Archive for the tag 'andrew cuomo'

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Source: Philip Kamrass / Times Union)

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Source: Philip Kamrass / Times Union)

Citing Con Edison’s lackluster performance during Superstorm Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) to deny Con Ed’s requested rate increase for 2014. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Cuomo is demanding that utility companies be more accountable for their service.

According to the report, Con Ed is seeking a 4 percent rate increase on electricity bills and a 1.5 percent increase on gas bills. Cuomo was straightforward in his opposition to allowing Con Ed to raise their rates:

“It’s clear that now is not the time for Con Edison to demand that its customers pay more,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement…

In a letter to the bi-partisan PSC, Mr. Cuomo said last year’s hurricane and the Metro-North outage “reinforced the importance of a reliable electric system and the need to hold utilities accountable for their preparedness and response, especially when considering potential rate hikes.”

The letter noted that ConEd customers pay among the highest electricity prices in the nation, “making it essential that the Commission scrutinize any request for further rate increases.”

Con Ed responded to Cuomo’s comments by indicating that infrastructure investment must be made in case of future storms.

“We will continue working with the Commission, and state and local officials, on the importance of protecting New York City and Westchester from the next major storm.  We also must continue making investments necessary to maintain the high level of reliability New Yorkers expect and deserve,” Con Ed said in a statement.

Cuomo dismissed the argument that Con Ed needed to raise rates to improve their service.

“Given the historically low interest rates and the economic and income growth forecasts, such investments can be made without the rate increase requested by the utility. Maintaining stable rates and indeed, lowering rates whenever feasible, is critical to supporting our economic recovery and creating jobs in the region,” Cuomo wrote.

nyrising

Nearly 100 neighbors joined government officials and consultants to share their local expertise and draw up storm resiliency plans on Monday, kicking off the first in a slate of workshops sponsored by New York State to give locals a say in recovery and resiliency initiatives.

The workshops are the most public stage to-date of a $750 million initiative announced in July by Governor Andrew Cuomo, called New York Rising, aimed at recruiting locals in identifying key community assets and their thoughts on the best way to protect them from future disasters. The officials and consultants have had several private meetings with local committees of stakeholders and activists, who drew up a roster of initial proposals. The meetings – two of which were held locally this week, in Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach – then turned to the broader public to add more input and refine the plan.

One thing organizers sought to make clear is that this wasn’t a plan about rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy, but a broader community development plan seeking to strengthen the neighborhood’s residential and economic bases from future disasters.

“It’s not a Build it Back program. It’s not about insurance. It’s not about FEMA. It’s about the future of our communities,” said Jim Donovan, co-chair of the NY Rising Reconstruction Committee for Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach. “The most important thing is the future, the children, the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren. Where are they going to live? How do we make our community more sustainable, more resilient? That’s what this whole committee is about.”

After running through a presentation, the attendees split up into half a dozen different groups and received extra large maps of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach. The maps were already marked with known assets including schools, infrastructure, hospitals and more, and the residents were asked to add anything they felt were important assets that planners should know about. They added historical relics like the Ocean Avenue footbridge, and problematic infrastructure like outdated sewage lines and below-street-level housing.

The sewage line were of particular concern for most in the room, and although the groups operated independently every group added it to the map.

“Before the tsunami came out of Sheepshead Bay [during Sandy], it came out of the sewers. The water came up the pipes and into our houses. And then the tsunami came,” bellowed one man during the meeting.

The groups also began putting forward their own proposals, including key locations for flood gates, utility infrastructure in need of elevation and more.

In addition to resiliency proposals, the groups were tasked with creating a wishlist for broader community development, including restoring the “nautical uniqueness” of the area, boosting tourism through marketing campaigns and weekend express trains, and stronger zoning laws that would prevent over-development in areas like the bungalow communities.

Although some attendees were excited by the visions put forward, others were left wondering what it had to do with storm resiliency.

“It’s a meeting to get rid of stress, that’s all it is,” said Lake Avenue resident Bob Haggerty.

Another attendee, who left in the middle of the meeting, was more succinct:

“What kind of crap is this?” she said.

Even the organizers of the meeting acknowledged that there were still many more obstacles to overcome before the plans could be put in place. The consultants hired by the state will review the proposals, and prioritize them in order of need, cost and feasibility.

