Archive for the tag 'fema'

rising

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

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

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

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

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.

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. Photo by Erica Sherman

Congresswoman Yvette Clarke. Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is a press release issued on February 25 by the offices of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke:

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke today called on officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Build It Back program to eliminate delays in providing resources to homeowners who are eligible for assistance to rebuild from damage in Hurricane Sandy.

A report by the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding stated that even as 19,920 homeowners have applied for assistance, only 173 homeowners have been notified of the amount available to them, and construction has not yet started on any of the projects. $648 million has been allocated by the federal government to Build it Back.

“The homeowners of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach cannot continue to wait for the assistance to rebuild their homes, or reimbursement for repairs already completed,” said Congresswoman Clarke, who worked with a bipartisan coalition of her colleagues in the House of Representatives to enact a relief program after Hurricane Sandy. “The resources are available. We need only to distribute these resources to homeowners in need of assistance, who have completed the application process and are ready to rebuild.”

In the neighborhoods of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach, both of which are located in the Ninth Congressional District of New York, 1,088 homeowners have applied for assistance from Build It Back.

The Manhattan Beach esplanade the day after Superstorm Sandy.

Residents of Manhattan Beach were left with more questions than answers after a meeting last night with a FEMA spokesperson that was meant to help people understand the mystifying world of federal disaster aid. The meeting was held by the Manhattan Beach Community Group where residents were invited to question FEMA about the recovery process and new programs to aid Superstorm Sandy victims.

“We keep trying to get someone [from FEMA] who can answer our questions,” said Bernice Fleischer, vice president of the community group. “And I’m afraid tonight was less than satisfactory.”

FEMA agent Corinne Azrak, who deals with external affairs for the agency, came to the meeting in an attempt to answer questions people had about Superstorm Sandy aid. But she prefaced her answers by explaining the limitations of FEMA.

“We’re a disaster response agency. Our job is to get the community back to the way it was before it got hit,” Azrak said. So they can’t do things like build a levy, yet most attendees were concerned with such preventative issues.

This wasn’t the first time that the MBCG invited a representative from a disaster aid program. Last month a member from NY Rising, a state program that funnels money to local communities for resiliency and recovery effots, became the object of frustration because of how slow moving the process was taking.

One member of the community asked if FEMA could give the city and state government advice since they were the ones on the ground witnessing the damages. One example was given about the construction that was done on Manhattan Beach’s esplanade to raise it by four feet. Other members piped in and said that they thought it was dangerous to have such a high esplanade because if another storm like Sandy hits, the concrete might be dislodged and move inshore where it could become a hazard.

“It’s a city issue,” Azrak said. “We can’t tell the city how to run the emergency plans.”

But on the subject of FEMA meeting with different entitie,s like the Army Corps of Engineers, and members of the city government, Azrak said, “I’m sure they have those high level meetings somewhere. I’ve just never been privy to them.”

Community members soon discovered what Azrak meant when she prefaced her talk by explaining the limitations of FEMA. With most issues that were asked, Azrak responded that it was some other entity’s responsibility.

But one question Azrak was able to answer was about how FEMA decides on the amount of money individual homes receive. One community member asked why is it that two neighboring houses that have seemingly identical damages can receive very different amounts of aid money.

“It is a case by case basis,” Azrak explained. So while the damages may seem identical, there might be a problem with one house’s boiler while the neighboring house’s boiler remained unscathed.

Another reason for disparities in aid is because FEMA only pays to repair “habitable areas.” If a house has two bedrooms but only one of the bedrooms is in use, they won’t pay for the vacant room.

The person who asked the question wasn’t satisfied with this response.

“It all seems to be very subjective and arbitrary,” he said.

Many members were also worried about the mandatory flood insurance requirements, slated for 2015 when the new flood maps will take effect.

One man said that FEMA had given him a quote that would have given him more money than his own private insurance.

“It seems to me that your agency will pay me more than my insurance,” he said. “What seems to be the reality is my taxes will go up. My mortgage will go up but aid” from his insurance will go down.

Fleischer, the vice-president, thanked Azrak for coming, but noted, “This is a very frustrated community.”

