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nyrising-sheepshead

The New York Rising project, a state-sponsored, federally-funded program to make coastal communities more resilient in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, will unveil the final proposals for Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach tonight, revealing the $21.3 million vision to help us better withstand and more quickly recover from future disasters.

The meeting kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at the Brooklyn Amity School (3867 Shore Parkway), and all are welcome to attend.

The workshop represents the culmination of nearly a year of work by a committee of grassroots stakeholders, who worked with planning experts and consultants to identify shortcomings and vulnerabilities in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and propose ideas that would fill those gaps. After several public hearings and draft plans, they’re finalizing the plan that the state will begin implementing. You can read the full report here, but we’re boiling it down to what you need to know ahead of tonight’s meeting.

The first thing to note is that there’s already $13.3 million allocated to Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach to see many of these projects through. It’s still several million shy of covering all the costs of the full vision, and the committee’s job is to come up with the list of projects to receive those funds. This is basically the highest priority stuff that they’re asking the state to pay attention to. Once the report is finalized, the state will pluck from the list and give their final go-ahead.

There are also projects that the committee thinks is a good idea, called featured projects, but not good enough to receive money from the existing pot. Those will require separate funding from what’s already been doled out by the feds. To keep it simple, we’re not including these in our list.

If you think any of these ideas are a waste of money, or you have suggestions for a tweak or change in plans, make sure you attend tonight’s meeting. While the plan is final, representatives from the governor’s office and other agencies responsible for implementing it will be in attendance, and your input could change how they move forward and what they prioritize.

Without further ado, here’s the list of projects that the local committee is recommending for funding through federal money already held by the state. We’ve organized them in order of estimated price tag.

  • Installation of sewer cut-off valves for one- and two-family homes - $5.7 million – Timeframe: 18-24 months  – One of the most frequently heard complaints after the storm was that homes flooded not from actual stormwater, but from overflowing sewers that backed up into homes. This proposal would provide funds for the purchase and installation of several thousand cut-off valves for local property owners. Essentially, the valves seal off the property if waste is heading the wrong way through the pipe.
  • Elevating and retrofitting homes  – $2.5-$3.5 million – Timeframe: two years – The project would help provide direct financial assistance to fund elevation and retrofitting of homes in the area, including a public education component to inform homeowners of additional available resources. The project includes assessing the number of homes in the area that need to be raised or upgraded, and determining eligibility guidelines for the work.
  • Installation of backup generators at key facilities - $2.55 million – Estimate time to implement: 12-16 months – Many of the waterfront senior homes and community spaces struggled in Sandy’s wake to get back up and running because of power outages, and neighbors also had few places to charge cell phones and other technology they relied on. This proposal seeks to install 13 large-scale generators at key facilities in the high-risk flood zone. They’ll be limited to public facilities or private buildings that serve critical needs, like health and medical services, food or medical supplies, and will be flood-proofed.
  • Retrofitting key businesses and community services assets - $2.5 million – Timeframe: 16-24 months – Sandy knocked a huge swath of Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road businesses out of operation for several months, and that includes pharmacies and grocery stores. This proposal would fund the installation of risk reduction measures, such as deployable small-scale flood barriers at all entrances to a property, as well as upgrades like the elevation or enclosure of mechanical equipment. It’s not clear how many businesses and community facilities would be covered by the $2.5 million.
  • Create an Emergency Response and Recovery Center in Sheepshead Bay - $2.4 million – Timeframe: 12-16 months – Committee members argued that recovery from Sandy was hampered by the lack of a central location for response operations, both in the immediate aftermath, when food and basic supplies were crucial, and in the months that followed, when residents needed access to information and resources. This proposal is to study potential locations for a new or existing building, assess options to make it flood proof, and then lease, buy or construct such a space. Once created, it would be staffed before, during and after a storm as a space for pre-disaster planning and post-disaster operations, including storage of supplies and equipment.
  • Retrofitting the Gerritsen Beach Vollies and Fire Department - $2.4 million – Timeframe: 12-16 months – The Vollies Hall and Gerrittsen Beach Fire Department Station played a critical role in the aftermath of Sandy, becoming the de facto headquarters for relief operations. While they escaped the worst of Sandy’s wrath, it may not fare so well in future storms. The committee proposes building second floors on both of these one-story structures, and retrofitting it with resiliency equipment including flood barriers, generators, storm gates and even solar panels.
  • Backflow prevention measures on city stormwater outfall pipes - $740,000 – Timeframe: 12 months – Many Sandy victims didn’t see the water coming from the Bay, they saw it rising out of the sewers. That’s because the stormwater infiltrated the sewer system through outfall pipes on the coastline, where it reemerged from street grates and home sewer lines. This project proposes to take a look at the system to analyze the infrastructure, and to install devices that would automatically close five outfall pipes in Sheepshead Bay and 11 in Gerritsen Beach when water begins heading in the wrong direction.
  • Resilient streetscape improvements on Emmons Avenue - $500,000 – Timeframe: 12 months – The Emmons Avenue corridor would be upgraded with benches and lighting, additional tree beds and grass plantings – as well as the installation of green stormwater drainage and attenuation systems. Green spaces help with drainage after a heavy rain event and help prevent flooding on roads and sidewalks.
  • Repair and reconstruct Canton Court bulkhead in Gerritsen Beach - $490,000 – Timeframe: 6-9 months – Sandy did major damage to this bulkhead, which supports a roadway, and the street is now collapsing. This project allocates funds to tear it down, build a new one and repair the street.
  • Study Gerrtisen Beach streets for infrastructure repairs - $200,000 – Timeframe: 6-8 months – This project will produce a report to be given to the Department of Transportation for a plan to upgrade the neighborhood’s street infrastructure with better catch basins and drainage systems. The plan will then be in the city’s hands to budget for.
  • Feasibility study to improve the resiliency of Sheepshead Bay’s courts - $150,000 – Timeframe: 12 months – The worst hit homes in Sheepshead Bay were those in the “courts” – the bungalow colonies along Emmons Avenue that sit five feet below street level. In addition to their low-lying nature, the web of sidewalks between them have no city-connected drainage systems, turning the entire thing into a swimming pool on moderately rainy days. This study will consider various measures to improve stormwater drainage and help alleviate the persistent flooding, and it would also look at modifying the buildings to be more resilient, and even connecting the whole system to city infrastructure. There is no funding to actually implement any proposals the report may produce.
  • Storm surge protection for Sheepshead Bay -  $100,000 – Two-year project – New York Rising stakeholders for Manhattan Beach repeatedly complained that much of their flooding came from the Sheepshead Bay side of the peninsula, not the ocean. As such, they’re proposing a “reconnaissance study” to identify viable options to keep the bay contained in future storms. If some options seem doable, a feasibility study will commence, and then implementation. There is not yet funding for either the feasibility study or the implementation.
  • Evacuation planning for Gerritsen Beach - $50,000 – Estimated timeframe: 3 to 4 months - Gerritsen Beach’s only evacuation route is Gerritsen Avenue – which is also at risk of flooding. This proposal is to fund a study to see if the route can handle the traffic volume that would emerge in an emergency situation, resulting in proposals to alter operational plans (such as a parking ban on the corridor during an evacuation event, which would open up an additional lane of traffic).

