Archive for the tag 'charles schumer'

Example of a greenstreet on a median. Source: NYC Parks

The Department of Interior is sending $990,000 to the New York City Parks Department to create approximately 14 greenstreets throughout Brighton Beach, intended to help dry out the streets in a future flood, as part of the Sandy Coastal Resiliency grants awarded earlier this week.

Greenstreets is a citywide program to convert paved, vacant traffic islands and medians, as well as portions of wide sidewalks, into landscaped spaces. According to the Parks Department:

The installation of approximately 14 greenstreets in Brighton Beach will mitigate localized flooding and capture and filter stormwater runoff, thereby helping to reduce pollutants from entering local waterways. The project will also help to beautify the neighborhood, lower temperatures, increase biodiversity in the area, and improve air quality.

The funds are part of $15 million in grants being doled out in New York City through the Department of Interior as part of a competition to make coastal communities more resilient to flooding.

Other winning projects from the Department of Interior competition include salt marsh restoration at Spring Creek, and oyster bed restoration throughout Jamaica Bay.

“This announcement is great news for the communities surrounding many New York City waterways, like Brighton Beach, Broad Channel, Spring Creek Park, Tibbetts Brook and Jamaica Bay, because they will now be better protected in the event of a future storm,” said Senator Charles Schumer in a press release. “This resiliency grant funding is just what we had in mind when crafting the Sandy Relief Bill and I’m pleased that the Department of Interior has recognized these critical projects in New York City.”

If successful in helping drain storm runoff, the Brighton Beach greenstreets plan may later be expanded throughout the Coney Island peninsula and Jamaica Bay communities.

But at least one environmental activist and Brighton Beach resident wonders whether the greenstreets project will be as effective as Schumer and the Parks Department say, and thinks it might be poised for failure.

Ida Sanoff, executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association, said the water table is much too high on the peninsula to allow proper drainage. She wrote:

There is one teeny, tiny little problem in Coney Island that makes me wonder if these highly paid consultants ever went down there: The water table. EVERYONE in Coney and Brighton, including my cat, knows that the water table varies from 3 to 5 feet below the surface. In some locations, it is mere inches from the surface. In Seaside Park, where the majority of the surface is unpaved, the Parks Dept. put in retention basins, which promptly filled with salt water from the ground. There are some areas in this park that are virtual lakes for weeks after every rain event, because a few inches below the surface, there is water.

Sanoff adds that after a heavy rain, water collects and “ponds” on the surface of soil, creating prime habitat for mosquitos.

“Without proper maintenance, the tree pits become little more than doggie toilets,” she said.

Asked if the department had taken the water table into consideration when creating their proposal, a Parks spokesperson told Sheepshead Bites that no specific locations had yet been identified, and that the department will do more detailed surveys before doing any construction.

The spokesperson added that the number of streets to be landscaped is still up in the air, but based on previous projects the funding should cover approximately 14.

The greenstreet plan was first outlined in the New York City Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) plan, a blueprint for strengthening the city from the threat of rising sea levels and climate change in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The latest version of the plan can be read here.

 

ClimateCentral.org built this map, predicting the risposed by storm surges of various heights. This shows a 10' surge.

ClimateCentral.org built this map, predicting the risk posed by storm surges of various heights. This shows a 10′ surge.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), the federal government’s weather sleuths, will soon launch storm surge warning maps to help highlight the specific areas vulnerable to flooding in advance of individual storm surges, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced yesterday.

Schumer’s office explains in a press release:

[B]eginning with the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) will issue the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map for areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts at risk of storm surge from a tropical cyclone.  According to NOAA, the maps will highlight geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and how high above ground the water could reach in those areas.  The maps will show inundation levels that have a ten percent chance of being exceeded and can therefore be thought of as representing a reasonable worst-case scenario.

Schumer had urged the creation of the maps – similar to those already made for tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes – in order to help convey surge predictions to local governments and emergency managers in advance of an expected storm.

Although the senator’s office said the maps were now available on NOAA’s website, we couldn’t find them. That might be because there’s no imminent threat of a storm surge, or because NOAA’s website is, itself, a haggard vortex of impenetrable jargon.

Fortunately, since we’re sure you clicked this link to look at maps that illustrate just how screwed you are in future storm surges, other people have made those. Like this one. Look at how screwed you are. Quite screwed.

(Note: We removed the embedded map because it sucks, but you can see how screwed you are – interactively – here.)

Chuck Schumer in the 1960s, competing for James Madison High School on the It’s Academic television quiz show.

In the wake of extraordinary rate hikes during the winter, Senator Charles Schumer has requested the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a government organization meant to protect consumers, investigate New York area power companies to make sure the increases were not a result of corruption or gouging.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which provides similar oversight of power and energy suppliers, has already launched an investigation into electric companies including Con Edison.

Schumer is pushing the FTC to coordinate with FERC, and provide them with resources for the investigation.

“I write to urge that the FTC directly support ongoing investigative efforts led by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),” Schumer writes, “to determine whether any wrongful conduct or uncompetitive practices took place this winter as record cold temperatures drove up natural gas and electric prices to record levels.”

In the same press release, his office explains that the rise in energy costs is suspicious.

“Utilities throughout the state have attributed the increase to record-low temperatures and high demand for natural gas, but Schumer said that the size of the rate increases were so high that he is concerned it outpaced the actual increase in wholesale energy costs for utilities.”

His office has requested that the “entire wholesale electric and natural gas markets” be investigated to make sure that customers were not being improperly overcharged. Schumer would also like to see electricity rates come back down.