The group will come out with a draft report on October 28, the one year anniversary of the storm. In November, a second public meeting will be held for more public input, and the final plan will be issued in March.

At that point, there’s little plan in place for enacting the proposals laid out. Representatives from the Department of State, which is overseeing the initiative, acknowledged that there is not yet funding for many of the ideas, and they hope to work with city agencies on the key infrastructure proposals.

Beyond that, the consultants are charged with identifying funding sources for realizing the “wishlist” items that the community has prioritized.

If you were unable to attend and would like to provide input, visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/nyrcr/community/gerritsen-beach-and-sheepshead-bay and submit your comments via the yellow contact button on the right.

You can also join the conversation using the hashtag #NYRising on Twitter (@NYStormRecovery). Follow the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program on Facebook (NYStormRecovery) or go to www.stormrecovery.ny.gov. For more information, email info@stormrecovery.ny.gov.

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

The effort to pass a measure that would expand legalized gambling in New York State and see the construction of seven casinos is receiving a huge push from legislators and lobbyists. Despite the momentum, opponents of the measure continue to uncover new data suggesting the bill might not bring the economic boon promised and that politicians have already enriched their campaigns in fast-tracking the legislation from major gambling interests.

Earlier in the month, we reported that the casino ballot measure had majority support among voters, especially after the bill was presented to voters in glowing language that made the legislation seem like a no-brainer. The language surrounding the measure promises job growth, lower taxes and aid to schools. Times Union is reporting on a study put out by the Institute for American Values that notes that expanded access to slot machines would drastically increase gambling addiction:

Modern slot machines “engineer the psychological experience of being in the ‘zone’ — a trancelike state that numbs feeling and blots out time/space. For some heavy slot players, the goal is not winning money,” the study said.

Casinos depend on problem gamblers for their revenue base, drawing 40 to 60 percent of slot machine revenues from these people, many of whom are low rollers.

Living near a casino or working at a casino increases the chance of becoming problem gambler. Those who live within 10 miles of a casino are twice as likely to be a problem gambler than those who do not.

Problem gambling is more widespread than many casino industry leaders claim. The problem gamblers frequently go to a casino, and their lives and livelihoods may be adversely affected by their betting. They are not necessarily the heavy gamblers who are pathological and who suffer from increasing preoccupations to gamble and a loss of control.

The study also indicated the potential economic harm that increased access to legalized gambling would have on the state:

The benefits of casinos are short-term and easy to measure, but many costs pop up during the longer term that are harder to quantify. Economic stimulus fades after the casino becomes a dominant business that drives out established local businesses, such as restaurants, replacing them with pawnshops, auto title lenders and check-cashing stores. And since problem gambling develops over four to seven years, the stress on families and finances may gradually become apparent.

Geoff Freeman, the president of the American Gaming Association (AGA), a powerful gambling lobbying group, refutes the studies undertaken by the Institute for American Values:

“They believe their values are better than others. They’re trying to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Freeman told Times Union…

The American Gaming Association’s Freeman said the institute’s conclusions are based on tired arguments and inaccuracies. He said many communities benefit markedly from casinos, such as Bethlehem, Pa., Kansas City, Mo. and French Lick, Ind. He said he had not read Schull’s book on slot machine engineering, but that all technology has evolved. He said just 1 percent of the population have pathological addictions and that the other 99 percent should have the “entertainment they desire.” The AGA’s research points to 2 percent to 3 percent of the adult population having gambling problems.

Freeman was not able to estimate how much of the revenues of casinos come from problem gamblers. It would be in the billions, based on the institute’s estimates. In 2012 nationwide, tribal casinos collected $27.9 billion and commercial casinos accounted for $38.3 billion.

While it isn’t known for certain as to how much of a boon legalized gambling will be for the state, it is known how much money legislators have scored from gambling interests. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Governor Andrew Cuomo and politicians in the New York State Senate and Assembly have seen lots of cash flow into their campaign coffers from the gambling lobby. From 2011 to July of 2013, Cuomo has received $361,000 while the Legislature has taken in over $1 million in that time frame.