Members of Manhattan Beach Community Group weren’t the only ones frustrated by FEMA’s lackluster response at local meetings. During a Marine Park Civic Association meeting last week, attendees became frustrated with the FEMA representative that had come to that meeting to answer questions. The group’s president, Jim Ivaliotis, wrote an apology to group members in their latest newsletter.

“It seems FEMA left us with more questions than answers,” he wrote. “Despite our coordinated efforts with them, things did not go as planned.”

sb_fema

Source: Facebook

A representative from FEMA will be on hand to answer questions at the next meeting of the Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG), February 26, 8:00 p.m. at Public School 195, 131 Irwin Street at Hampton Avenue.

If you want to know about flood insurance premiums, why some received more FEMA money than others, what FEMA “flood elevation planes” are, and how do they affect future flood insurance premiums, then this is a meeting you won’t want to miss.

The MBCG encourages members of the community to attend and participate in their monthly civic meetings. For more, contact MBCG at (718) 200-1845 or manhattanbeachbrooklyn.org@gmail.com, or visit www.manhattanbeachbrooklyn.org.

grimm

Congressman Michael Grimm has voted twice this week to suppress bringing a bill to the House floor that would delay hikes in flood insurance – even though he’s the sponsor of the bill.

The legislation would postpone increases in flood insurance premiums for four years to protect New York City homeowners from price increases of thousands of dollars. It would also allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete an affordability study based on the new maps, and create a possible new tier of low rates for homeowners placed into a flood zone for the first time due to remapping of at-risk areas.

The hikes were planned prior to Superstorm Sandy, but since the storm legislators have shared concern that it would cause undue harm to middle- and working-class residents of coastal communities, as well as add more suffering to those still recovering from the the October 2012 flood.

The bill passed the Senate last week,and other Brooklyn representatives in the House have demanded a vote.

“Since the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the families of Gerritsen Beach and Sheepshead Bay have dedicated themselves to the revitalization of their homes and small businesses, with much hard work and at considerable expense. An increase in flood insurance premiums would only increase the difficulty of their efforts, and would almost certainly force some homeowners – especially families living on a fixed income – to move elsewhere,” said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke in a press release last week. “I urge my colleagues to continue supporting for their efforts to rebuild the community and to remain in their homes.”

Grimm is the primary sponsor of the House version of the bill, having introduced it in October 2013. But he has since fallen in line with his Republican colleagues, voting with almost every other member of his party against the Democrats’ motions to force a floor vote.

According to the Daily News, which first reported on the congressman’s turnaround, it was this bill that Grimm referenced when explaining why he lost his cool and threatened to throw a NY1 reporter off a balcony. The congressman said he had lost his temper after a long day “fighting for flood insurance.”

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.

nyrising

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

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

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

Here’s the nut of it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

nyrising

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Google Maps

The home on Ford Street that Joseph McClam claimed he lived in. (Source: Google Maps)

Federal agents busted an alleged fraudster on charges of stealing thousands in relief funds from FEMA when he falsely claimed to have lived in Sheepshead Bay when Superstorm Sandy struck last year. According to the criminal complaint, Joseph McClam said he was living at 2798 Ford Street when Sandy rolled through, when he had actually been been living in North Carolina.

McClam, 52, collected more than $32,000 from the government by claiming that the Ford Street home was his primary residence and suffered damage from Sandy. According to investigators, though, McClam, who owned the Ford Street residence, rented the building to various tenants until a fire heavily damaged the structure in 2010, leaving the building uninhabited and in a state of disrepair for more than two years before Sandy. Now living in North Carolina, he allegedly set up a fake New York mailing address when filing claims with the FEMA website for the purposes of soliciting relief funds.

Following an initial FEMA inspection, during which McClam was present, McClam received the maximum payout possible, $29,952 for home repair and $2,948 for rental assistance. According to prosecutors, McClam told FEMA inspectors that he had been living in the basement apartment of the structure while it was being renovated. But, prosecutors say, McClam hadn’t paid his water bill since 2009 and hadn’t had a Con Edison electric account open for the building since the fire struck in 2010 – making it an unlikely residence.

Secondary residences affected by Superstorm Sandy are not entitled to FEMA grants. Instead they are categorized as a business by the government, and homeowners were instructed to apply for Small Business Administration loans to cover the repair.

According to a Daily News report, McClam is a singer in a Motown cover band and was released on $50,000 bail. His lawyer provided no comment following his release.

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