Archive for the tag 'charles schumer'

Source: Luke Redmond/Flickr

Several local representatives to the City Council said yesterday that they support a proposal to throw a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea reemerged over the weekend, when U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood with veterans to urge the Department of Defense to work with the city in planning the event, which would welcome home returning troops from the post-9/11 battlefronts. The proposal was first floated in 2012, but was opposed by the Pentagon.

“With the war in Afghanistan winding down, now is the time to keep with long-standing American tradition and kick off a campaign for the first New York City welcome home parade for troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Schumer in a press release.

The Iraq war came to an official end on December 31, 2011. The combat mission in Afghanistan is expected to be complete by the end of this year. The Department of Defense will not condone a parade until combat operations are complete, but Schumer said the planning should begin now.

The Canyon of Heroes has long been the venue for the most iconic processions for returning veterans. Several parades were held during World War II, culminating with a massive procession for the troops in 1946, after the war ended. A parade was held honoring veterans of the Vietnam War in 1985, and in 1991 the city welcomed home Gulf War veterans.

Several Southern Brooklyn City Council representatives said they support bringing back the tradition, including Councilman Vincent Gentile who said he has previously called for honoring the veterans in such a way.

“If a sports team gets a parade, so should our veterans!” said Gentile. “Not only is it the right thing to do and it’s the least we can do for these brave men and women to honor the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our freedom abroad.”

Councilmembers Alan Maisel and Chaim Deutsch agreed.

“For all their dedication and sacrifice, it’s only fitting that we hold a ticker-tape parade in honor of the hard-fighting men and women of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Deutsch. “Therefore, I’ll support the campaign to revive this time-honored tradition and give our veterans a grand, New York City welcome.”

Councilman Mark Treyger said he’s on-board with the idea, but urged his colleagues not to forget about providing the support these returning veterans will need beyond a celebration in the streets.

“I am in full support of the idea to honor our veterans with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes out of recognition of their incredible service to our nation. I applaud Senator Schumer for taking up this worthy campaign and I look forward to assisting his efforts,” said Treyger. “However, our obligation and responsibility to our returning servicemen and women extends far beyond a single event. We must also ensure as a city and nation that each returning solider receives assistance with employment, health care, counseling and anything else needed to help transition back into civilian life.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday that he will “do whatever it takes” to give returning veterans a parade in the Canyon of Heros.

NYCHA Making Public Housing Residents Without Heat, Hot Water, or Electricity Pay Rent in Full

Coney Island public houses have broken down on the winter’s coldest days (Source: forum.skyscraperpage.com)

After struggling through mid-winter breakdowns of heating equipment, residents of the 110 New York City Housing Authority buildings damaged in Superstorm Sandy are set to get some relief within the next six months as FEMA has agreed to cover the cost of new permanent boilers.

Issues with the boilers came to light after the February hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, where local pols took NYCHA and FEMA officials to task for leaving residents in the cold. Temporary boilers, which the city has paid approximately $3 million per month to rent, proved to be shoddy replacements that failed to withstand New York winters, and many broke down in the coldest days of winter.

NYCHA told the committee that repairs were not slated until 2016, by which time they’ll have cost taxpayers at least $120 million to rent.

“For more than 16 months, bureaucratic infighting and red tape have denied NYCHA residents the most basic of necessities — reliable heat and hot water,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, as he stood beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference announcing the deal.

Federal and city authorities announced on Sunday that all of the affected housing buildings, which serve 8,862 apartments, will get new boilers with the process kicking off within six months.

Under the deal, FEMA is sending the cash-strapped agency more than $100 million to cover the estimated costs to replace 60 boilers. The federal agency has agreed to also cover the $56 million the public housing authority has so far spent renting the temporary equipment. It is not yet clear if that is a separate allotment, or is being taken from the $100 million price tag.

The news was warmly received by Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the Recovery and Resiliency Comittee and represents many of the affected buildings in Coney Island.