Common Cause, who conducted that study, noted that the law enacting the referendum had once prohibited politicians from receiving campaign contributions from the gambling lobby but that law was killed in closed-door talks.

"Reflections" by Lee Teter

“Reflections” by Lee Teter

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill this week sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz that would provide substance abuse services for veterans. According to a press release, the bill would coordinate services between the state Office of Alcoholism Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Office of Mental Health and the Division of Veteran Affairs to help veterans in need.

In his remarks on the signing of the bill into law, Cymbrowitz cited the dangerous realities facing veterans as they return home.

“Through their service, many military personnel were exposed to or have experienced trauma, placing many of them in high-risk categories for triggering underlying conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or other mental health conditions,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.

The press release also noted troubling statistics which speak to the urgency of providing veterans with all the help they need:

According to the Mental Health Association of NYC, veterans are twice as likely as the general population to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or substance abuse, the lawmaker said. In New York, programs that are certified by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services treated nearly 14,000 veterans for alcohol or substance abuse in the past year, but the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that approximately 75,000 New York veterans suffer from alcoholism or chemical dependence.

Cymbrowitz praised Cuomo for signing the legislation into law, joining the fight to help veterans.

“I applaud Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation that will get veterans with addiction problems the services they need and hopefully allow them to get their lives back on track,” he said.

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

Source: Rob Bourdon via Flickr

A majority of New Yorkers indicated that they would support the upcoming ballot measure that would allow for the development of seven casinos. The New York Times is reporting that the poll, conducted by Siena College, found that responders were influenced by the loaded political language crafted onto the measure.

Earlier in the month, we reported that the language present in the referendum was written in exceedingly glowing terms, promising job growth and lower taxes:

“The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

When presented with this question posed on the ballot, people polled responded favorably as 55 percent said they would support it. The Times described the importance of the wording in the analysis of the numbers:

The poll suggested that the wording of the question is significant. When voters were asked the question in a different way, without a list of casino development’s intended purposes, they were evenly divided.

The numbers also presented contrasting findings of people thinking that building casinos would both be a positive and a negative:

The poll found that voters agree with arguments both in favor of and against expanding casino gambling.

Seventy-four percent agreed that allowing the development of casinos would create thousands of jobs, and 65 percent agreed that more casinos would generate significant new revenue for the state and for local governments.

At the same time, 57 percent agreed that the state already has enough outlets for gambling and did not need more casinos. And 55 percent agreed that developing casinos would only increase societal problems, like crime and compulsive gambling.

As we argued in an editorial, studies reveal that casinos do not guarantee positive economic impact, and that any benefits may be counterbalanced by the destructive effects that gambling addiction has on families, communities and taxpayers. We also questioned why politicians were rushing to push this legislation through, crafting the language surrounding its potential approval as a no-brainer.

Still, it should be noted that 51 percent of the people polled in the survey found that the question itself, as worded, was fair.

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a common theme circulating in the social and political atmosphere has been one of defiance. The message has been to rebuild and redevelop, even in the most vulnerable coastal communities. A report in Mother Jones is arguing that the attitude of continually trying to defy nature is costly, risky and could very well backfire despite billions in planned improvements.

In their analysis, Mother Jones target comments made by prominent political leaders and suggest that “retreating” from the coastline might be a more a realistic option:

Retreat needs to be considered not as a defeatist last-resort, but as proactive strategy needed in some places.

Take New York City, for example, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed 257 initiatives to be pursued over the next 10 years at an estimated $20 billion. He has repeatedly emphasized that the city “will not retreat from the waterfront.” But it will be hard to stand by this categorical commitment as sea levels continue to rise.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $400 million home-buyout program, of which a meager $170 million has been HUD-approved. Only homes with damage more than 50 percent of their value are eligible. The Oak Beach community in Staten Island has applied as a pilot program for a community-based buyout, but hasn’t yet been approved. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is encouraging rapid rebuilding while also proposing a limited buyout program. But with no funding set aside for it, he has made clear he prefers to rebuild rather than retreat.

The report lays out the case that rising flood insurance premiums coupled with expensive new building regulations laid out by FEMA create unfavorable options for homeowners trying to live in coastal communities. Previously, we had reported on the new flood lines drawn by FEMA that will drastically increase costs for homeowners in vulnerable areas. For example, if you have a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, and cannot meet FEMA’s new building regulations, you may have to pay $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year, but the cost of doing so will be expensive.