rising

New York Rising’s final public engagement meeting to restore and protect Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach is slated for this Monday, May 12, from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Brooklyn Amity School, 3867 Shore Parkway.

The first engagement meeting took place last October, with a workshop for residents to guide state planners on how to spend millions of dollars to protect local infrastructure. The program is part of a $750 million initiative announced in July by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Here is where you can view Gerritsen Beach and Sheepshead Bay’s plan. We’ll also have a round-up of the Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach proposals on Monday in advance of the meeting, similar to our feature on the Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Coney Island report.

To learn more, email info@stormrecovery.ny.gov.

It’s not often you see a member of one of the nation’s most dysfunctional legislative bodies appropriately shaming members of another dysfunctional legislative body, but that’s what we wake up to this morning.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke is calling on Albany lawmakers to send resources to those Brooklyn neighborhoods that are currently without representation in either the State Senate or Assembly. Locally, that includes Marine Park, Mill Basin and Gerritsen Beach, who are currently without an assemblyman.

In fact, there are currently five open seats in the two houses of state legislature that represent about 700,000 Brooklynites. Governor Andrew Cuomo has not called a special election to replace them, and those seats will be empty until January 2015.

That means that an entire budget season will come and go, and no one will be representing those districts in negotiations, depriving civic groups and community organizations of operating funds that are allocated annually.

“We cannot allow the failure to schedule a special election to prevent the allocation of resources to the people who lack representation. The legislators whose positions are now vacant supported many of the most important social service organizations and cultural institutions in Brooklyn. I believe we should continue that level of support,” Clarke said.

The Assembly seat representing Gerritsen Beach and Marine Park was vacated when Alan Maisel left the house to become city councilman. Some of the groups that depended on his voice for funding from Albany, according to Clarke, include the Marine Park Community Association and Amity Little League.

Clarke sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, urging them to keep these organizations in mind.

The letter, in full, is after the jump.

Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons

State Senator Diane Savino (Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons)

State Senator Diane Savino, who represents parts of Coney Island, Gravesend, Brighton Beach and Bensonhurst, thinks highly of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to get groovy with medical marijuana.