“This announcement is a great step towards returning a sense of normalcy to the lives of people impacted by the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Treyger. “Residents in these buildings have gone far too long without dependable and safe living conditions. No one should have to live through the winter not knowing if they will have heat and hot water from one day to the next. Continuing to invest in our critical infrastructure, like replacing damaged boilers in NYCHA developments, is the only way for our city to fully recover. I applaud Senator Schumer and Mayor de Blasio for their efforts in securing this funding and am committed to continuing the fight on behalf of all Sandy impacted communities.”

There may be more funding on the way.  Schumer is pushing for $175 million in federal funding to raise boilers, backup generators and change the way several NYCHA complexes receive their heat and electricity. Schumer said yesterday that he expects NYCHA to receive some type of mitigation funding to raise boilers out of the flood zone.

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Design of the new elevated comfort stations. The ramps and stairs are designed to detach in the case of an extreme weather event. (Source: NYC Parks)

The New York City Parks Department will present revised plans this Thursday for the controversial bathroom and comfort station slated for the Brighton Beach boardwalk in response to outcry from Oceana condominium residents and local leaders.

The public hearing on the new draft environmental impact statement will take place at the Shorefront Y (3300 Coney Island Avenue), from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

It’s the second public hearing on the site’s bathrooms, which are identical to 35 others along the Riegelmann Boardwalk and elsewhere in the city – all replacements to facilities damaged in Superstorm Sandy. At the November meeting, residents of Oceana and other nearby buildings lambasted the proposal for the 20-foot-tall structures, with complaints ranging from blocked views and claims that it would attract the homeless, to concerns about the stability of the structure.

The Parks Department previewed seven different alternatives for the placement of the New Brighton location – the formal name of the site in front of Oceana near Coney Island Avenue – at City Hall in February. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz gave favorable, though tepid, reviews of the new plans.

“Some alternatives are clearly better than others, but what came across is that this is a new administration that has expressed a real willingness to listen to what the community has to say,” Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said in a press release. “It is a very hopeful sign that the [draft environmental impact statement] includes the options that were raised by residents at the Parks Department’s public scoping meeting last November. I believe this is an important step in an ongoing dialogue and it shows that the city is trying to be responsive to the community’s needs.”

File:JamaicaBay2778.JPG

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Senator Charles Schumer is asking the federal Department of Interior, or DOI, to put millions into projects that would restore Jamaica Bay after Superstorm Sandy, as well strengthen it as the barrier between waves and coastal communities in future storms.

The projects would total $17.5 million and they would also help Rockaway’s coastline be more resilient, the lawmaker announced last week in a press release.

Superstorm Sandy wrought tremendous damage across the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay, but the damage may have been even worse were it not for Jamaica Bay’s natural ability to act as a shield against storms. Sometimes our best defense against Mother Nature’s wrath is actually Mother Nature itself, and these five projects will take what is already a natural storm defense and make it even more effective at protecting the homes and livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers. These five projects are exactly what this grant program was created to fund, and I am urging the Department of Interior to give these the green light as soon as possible.

The five programs Schumer is pushing for are:

  • Sunset Cove Salt Marsh and Maritime Forest Restoration
  • Rockaway East Resiliency Preserve
  • Spring Creek Salt Marsh and Coastal Upland Restoration
  • Jamaica Bay Head Of Bay Oyster Restoration
  • Jamaica Bay Bathymetric and Sediment Model

Photo by Erica Sherman

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will send more than $3.4 million to the MTA, reimbursing them of the costs of Superstom Sandy-related repairs and infrastructure improvements on the Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Bridge, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced this morning.

Here are the details from a press release the U.S. senators issued this morning:

Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to multiple elements of the bridge’s structure, including the seawall, riprap, and the walkway. Floodwaters also caused severe damage to switchgears, electrical systems and numerous spare cables and lights. These federal funds will reimburse 90% of the repair and mitigation costs.