It is because of these reasons that the Mother Jones report is advocating other options like buyouts, curtailing development and fixing the infrastructure:

These options should include support for buyouts in mid-Atlantic communities, at least for coastal and estuary locations that are either at elevations of ten feet or less above the local mean higher high tide or 5 feet above the latest mapped FEMA 1 percent per year base flood elevations, whichever is higher. Once buyouts at these elevations are secured, they should progress to higher elevations.

Disallow new residential development in those low-lying elevations unless it is flood-adapted (safely moored and floatable or substantially raised with raised or floodable utility connections). With urgency, local building codes need to be re-written to take this into account, since those specifications don’t yet exist.

Know that flood-protective structures—sea gates, levees, or walls—have limits. To start, sea levels will inevitably surpass their finite design heights. But before that ever happens, they introduce their own collateral hazards. A barrier system meant to protect an estuary or river with considerable discharge could flood communities behind the protective systems.

Develop a set of land-use priorities. Infrastructure, including transportation networks, sewage treatment plants, solid waste facilities, energy supply and distribution systems, utilities, and public health facilities demand the highest priorities for adaptation, whether by protectionaccommodation (some utility distribution systems could be made submergible; other system elements could be raised or made floatable); or by retreat to higher ground. In any case, for this essential infrastructure, higher flood standards need to be considered (such as the 0.2%/year flood elevations), and margins for sea level rise must be added that are in a time horizon commensurate with the expected lifetime of the facility itself. New rights of way will need to be relocated from low-lying areas to higher elevations.

The report even goes as far to suggest creating alternatives to subway systems, which they believe are too vulnerable to constant predicted future flooding, calling for an overhaul of the century old rail system.

Interesting stuff. Whether or not you accept the recommendations in this report, the critical point is that the city is at a crossroads with billions of federal dollars to spend on potential solutions. It is up to our political leaders, engineers and city planners to make sure that they are covering every angle of the recovery process and make decisions that mitigate the full impact of future natural disasters.

Source: Openmarket.org

Source: Openmarket.org

Voters will be presented with a referendum calling for the construction of seven casinos this November, and the language surrounding the measure is wrapped in language designed to make voters think that the bill is a no-brainer. The Associated Press is reporting that the referendum’s language, which promises jobs, lower taxes and money for schools, is being questioned by good-government advocacy groups.

The casino issue creeped forward earlier this year, with legislators approving the expansion for the second year in a row, clearing the way for a voter referendum on the measure. If voters give the green light, seven new casinos will be authorized in New York State, with no specific locations yet revealed. Although the governor said the first round of three casinos would all be upstate, Coney Island has been floated as a potential site in the second phase. Winners of bids to build casinos would have to pay the state an upfront fee of $50 million and then fork over 25 percent of all future gambling revenues.

In an editorial, we argued against the referendum. We cited studies that do not guarantee the boosts to local economies exuberantly promised by proponents. We also noted the destructive impact that increased gambling addiction would have on taxpayer’s wallets, and we questioned the motives of lobbying interests rushing lawmakers to craft a referendum.

Now, as the referendum draws near in November, the AP noted that voters will be faced with the following loaded language, a stark contrast to earlier efforts:

“The proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the Constitution would allow the Legislature to authorize up to seven casinos in New York State for the legislated purposes of promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools, and permitting local governments to lower property taxes through revenues generated. Shall the amendment be approved?”

By comparison, an early draft mirrored most of New York’s dry, if dense, referenda. Before it was recast by Cuomo and the Legislature, the referendum stated simply: “The purpose of the proposed amendment to section 9 of article 1 of the constitution is to allow the Legislature to authorize and regulate up to seven casinos. If approved, the amendment would permit commercial casino gambling in New York state.”

Referenda are supposed summarize a law passed by the Legislature to change the constitution. The added benefits of tax breaks and school aid, however, aren’t listed in the law.