News came of Cuomo’s change of heart – he previously said “absolutely not” to medical marijuana advocates as recently as a year ago – on Saturday, when the New York Times reported the governor would announce an executive action allowing limited use of marijuana by those with serious illnesses.

The action is a much more modest step than other states that permit medical marijuana, limiting distribution to just 20 hospitals across a state of 19.5 million people. Prescriptions will only be given to patients with cancer, glaucoma and other diseases determined by the state Department of Health. The program is expected to be formally announced on Wednesday during Cuomo’s State of the State address.

For Savino, who has long been a proponent of medical marijuana and has repeatedly offered up legislation authorizing its distribution (to no avail), it’s a win for seriously ill patients.

“The most important thing is that it’s an acknowledgement that the benefits outweigh the risks,” told the Staten Island Advance. “Compared to where we were last year, when Cuomo said absolutely not, I’m very pleased … It’s a great first step.”

Details about the policy and program are still vague, and Savino hopes to work alongside Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, who sponsored the medical marijuana bill in the Assembly, to flesh out details with the Cuomo administration.

Savino’s bill stalled in the Senate year after year due to Republican opposition. It passed the Assembly four times, and 82 percent of New York voters approve of medical marijuana. Cuomo’s action side steps the legislature altogether.

nyrising

Residents help with long-term planning at a NY Rising meeting.

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article last week, examining the different and competing visions of city and state administrators when it comes to using the billions of dollars received for Superstorm Sandy recovery.

In short, the city wants to use it for long-term resiliency initiatives. The state wants to see the money funneled to homeowners seeking relief.

Here’s the nut of it:

More than a year after superstorm Sandy, the mounting frustration illustrates a broader dilemma for policy makers in New York City and Albany: Is it better to invest in pricey measures that protect the many or to help those hardest hit immediately?

The question is at the heart of different approaches taken by the city and state in how they distribute federal funds they received to help the region recover.

The city has decided to spend about $300 million of the nearly $1.8 billion it received in the first round on what is known as resiliency, or efforts to protect against future storms. The state, by contrast, has set aside just $30 million of the $1.7 billion it received on resiliency, including increasing public awareness about safe rebuilding and helping places like hospitals and nursing homes create energy backup systems.

About $650 million of the first round of federal funding the city received is being spent on housing recovery, while the state is spending about $840 million on far fewer applicants.

As it stands now, the city has only allocated enough funds to handle approximately 4,000 of the 26,000 applicants to the Build it Back program, and is prioritizing based on financial need. The program will receive another chunk of funds soon, a representative for Mayor Bloomberg said.

What do you think? Should the city have prioritized direct assistance to victims at the cost of long-term planning? Or is it better to get the big projects underway while the political will still exists?

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

The following is an unaltered press release from the offices of Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz:

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, commended Governor Cuomo for signing into law a bill he sponsored (A.2270A) requiring requires gaming venues to post information about compulsive gambling support services near every entrance and exit.

“With nearly one million compulsive gamblers throughout New York State, this legislation will help to raise awareness on how to access support and services for problem gambling,” said Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, whose committee has jurisdiction over compulsive gambling.

New York, along with most states that allow gambling, require that signage providing a 24-hour hotline number and other support services for problem gamblers be posted prominently in all gaming facilities. But the manner in which signs are posted is often inconsistent and arbitrary, according to the lawmaker.

“These signs are widely accepted as an appropriate tool to promote responsible gaming, yet the New York State Council on Problem Gambling says that in 2011 there were just 1,449 calls to the helpline. That means very few New Yorkers with compulsive gambling problems are receiving the help that’s available to them,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

“I am pleased that the Governor has signed this legislation. It is paramount that we consider the toll these new gaming facilities will take on New Yorkers with gambling addictions. Allocating money to problem gambling prevention and treatment programs is not an expense, but rather an investment in a better New York,” he said.

nyrising

Residents identified assets and potential projects during October’s workshop.

The second public engagement meeting of the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program to restore and protect Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach will be held tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. in the Amity School (3867 Shore Parkway).

The first engagement meeting took place in October, with a workshop for residents to guide state planners on how to spend millions of dollars to protect local infrastructure. The program is part of a $750 million initiative announced in July by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

During tomorrow’s meeting, officials and consultants will unveil a set of proposals and priorities devised, in part, by community residents. They are soliciting feedback for further refinement before issuing their final report, which will be the roadmap for state investment going forward.

A draft of the plan, which will be the topic of tomorrow’s meeting, is available for review here. You can comment on the plan in person at the meeting, or submit comments online.

Abraham Lincoln High School. Source: Google Maps

Abraham Lincoln High School. Source: Google Maps

New York Rising, the state initiative to put long-term storm resiliency planning in the hands of communities, is gathering tomorrow to unveil drafts of their plan for Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach and Sea Gate. Members of these communities are invited to attend and give feedback.

