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2,700 New Trees To Be Planted In Sandy-Ravaged Long Beach

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The City of Long Beach, ravaged by Superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012, is about to get a new look.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, thousands of trees will soon replace what floodwaters and winds destroyed.

Currently, a barren landscape and empty sidewalks are all that remains where rows of century-old sycamore trees used to stand. In Long Beach, the City by the Sea that has come so far since Sandy, residents said the stark look hurts morale.

"It doesn't have that tree-lined, beautiful look anymore," said Jean Rondina of Long Beach. "It's bald."

"It doesn't look a suburb," another resident said. "There's no greenery."

Long Beach lost more than half of its trees when Superstorm Sandy's salt water submerged the barrier island.

Certified arborists decided what needed to be chopped down for safety.

"We can't get our old trees back -- that I know," Rondina said. "They're gone."

But soon, there will be new life and a new look.

"I think it's going to look great," said Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman. "We're planting trees that are quite mature -- over 12 feet tall -- so we're not talking about little baby saplings here."

Long Beach officials were set to vote Tuesday night on a tree replanting master plan, calling for 2,700 new trees spread across every city block.

But while the Federal Emergency Management Administration paid for tree removal, the federal agency refuses to pay the $1.3 million for replanting.

City officials will appeal. Trees, they argue, offer more than natural beauty. They say the trees are needed to absorb storm water in future hurricanes.

And there are even more benefits to trees, residents said.

"The air we breathe -- we need the trees for our health," said Long Beach resident Kelly Martinsen.

Fifty species of trees are Long beach bound. In a lesson learned after Sandy, the trees being brought in are native trees -- stronger and more wind-resistant.

"You want trees have a stronger wood versus weak-wood trees; trees that grow in shapes that are more open so the wind can pass through," said Richard Abate, a landscape designer at Hicks Nurseries.

After already having rebuilt homes, beaches and its boardwalk, the city of Long Beach replants the new trees by the hundreds next month. The new look of Long Beach should be complete in June.

FEMA said Monday the replanting of trees is not eligible for funding under agency policy and federal law.

But FEMA also said its policy is to ensure that its disaster relief efforts benefit the environment. The agency said it has worked with volunteer groups to identify where trees can be planted – both to replace what was lost during Sandy and to protect against future storms.

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