In response to such language, good-government advocates are issuing warnings that voters are potentially being taken down a primrose path:

“It has more spin than a roulette wheel,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The optimistic theme of the referendum makes no mention that those claims are disputed by some researchers and doesn’t note the decline of some casinos from New Jersey’s Atlantic City to those run by Indian tribes, or the rise in problem gambling that can shatter families and increase crime…

“This one seems particularly heavily spun,” said Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. “I don’t think there’s anything illegal about it … it’s OK, but I don’t think it’s good.”

He noted, for example, that the other four constitutional questions to be put to voters on the November ballot don’t read as advocacy to persuade voters. Those involve Adirondack land swaps, sewer projects and allowing judges to serve up to 80 years old.

Benjamin said a group could sue over the casino referendum language, but neither law nor the constitution requires an objective presentation of an issue to voters.

A report by Times Union noted that in the case of the upcoming casino referendum, both advocates and opponents have been left curiously silent on the issue. The silence of advocates is believed to be attributed to their confidence that the measure will pass. Poll numbers researched by the Siena Research Institute found that 49 percent of voters support some expansion of full-scale gambling, while 42 percent oppose it. The lack of noise from opposition groups has been chalked up to lack of money to bring the issue to the public’s attention:

Opponents of the expansion will be active in the weeks ahead, though they say activities aren’t expected to get too intense.

“I’m surprised so far by the lack of organized opposition,” said David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values. “There seems to be a kind of passivity, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from.”

Stephen Shafer of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York said his small organization would be writing letters and giving interviews. “But we simply don’t have an advertising budget, so we’re kind of going hat in hand,” he said.

Dennis Poust, spokesman for the state Catholic Conference, said its member bishops plan to discuss the referendum at their meeting later this month in New York City. The church’s leaders have expressed worry about anything that increases addictive gambling, and view gaming as a regressive tax on the poor.

Still, despite the relative quiet on the issue, Shafer was adamant that the referendum’s language was misleading.

“The deceptive wording of this amendment on the ballot and the advancement of this late entry to ‘number one’ position are obvious moves to misinform and bias voters. New Yorkers deserve better from our legislative leaders,” Shafer told the AP.

Source: Senator Golden's offices

State Senator Marty Golden (Source: Senator Golden’s offices)

Subpoenas were issued to huge real estate firms that scored a windfall in tax breaks in legislation crafted by Republican State Senator Marty Golden and signed by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Moreland Commission, a group set up by Cuomo to investigate public corruption, is looking into how developers of ultra-rich hotel-condo towers gained the valuable breaks.

Previously, we reported on the dubious legislation sponsored by Golden, which allowed huge tax breaks for five Manhattan properties. The legislation is expected to save developers like Extell Development, Silverstein Properties and Thor Equities tens of millions of dollars. The bill, which enjoyed bipartisan support and was signed into law by Cuomo, tacked on the expensive properties to the city’s 421-A program, a measure designed to spur residential building construction in less-dense areas of the city and subsidize affordable housing. Projects like One57, which is a 1,004-foot luxury tower featuring penthouses on sale for more than $90 million, were initially excluded from the program until Golden and other state politicians voted to include four developments as an exception under the umbrella of 421-A benefits.

Extell Development, which is building One57, has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign chests of both Democrats and Republicans, spurring the Moreland Commission to look into the affair. The independent Moreland Commission was set up by Cuomo after state legislators failed to pass comprehensive anti-corruption measures this year.

The Wall Street Journal described how the impending investigation might bring to light the uncomfortably close relationship between state politicians and major real estate developers:

One person who examined a subpoena from the commission, known as the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, said the information requested was extensive, seeking emails and other communications with lobbyists and elected officials over multiple years relating to the tax break.

Kathleen Rice, Nassau County District Attorney and co-chairwoman of the commission, said the commission has begun issuing subpoenas, but she declined to say who received them or the topic of the inquiries. “We have not prejudged anyone or anything—we are going to follow whatever evidence we have, wherever it goes,” she said.

A spokesman for Extell said the company “will cooperate fully with any agency trying to improve government.”

The subpoenas could eventually help shed light on advocacy and lobbying by the real-estate and development sector, long a powerful force in Albany politics. Top landlords and their advocacy groups traditionally are prolific donors, contributing millions of dollars each election cycle collectively to the campaign committees of governors and influential members of the Legislature, and the outcomes of policies like taxes and rent regulation can cost—or make—them fortunes.

