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Astorino, Cuomo spar over pace of Sandy relief

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Oct. 29, 2014.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Oct. 29, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

Using Long Island's Nautical Mile as a backdrop, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino on Wednesday criticized Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's handling of superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo defended recovery efforts on Long Island during an appearance Wednesday on Staten Island.

Astorino's comments to about 20 supporters -- many of whom said they were still awaiting state and federal aid to repair their homes -- came on the two-year anniversary of the storm alongside.

"Unfortunately, there are still parts of Long Island that are devastated," said Astorino, the Westchester County Executive.

"Two years later to have people still not in their homes, businesses still not getting the money, and homes and people not getting the money they need from the New York Rising program that they were promised and are entitled to is outrageous," Astorino said. "For the governor to take a victory lap saying all things are great in the state ... is irresponsible."

Speaking Wednesday at the demolition of a Staten Island home damaged by Sandy, Cuomo defended the pace of recovery on Long Island under New York Rising.

"What we're left with on Long Island are a number of peculiar situations that don't fit the federal regulations," Cuomo said.

He said the state is being a good steward of federal cash. "I would like to make everybody happy but there are two sides to every story." Cuomo said.

In an appearance in Oakdale Tuesday, Cuomo announced nearly $500 million in state funding for sewage projects in Nassau and Suffolk, saying the state used Sandy as a learning lesson to "build stronger."

Asked by a Freeport business owner how he would help homeowners and businesses still trying to secure aid through New York Rising, Astorino said he would duplicate his post-Sandy efforts in Westchester, where he said he centralized the activities of various agencies.

Astorino said Westchester created "one physical location" where impacted residents could visit and ask questions of various agencies to cut down on questions over paperwork.

"We need a bureaucracy that is thin so people can actually get answers," he said.

Michelle Mittleman, a Freeport resident who founded the group Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA, said she was supporting Astorino partly out of her frustration with New York Rising.

Mittleman, a Republican, said her home was so heavily damaged that she "was homeless for 20 months." She said she ultimately decided to sell her property to the state under a land acquisition program aimed at removing homes located on coastal flood zones.

"We need a man like Rob Astorino to bring change," Mittleman said.

Ilona Jagnow, owner of Otto's Sea Grill in Freeport, shared with Astorino her frustration in getting assistance to restore the 85-year old restaurant and a neighboring gift shop after the storm.

Jagnow said she has had to take out loans to expedite the process of repairing the restaurant, because her state aid has been held up over various paperwork questions.

After hearing Astorino speak at the news conference, Jagnow said she was still unsure how he would handle Sandy recovery efforts.

"I wanted to know what was his plan," Jagnow said. "He pushed it onto Cuomo, but I wanted to know how he would change things."

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