FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Nearly three years to the day since Superstorm Sandy devastated so much of the Eastern shoreline, state, county and local officials gathered in the Long Island village of Freeport to reflect and discuss future storm safety plans.

“We had 3,500 homes flooded, and several hundred are still vacant,” Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said. “Fifteen thousand tons of personal property removed. Boats drifted onto people’s property and through their front windows. Hundreds of fuel oil tanks floated away, and an unknown amount of No. 2 oil is covering our community in the village of Freeport.”

MORE ON SANDY ANNIVERSARY: Rockaways | N.J. | Staten Island

And because so much of Sandy’s damage was caused by flooding, Kennedy believes it could have been prevented with the installation of storm water gates at the South Shore inlets of Jones Beach and East Rockaway.

He’s calling for a feasibility study and support from others to make it happen.

“Jones Inlet and Reynolds Channel … are open doors for the flooding and the cause of the village being damaged,” Kennedy told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. “We need to protect those two inlets.”

And still three years later, thousands of homes and properties are still in recovery.

This week, the United Way of Long Island, with its community partners, made needed repairs to the Sosa family’s heavily damaged Freeport home.

Christian Sosa couldn’t be more grateful.

“We can’t believe the support,” he said. “It came after three years. We thought we weren’t going to get any help, and now finally you guys showed up, so it’s definitely a big help.”

It’s just one example of proof that the superstorm catastrophe is still with us, said Nassau County Legislator Steven Rhoads.

“This actually is a tragedy that is not over for so many families,” he said. “If you just travel around the neighborhood here in Freeport, if you travel anywhere on the South Shore of Long Island, you realize how many homes there are that are still vacant. And behind every one of those homes is a family.”

The lesson from Sandy is simple, says Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman: “You can’t leave a barrier island unprotected, and that’s really the bottom line. And in three short years, we’ve done more than probably the last 30 to protect ourselves.”

Foot dragging on future hurricane protection plans is not an option, said Nassau Village Association President Warren Tackenberg.

“Let’s face reality: It’s not a question (of) if there’s going to be another hurricane,” he said. “There will be other hurricanes. It’s only a question of when.”

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