… Specific reimbursements for repairs include: $1,519,087.00 for repair of scour and erosion damaged by the storm surge; $161,144.20 to repair switchgears located in the North Abutment North Chamber electric rooms, which was flooded with salt water; $600,914.00 for the repair or replacement of electrical conduits, junction  boxes and cables related to the navigation and security lights that were submerged under salt water; and $44,498.00 for the replacement or repair of spare parts such as cables, lights, gear wheels and motors that were damaged by salt water.

Reimbursements for hazard mitigation – improvements that are intended to make the bridge more resistant to future storms – include: $1,193,568 to add an additional layer of rip rap; $21,535.00 to fund “dry flooding” techniques including the installation of a flood-proof door; $172,789.70 to elevate 45 security floodlights and 12 navigation lights to flood-safe levels.

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Design of the new elevated comfort stations. The ramps and stairs are designed to detach in the case of an extreme weather event. (Source: NYC Parks)

A group of long-time Brighton Beach advocates seized the opportunity of Monday night’s hearing about the Oceana comfort stations, telling the Parks Department that they ought to give equal consideration to all of the elevated bathrooms already installed – and not just those near the condominium complex.

The packed hearing, which drew approximately 130 residents to the Shorefront Y (3300 Coney Island Avenue), was called by the Parks Department as a result of a court order, which requires them to produce an environmental impact statement (EIS). The hearing was an opportunity to address the scope of the planned EIS and suggest that Parks consultants evaluate additional aspects of the project.

However, it was ultimately a cathartic expulsion of rage and frustration by residents miffed with government bureaucracy and the perceived threat to their quality of life.

A small crew of residents from around the neighborhood urged the Parks Department to produce similar studies for the already-completed comfort stations further down the boardwalk and citywide, or at least extend its conclusions to those structures.

Keep reading, and view video from the heated hearing.

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Look at all those gangbangers (Source: NYC Parks)

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is the latest elected official to enter the fray over the new bathrooms slated for the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Brighton Beach, which residents of the Oceana condominium complex have vocally opposed.

Jeffries is on the boardwalk today holding a press conference, calling for the Parks Department to forever abandon its plans to place the bathrooms in Brighton Beach, officially dubbed the New Brighton Comfort Station. That would leave the next nearest public restroom on the boardwalk more than seven blocks away.

Oceana residents opposed the placement of the bathrooms, saying the 20-foot-tall structure would impede their oceanfront views, attract drug dealing gangbangers, and create a bad scent.

Jeffries joins Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and Senator Charles Schumer in siding with Oceana residents. It was also an issue in the recent City Council race, where opposition was embraced by candidates including David Storobin and Ari Kagan.

The last we checked in on the story, city officials suffered a setback when a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge ordered that the agency produce an environmental impact study and scoping process, which includes a public hearing that will take place tonight (details below).

None of the other three comfort station on the Brighton Beach – Coney Island boardwalk, nor any of the other 10 locations throughout New York City, are being subjected to the same process. That’s because the type of project doesn’t typically trigger the state requirement for an environmental impact statement when building in a coastal erosion hazard area –  a requirement that, somewhat ironically, Cymbrowitz had sought to strike down for all future projects. He said these bathrooms changed his mind.

The Parks Department released their draft scope statement for the environmental study a few weeks ago. In it, they unsurprisingly determined that the proposed comfort station would have no significant impact on a slew of areas, including socioeconomic conditions, community facilities and services, waste and sanitation services, energy, air quality, public health and more. In fact, they found that it provided benefit in some of these areas.

Due to the court case, the statement says, the agency will also assess the comfort station’s impact on several additional areas, including urban design and visual resources, natural resources, neighborhood character and hazardous materials. Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity for the public to comment on the scope of the study.