To illustrate this rise, Schumer pointed to examples like a Brooklyn Con Ed customer who was charged 13.82 cents/kWh in February 2013 and 20.52 cents/kWh in February 2014. In New York, most electricity is generated with natural gas, so the price of natural gas has an outsized impact on electricity bills.

Earlier this year the New York Post reported on this rise and pointed out that the “supply charge” is the reason for an increase in price.

The supply charge, which covers the cost of actually generating electricity, is the source of this winter’s power-bill misery.

Con Edison’s electricity supply charges are adjusted daily, the company says. The number that shows up in bills is an average of the daily prices.

A Con Ed customer with a billing period from Dec. 30 to Jan. 30 paid an average supply charge for the month of 23.1 cents per kilowatt hour — a shocking 83 percent boost over the 12.6-cent charge during the same period last year.

Schumer has previously asked federal regulators to investigate the price increase. Syracuse news reported earlier this month that Schumer sought a federal probe into the matters.

They wrote:

Schumer said he has no evidence of wrongdoing but sees no good explanation for why consumer electric bills jumped 60 percent or more compared with last winter.

“Like you, I’m concerned that utilities are using the cold weather and the demand for natural gas to justify skyrocketing rates,” Schumer said today. “We can’t let those factors protect these multibillion-dollar dollar companies from scrutiny.”

Schumer also questioned whether wholesale energy companies manipulated electric or gas markets by withholding capacity to drive up prices.

(Source: Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood)

New York City, New York State and New Jersey may have to compete for more than $1 billion in promised Superstorm Sandy relief that the federal government is now looking to redirect to victims of other natural disasters.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is considering sending off $1 billion of an as-yet unspent $3.5 billion in Sandy relief funds to other parts of the country that are dealing with their own natural disasters. This decision could leave New York City short of funds at a time when there is a renewed effort by local politicians to pick up the pace on programs like Build it Back, potentially throttling the program just as it’s poised to hit its stride.

When Superstorm Sandy hit, Congress set aside about $60 billion in 2013 for Sandy aid. More than $15 billion went to HUD for distribution on the local level to help relief efforts and get people back in their homes. Since then, about $10.5 billion has been spent, leaving $3.6 billion still available, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports:

HUD officials recently briefed members of Congress on a proposal that would create a national resiliency competition to more widely distribute about $1 billion to $2 billion of the remaining Sandy aid to areas that have recently suffered disasters. It would be the first time HUD held a national competition for federal disaster money. The contest would reward projects that make communities more resilient against future disasters, according to people familiar with the plans.

Senator Charles Schumer said yesterday that he will fight any attempt to take money away from the region’s aid relief.

“We will fight to ensure that every one of New York’s needs are met before a national competition sends a single Sandy relief dollar elsewhere,” Schumer said via Bloomberg News.

And Schumer isn’t the only one who said that he will fight this possibility. Bloomberg News writes:

Representative Michael Grimm, a New York Republican whose district includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, has been in “constant contact” with Donovan [the Secretary of HUD] to stress his district’s needs, said Nick Iacono, a spokesman for the lawmaker.

Grimm and other Congressional representatives sent a letter yesterday to HUD’s Secretary Shaun Donovan asking for more information about the proposed reallocation, The Journal reported yesterday.

The letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was signed by 13 members of the House of Representatives. They expressed “concern with the lack of consultation and briefing between HUD and members of the House and their staff on this issue.”

The announcement comes at a time when city officials are paying renewed attention to relief efforts. Initiatives like the Build it Back program, which had been in a lull until recently, have become the center of attention. The program is partially funded by HUD money and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently announced intentions to repair the homes of all those who qualify, rather than just the financially neediest applicants – greatly increasing the estimated cost of the program.

The Journal reports:

In the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has set an ambitious goal of getting 500 Sandy-damaged homes rebuilt by the end of the summer; currently only nine homes have started construction. City officials have said they need $1 billion in additional federal money for the Sandy recovery, and even more to complete a city resiliency plan.

“We’re working closely with HUD and our federal partners to ensure that we have the resources to fully recover and rebuild. It’s vital that funds get to the NYC homeowners and public housing residents who need them,” a city spokeswoman said in an email.

De Blasio has criticized HUD’s decision. “The legislation was passed to serve the needs of people in New York and New Jersey who were devastated by Sandy. And it was about both getting people back on their feet and providing the resiliency we need for the future,” de Blasio said via the Daily News.

The feds, however, expressed puzzlement at the reaction, saying that the bill authorizing the $60 billion aide package explicitly stated that a portion of the funds could be redirected to other disaster zones, and that the Sandy region should never have relied so heavily on the third and final round of funding. The Journal notes:

Federal officials said the city and states have overestimated their remaining needs. They said local representatives shouldn’t have expected the third round of funding to provide a significant infusion of new funds based on how the $60 billion Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill passed in 2013 was written.

In the three years covered by the Sandy aid bill, 208 major disasters have been declared by the federal government. A person familiar with the proposal said 48 states would be eligible for the national competition, along with Puerto Rico, District of Columbia and 18 other areas including New York City and Joplin, Mo., which was hit by a tornado in May 2011.

A portion of the third round of funding would also likely go to Rebuild by Design, a regional resiliency competition that HUD launched with much fanfare. Secretary Shaun Donovan, a former New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner, is said to have been inspired by his work under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had a propensity for holding competitions to generate excitement around government work.

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.

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