As far as rebuilding, many jurisdictions — federal, state, county, town and local — will have a say in what can and can't be rebuilt, said Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller. New York state has regulations about who can rebuild in some designated coastal erosion zones, although an official with the town of Brookhaven, which oversees some of the westernmost communities of the island's 17 hamlets and villages, said special variances could be issued in some cases to allow rebuilding in those zones.
Fire Island, like many Northeast communities harmed by Sandy, is beginning to reassess where and how to rebuild, Goldhirsch said.
"It's part of a new national dialogue," she said. "The governor has said he wants to rebuild smarter and better, and I think we have to think about how we are going to do this so it's better in the future. We have a lot to think about; there are no easy answers, no one answer."
Political leaders need to come up with a long-term plan for future development on the island, said Bowman, the Stony Brook professor.
"Not just a rapid-fire reaction to a catastrophe; this is going to happen again," he said. "Some of these things are going to be very expensive decisions, and we need a longer perspective."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.