If you have thoughts about the comfort station and its impact on the community, whether for or against, attend tonight’s public hearing at the Shorefront YM-YWHA (3300 Coney Island Avenue) from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

UPDATE (3:06 p.m.): Moments after publishing this piece, the following flier landed in my inbox. Apparently this is being distributed around Oceana.

oceana2

 

I like mass transit because it gets me home safely when I drink too much, (Source: Schumer’s office via Flickr)

If your accountant is worth what you pay him or her, chances are you benefit from a mass transit tax break that saves you and hundreds of thousands of other New Yorkers as much as $1,000 a year.

Well, that break could expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t act fast.

Fortunately, Senator Chuck Schumer is leading the charge to not only extend the break, but to make it permanent.

Crain’s New York explains:

The current benefit allows commuters to spend up to $245 per month of their pre-tax earnings on mass transit and commuter costs like parking. Over the last year, approximately 700,000 New York residents saved over $330 million through this benefit. More than 2.7 million commuters use the tax break nationwide.

“$330 million is a lot of money, any way you slice it,” Mr. Schumer said.

Until 2009, drivers received a greater tax break than those who took mass transit. That year, Mr. Schumer almost doubled the benefit to $230 per month. Without the extension, the benefit will drop back to the previous level of $125 per month.

Mr. Schumer is introducing the “Commuter Benefits Equity Act” that will seek to extend the program for another two years. Mr. Schumer said his ultimate goal was to make the tax benefit permanent, but for now he would be content for a simple extension.

The proposal is not without its opposition. Republicans in Congress are reluctant to support the bill, as well as any funding for mass transit.

Fortunately for Schumer, Republicans have their own list of interests they’d like to extend tax breaks for, and Schumer – a Senate agenda-setter – is threatening to withhold support on all tax extensions unless this goes through.

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Senator Charles Schumer sent a message to anxious New Yorkers, still waiting to receive repairs and funds for their Superstorm Sandy devastated homes: the money is coming. Newsday is reporting that Schumer promised that the city will receive $6.3 billion in aid in 2014, a figure that will hopefully address the cash shortages for the Sandy-related projects of 2013.

Last week, we reported that city officials with the Bloomberg administration were worried that the “Build it Back” program was short about $1.9 billion. Schumer is now declaring that in 2014, of the $6.3 billion heading the city’s way, $1.4 billion will be used directly for homeowners affected by Sandy, nearly covering the shortage. Newsday reported on comments made by Schumer at a press conference promising the flow of federal dollars and acknowledged the hiccups in the process:

“The spigot is now open,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan. “A year from now, people will feel a whole lot better about the Sandy process than they do today.”

He acknowledged frustration with the pace of spending this year, blaming red tape and the need to establish new programs to disburse the funds. “It should’ve been quicker,” he said.

NBC News reported more fully on the money breakdown:

He said $2.5 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go to New York communities in 2014 to pay for permanent projects as well as reimbursement for repairs already done.

Additionally, Schumer expects at least $1.5 billion in storm-related transportation projects in New York to receive funding.

Smaller pots of money will go to fund coastal protection projects, green infrastructure and health-related projects.

Schumer said another $207 million will be allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan.

If Schumer’s words prove true, it looks like Sheepshead Bay could expect a good year come 2014. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is an unedited press release from the offices of Senator Charles Schumer:

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on FEMA to issue a clear and immediate ruling that extends the statute of limitations for Sandy victims to challenge their insurance companies in court for shortchanging them on an award amount. Under FEMA’s current guidelines, families have only one year from the date they received the “first” written “denial,” or insufficient check, to challenge the amount in court. That day is rapidly approaching, as some homeowners received their first response within months of the storm. In many cases, those homeowners are still submitting documentation and proof to insurance companies.  FEMA’s current policy ensures many homeowners lose the option to take civil action even before they are done negotiating with the insurance companies.  Schumer was joined on his letter by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Schumer said FEMA should not start the clock on the one-year statute of limitations period to pursue civil action until all administrative appeals have been completed and the homeowner has received a final determination the insurer.  That would have the effect of giving sandy victims an additional 18 months or more to hold accountable insurance companies.  This is particularly important because of how complex the rebuilding process has been – a homeowners needs are constantly changing, and insurance companies have shown themselves reluctant to provide a fair amount.