Golden and Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Democrat who sponsored the bill in the Assembly, may also be questioned during the investigation. When initially questioned by the press as to why the five properties were included under the umbrella of the 421a benefits, Golden and Wright both pleaded ignorance.

“These projects were ready to go,” Golden told the Daily News. “I’m not sure where they came from,” Golden said in response to who earmarked the developments for special favor.

“These five properties — it was important that they benefit from the piece of legislation probably, and I don’t know why, because some of the folks in the Senate wanted them to be included,” Wright told the Daily News.

Source: Clean Ocean Action via the Queens Chronicle

Source: Clean Ocean Action via the Queens Chronicle

Local environmentalists were outraged at Liberty Natural Gas’s proposed plan to place a fuel port 20 miles off the coast of New York Harbor. The Queens Chronicle is reporting that Liberty argues that building the port will save New York and New Jersey residents $325 million per year.

The area surrounding Jamaica Bay, New York Harbor and the coast of New Jersey has become a battleground between environmental activists and big energy operators. Recently, Transco Williams won the right to build a 1.6-mile natural gas pipeline that stretches underneath Jacob Riis Park and ends at a meter and regulating station positioned at Floyd Bennett Field. Environmentalists fought the pipeline’s construction, arguing that it could harm the Jamaica Wildlife Refuge, local animal life and residents. Despite protests, the approved construction of the pipeline appears to be moving forward.

The Queens Chronicle describes the purpose of the new port, which would connect to the pipeline in Jamaica Bay:

Liberty Natural Gas submitted an application to the government to construct and operate Port Ambrose, a facility for importing liquified natural gas from Trinidad and Tobago. Specially designed vessels carrying liquified natural gas would regasify the fuel on-board and feed it into loading buoys and pipes which would link to the existing Transco pipeline, near Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways. The project would cost $300 million.

Liquified natural gas, or LNG, is primarily methane, cooled and condensed into liquid form, so that it is one six-hundredth of its usual volume, which makes it possible to ship.

According to Roger Whelan, the president of Liberty Natural Gas, natural gas prices in New York spike during the winter and summer months and importing the gas would keep prices down. Whelan claims the port will save consumers $325 million per year.

As Liberty prepares their $300 million project, environmentalists are coming out strong again, arguing that the port would create a threat comparable to a terrorist threat. Jamaica Bay Ecowatch member Dan Mundy was uncompromising in his opposition to the project:

Dan Mundy Jr., a member of the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers, strongly opposes the port. He called it a terrorist threat and an environmental disaster “with no benefit to the country.”

… Mundy said that the port would be a terrorist threat and that if the natural gas were to hit the warm ocean water, it would be like a “mini-nuclear bomb” and the plume of smoke would blow ashore.

Officials with LNG promised that the port would be built with “proven and safe technology,” but according to environmentalists the actual construction of the facility would be detrimental to the surrounding ocean habitat:

Building the port would entail trenching 20 miles of ocean floor to build the pipeline, increasing underwater noise and dumping massive quantities of warm water, severely damaging the ocean habitat, where a variety of fishes, crustaceans, whales and dolphins live. Testing the pipe requires 3.5 million gallons of chemically-treated seawater each time.

Besides waving numerous environmental red flags, environmentalists like Mundy have also noted that a natural gas import facility is unnecessary due to domestic natural gas production reaching all-time highs making prices lower than ever. Some of the opponents think the real reason is not for importing from Trinidad and Tobago, but actually for exporting from our already-high stock.

Questions over the economic and environmental impact of the proposed port will come further to light in the following months:

The public comment period was extended until Aug. 22, after which the U.S. Coast Guard and Marine Administrator will draft an Environmental Impact Statement, in accordance with the Deepwater Port Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Then there will be another round of public meetings, before the final EIS comes out.

Then both governors, Cuomo and Chris Christie of New Jersey, will approve or disapprove the project and the marine administrator will make the final decision.

A home in Sea Gate damaged (in the rear) by Sandy. Photo by Erica Sherman

Damaged schools, health facilities, libraries, abandoned storefronts and treacherous sinkholes. These are some of the major problems still afflicting Coney Island since Superstorm Sandy thrashed the area over eight months ago. Gotham Gazette is reporting that all the damage hasn’t come close to being repaired and that local residents are at their wits’ end in trying to live with them.

