Linda Hobson thought she would be crying at an event held Friday on Horton Avenue to formally announce the demoliton of homes that were ravaged after 2010 flooding.
Hobson, a social worker who was, like many of her neighbors, left homeless after the flooding, turned tragedy into triumph as she worked tirelessly during the months that followed as a community advocate to help garner funding for residents.
On Friday, Hobson was all smiles. "I'm excited," she said. "All of the work has paid off. It 's good to see a community come together this way. No one group could have done this without all the other groups."
Hobson said she and former Horton Avenue neighbor will soon be working with the Long Island Housing Partnership on their new homes.
At the event, which was attended by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Congressman Tim Bishop, and Riverhead Town officials, Hobson thanked all levels of government who came together for the good of a community.
Riverhead Town Police Chief David Hegermiller, who orchestrated all the paperwork necessary to move forward with a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, which was said the day was "bittersweet. It's sad for the residents to see this phase go," he said, adding that it was also positive that a happy resolution has been reached.
After Riverhead Town acquired the parcels, the flood-ravaged homes will be torn down and the land turned into wetlands. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio noted that the land was once marsh and said it will be reverting to its natural state.
Once demolition is completed, the town will make improvements to the drainage infrastructure to mitigate flood damages to the remaining properties on Horton Avenue.
"It is a good day to be here," Bellone said, agreeing that a lot of work, and a coming together of all levels of government, have gone into shepherding Horton Avenue residents toward a new beginning.
"There were some tears along the way," he said. "This was an extraordinarily painful situation for people."
Horton Avenue residents lost not only their homes, but lifetimes of memories and photographs; many saw all their worldly possessions swept away during the flooding. Flood damage and, later, mold, rendered cherished possessions unsalvageable.
Bellone said the county, state, town and federal government working together to help residents could serve as a "model for how we might be able to get things done in the region."
The county executive joked that Horton Avenue should be renamed "Hobson's Way," for all of Hobson's herculean efforts as a community advocate to help her neighbors.
Bishop recalled a similar press event in 2010, when "homes were underwater" and residents, reeling from loss. He made a pledge, he said, to bring the federal government to the table and "keep them at the table," until the FEMA funding was secured.
Horton Avenue, he said, is an example of officials "cutting across party lines to do the right thing."
Bishop also credited Shirley Coverdale of the Long Island Organizing Network, for her help.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you," said Walter, who said he pledeged to Coverdale and Hobson that the town would help the community.
Without Hobson's efforts, and the advocacy of all the elected officials involved, Walter said, after an expected storm arrives early next week, the town would "be sitting here on Wednesday having another press conference, wondering, 'What do we do now?'"
Hobson and officials in attendance also thanked Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine for his tireless efforts.
Bellone added that it was "ironic" the press event should be held on the eve of Hurricane Sandy.
But he added he hoped Horton Avenue would be seen as a sign of "hope and renewal" to other residents who might live in low-lying area; a message that in times of trouble, government "can come together and make things happen."