“This is about fairness, due process and common sense. Beginning the clock at the first denial of a claim – instead of the final denial – makes no sense, and necessarily robs many aggrieved homeowners from holding accountable insurance companies that have shortchanged them on what they are owed – and need – to rebuild after Superstorm Sandy,” said Schumer.  “FEMA should clarify the deadline so that Sandy victims can finish negotiating their claims before they are forced into court, where they will likely get less money and incur greater expenses. This is a win-win that will allow homeowners to better access the money they are owed without forcing them to file premature and unnecessary court claims.”

“Sandy-impacted homeowners who suffered damages from the storm are slowly piecing their lives back together and deserve access to fair policies that make all resources available,” said Gillibrand. “Struggling families must be given the opportunity to fully exhaust their appeals without risking their right to file suit. I urge FEMA to heed our call to assist New Yorkers through this process.”

“The disaster relief clinic at Touro Law Center has been on the front lines helping Superstorm Sandy victims for the past year – and we know firsthand how much help and assistance is still needed,” said Touro Law Center Dean Patricia Salkin.  “Touro Law Center thanks Senator Schumer for taking action so that we make sure thousands of Sandy victims won’t be victimized again by complicated deadlines.”

“The one-year deadline to file suit is connected with the process for presenting a claim under the flood policy, which FEMA extended to 18 months in order to protect thousands of Sandy-affected households.  This clarification will provide everyone with more time to find solutions and keep many out of federal court,” said Benjamin Rajotte, Director of the Disaster Law Clinic at Touro Law.

FEMA’s policy on the statute of limitations is particularly puzzling because FEMA granted Sandy-affected households an extension until April 29, 2014 to submit supporting documents to their insurance companies – such documents are called “proof of loss.”  Effectively the proof of loss allows households to present their flood insurance claims for the full amount they believe is owed.  This extension was designed to address the widespread and catastrophic losses that thousands of households have suffered, combined with the unprecedented volume of claims handling and demand for experts to value these losses.  This proof of loss extension was particularly important because many families are still trying to assess how much their insurance companies owe them, including families who are still displaced as a result of the storm.

But while the proof of loss deadline as extended, FEMA has not done the same for the statute of limitations of taking insurance companies to court if, in the end, the insurance check is insufficient.  This is because FEMA appears to maintain that the one-year limitations period in which to file suit starts from the “first” written “denial” from the insurer, and it has since indicated that this denial may be based exclusively on the report made by the insurer’s own insurance adjuster without any documentation from the household.   This could create a situation where you are still allowed to submit evidence, but not allowed to sue in a court if the claim doesn’t come back at a sufficient amount.

“In many cases, these so-called first denials are made by poorly trained adjusters, who work for the insurance companies and get little-to-no input from impacted homeowners. They put the homeowner behind the eight-ball just as they are struggling to cope with massive damage, trying to get their lives back together – and understating a very complicated flood insurance process. It is inherently unfair and we need to rectify that,” said Schumer.

FEMA has made this argument in previous disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina.   Nowhere in the policy, nor in the controlling statute, nor in the regulation does it say that the period to file suit starts from the “first” denial on a claim that has not even been fully presented by the household through the policy’s required proof of loss process.  This is very problematic in Sandy cases which involve extensive property loss, forcing homeowners to document various aspects of their storm-damaged homes and belongings with numerous contractors and insurance adjusters at multiple points in time.   A “denial” at any one point in time, before households even submit all of their paperwork, starts the clock.  There is an obvious problem if the one-year deadline to file suit expires before the time necessary to fully present the claim.  This interpretation deprives policyholders of the indemnification they are due.

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