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County Executive Bellone Says Fire Island Is Back And Better Than Ever

FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- More than six months after Superstorm Sandy, Fire Island is back in time for summer season.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone visited Ocean Beach on Friday to promote tourism on the 32-mile-long barrier island and  later declared Fire Island is back and better than ever.

"We are here on a beautiful day, with a storm cloud not anywhere around, with a message to deliver: Superstorm Sandy delivered a very tough blow, but it was by no means a knockout blow," Bellone said.

"It is inspiring to walk these streets where flood waters would have been at our waist six months ago," Bellone told CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan.

Fire Island Is Back

The island was under 4 feet of water after the Oct. 29 storm, which destroyed thousands of homes.

"They allowed us to come back about 12 days after the storm," business owner John Randazzo said. "It was a heartbreaking feeling, but I knew we had to get open because I have 100 employees and if I don't open they don't have jobs."

Fire Island Rebuilding After Sandy
The main dock in Ocean beach still under construction (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Many of the dunes are gone and work is continuing on docks, houses and businesses, 1010 WINS Mona Rivera reported.

However, most of the restaurants, hotels, ice cream shoppes and stores will be open by Memorial Day, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

"The water was tested by Suffolk County and it came back that we are in perfect shape," Ocean Beach Mayor Jim Mallott told CBS 2's McLogan.

Fire Island Is Back

Local business owners formed a group called ReviveFI to counter the impression that Fire Island had been destroyed by Sandy.

"All the shops and restaurants and hotels and places to enjoy yourselves are open and opening on time with limited exception," restaurant owner Scott Hirsch said.

Hirsch and others said there is now a desperate need for the dunes to be rebuilt.

"Fire Island did its job. It protected long island. It's a barrier beach that is supposed to do that job and it did, but it needs to be re-nourished," Hirsch told McLogan.

Fire Island Rebuilding After Sandy
Workers repairing a business in Ocean Beach (credit: Mona Rivera/1010 WINS)

Laura Mercogliano, owner of the Palms Hotel, said she had nearly $1 million in damages, but the renovations have been made and she is taking reservations.

"We pulled together," Mercogliano said. "The community pulled together and it's amazing what they did here."

Marinas at Watch Hill and Sailor's Haven were expected to reopen Friday and the Watch Hill Campground was expected to reopen Saturday.

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