On our sister site Bensonhurst Bean, we have covered some of the frustration plaguing Coney Island locals. City Council candidate Mark Treyger was furious over the conditions at Carey Gardens (2955 West 24th Street), a New York City housing complex suffering from leaking roofs, the loss of its community center, a broken playground and the sinkhole problems on Neptune Avenue that could attract West Nile mosquitoes.

In another report, we tracked other frustrations facing Coney residents, namely the surging popularity of the pristinely restored beach area that has caused an uptick in traffic and congestion in the area. The restoration of the beach, Luna Park and other fun spots has been a sore spot for locals not buying the reports that Coney Island has fully rebounded:

“They say Coney Island is open for business. Sure, the entertainment district is, but no one talks about the parts of Coney Island where people actually live. They don’t talk about the neighborhoods,” said Ed Cosme, a resident who formed The People’s Coalition of Coney Island to raise awareness about the problems in the parts of the neighborhood that don’t normally draw tourists and bathers.

The Gotham Gazette described the state of a massive sinkhole present on Neptune Avenue:

On Neptune Avenue in Coney Island, state Sen. Diane Savino and a group of community activists walked a cracked and broken sidewalk on a recent day this summer — taking a tour of damage that remains nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy pummeled some of the city’s notable coastal neighborhoods.

At one point, the group stopped to look past a contorted chain-link fence at a massive sinkhole filled with bags of trash, milk cartons and diapers. The crevasse yawned with fault lines that zigged and zagged onto the sidewalk and towards the street. It looked to be growing.

“That thing goes down a ways,” said Ken Jones, a longtime community activist, referring to the sinkhole. “It’s probably right under the sidewalk.” The fact that it has apparently been used on more than one occasion as a dump only added to the activists’ concern that no one — not the state, not the city — is paying enough attention to their neighborhood…

Councilman Domenic Recchia, whose district includes Coney Island, said he has been in contact with multiple city agencies that are working together to study the sinkhole problem in particular.

“They are trying to find out why we are having this problem,” Recchia said. “It isn’t clear if the earth is moving or the sand got pushed out from under the pavement by the flood. But I know it is a problem for a lot of people. They are getting them in their driveway or backyards. I get calls about it all the time.”

While the problems afflicting Coney residents are extensive, a small measure of relief is coming in the form of a $6 million grant provided by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program. The plan is unique in that it allows local community leaders and officials to decide the best way to spend the federal money allotted to them, removing the sometimes disconnected overreach of authorities with no sense of what’s going on the ground.

The report goes on to describe other problems facing the area, including abandoned storefronts, broken docks and lost community outreach programs:

But it isn’t just the sinkholes that have residents concerned that their part of Coney Island is being ignored. Looking past the massive sinkhole on Neptune Avenue, the tortured skeleton of a wooden dock uprooted and smashed by Hurricane Sandy could be seen. A number of boats remained lifted out of the water, stranded on rocks, water-damaged and rotting. “No one has claimed them yet?” Savino asked rhetorically.

The owners are likely long gone. Just like the proprietors of the closed Chinese food restaurant and bodega across the street. “They were just hanging on before Sandy,” Savino said. “They were already in debt. After that storm, another loan wasn’t going to save them.”

Aida Leon is the executive director of the Amethyst Women’s Project, a group that helps women struggling with substance abuse, domestic violence and HIV/AIDS.

As the tour of Coney Island progressed, she said she was concerned that established charitable organizations had been ignored by the larger groups that came in with funding to address problems caused by Sandy.

“They haven’t been on the ground like we have,” she said. “We lost a lot of people after Sandy. They didn’t come back to the programs and I don’t think they are coming back because the people with funding don’t know how to reach them.”

Councilman Domenic Recchia tried to find bright spots in the otherwise bleak picture, claiming that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) was out fixing the sinkholes and that not all of the community programs were gone.

“We have summer programs like the Cornerstone program and others out of Kaiser Park. They may not all be open but there are programs,” Recchia told the Gotham Gazette.”Compared to other parts of the city, I think we’re doing pretty good. Take a look at the NYCHA facilities — they are working on them. It’s not like the work isn’t happening.”

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