other Island Park residents, and yet they were still working day and night to get relief for their community.

Just look at what’s come to Island Park since the storm: the Tide Loads of Hope truck, the Duracell charging station, two different FEMA Points of Distribution and a Disaster Recovery Center. All within the small village of Island Park.

While Ruzicka’s efforts have been extraordinary, the work of the Island Park Fire Department has been nothing short of heroic. These men and women — all volunteers — have been working tirelessly and endlessly since before Hurricane Sandy even hit to make sure people were safe.

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