The meeting is scheduled to take place in the cafeteria of Abraham Lincoln High School (2800 Ocean Parkway) on Tuesday, November 12 between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

As we’ve previously reported, New York Rising is an initiative spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo that gives community members power in determining how to spend $750 million in federal Sandy aid dollars. The last meeting was held in late October and a strong public showing is vital for the program’s success.

Event organizers are planning to report on the progress made so far with the public, share ideas for future projects and take community input on ideas for other resiliency projects.

For more information on New York Rising, click here.

The Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach coalition will meet on November 20.

A new Nexus 7 tablet. (Source: Wikipedia)

A new Nexus 7 tablet. (Source: Wikipedia)

It’s rare whenever Southern Brooklyn get a cool new tech or cultural addition ahead of, like, anywhere else in the city, but the Brooklyn Public Library and Google are looking to reward us for our suffering from Sandy.

Google, a company which knows all and has all the money, generously donated 1,000 fresh Nexus 7 tablet’s to libraries in Brooklyn devastated by Superstorm Sandy. According to a press release, Google, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Fund for Public Schools, donated a whopping 17,000 tablets to New York City libraries, senior centers and community centers, amounting to a $2.7 million donation.

The tablets will be used to support a range of functions, including English as a second language training, job training or simply serving as eReaders. Library patrons will even be able to borrow the tablets, just like a book, free to add music, movies and other apps, as long as they come back freshly deleted when returned.

The tablets will be available for loan from Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook and Sheepshead Bay libraries.

Linda Johnson, the president of the Brooklyn Public Library, was thrilled with the donation.

“These communities were some of the worst hit by Hurricane Sandy, so they are receiving priority access to our new tablet lending program. Providing digital learning opportunities is at the forefront of our Library’s mission, so now, one year after the storm, we are thrilled to be able to offer this wonderful new resource to our patrons,” Johnson said in the release.

Wow, the library just got a lot cooler. Also, if you think that borrowing a tablet and never returning it would only cost you 15 cents or so in overdue fees, think again. According to the Brooklyn Library’s webpage on the Tablet Lending Program, you are going to owe $200 bucks for a lost or broken tablet, so be sure not to spill any coffee on it (looking at you, Ned).

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

Source: sincerelyhiten via flickr

A new poll suggests that a majority of New York City residents support changing the amendment to add seven new casinos somewhere in New York State, but don’t want to see it in the five boroughs, the New York Times reports.

The poll, conducted by the New York Times/Siena College, found that six in 10 likely New York City voters said they would vote for the amendment, when asked using the rosy, skewed language that highlights unproven benefits of casino gambling, such as job growth and funding for education. But 50 percent were opposed to seeing a full-scale casino in New York City, with only 42 percent in favor.

The ballot measure that would amend the constitution will lead to three new Las Vegas-style casinos to be created upstate as part of “first phase.” The second phase, which will roll out seven years later, will see four more casinos – at unspecified locations. Most observers believe a New York City casino is likely.

The poll also found that voters are fairly well informed about both the positives and the drawbacks of expanded casino gambling:

In the new poll, New York City residents said they expected both positive and negative effects from expanded casino gambling.

Seven in 10 said they thought it was quite likely that the casinos would bring in significant new revenue for government.

“Just in my apartment building alone, twice a month they have buses come and take people to Atlantic City,” Albert Perrotto, 55, from Far Rockaway, Queens, said in a follow-up interview. “If they take them to upstate New York instead, it would be a shorter ride, and people would go upstate, and the revenue would come here instead. It makes a lot of sense to me.”

At the same time, six in 10 city residents said they thought it was most likely that new casinos would increase societal problems such as crime and compulsive gambling

Quin Stratton, 23, who works for a credit-card processing center and lives in the Bronx, said she supported the amendment but would not want to see a full-scale casino developed in New York City. “If it’s in the city, it will attract people who don’t have a lot of money, and they will blow their whole paycheck,” she said.

“If the casinos are upstate, or far away, it’s harder,” Ms. Stratton added. “They would have to actually get into a car and would have to make that decision. If it’s in the city, then someone who gets off work will walk by and say, ‘Hey it’s a casino!’ and blow everything they just made.”

Still, the numbers are a good sign for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is closely linked with the initiative. As much as 40 percent of the state’s voters live in New York City, and the five boroughs are expected to have higher turnout due to the mayoral elections.

Good government advocates, including the Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause NY, continue to oppose the language and politicking of the ballot measure, although a lawsuit to have it reworded has failed.

A Times Union report notes that PIRG is urging media to use neutral language when describing the proposal. Common Cause NY, meanwhile, has put out a bulletin pulling back the veil on the larged pro-casino PAC – NY Jobs Now – which is funded almost entirely by gambling companies.

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