Archive for the tag 'fema'

cih-rendering

Rendering of proposed building, as seen from Avenue Z and East 6th Street. Designs have not yet been finalized.

Coney Island Hospital (2601 Ocean Parkway) is slated to construct a new, resilient building to house critical services, ensuring that Southern Brooklyn’s only major medical center will continue without significant service interruptions in the case of another weather event like Superstorm Sandy

The new building, as well as a planned 1,720-foot flood wall, is being funded using part of a $923 million grant from FEMA, representing the lion’s share from a slated $1.6 billion payout Health and Hospital Corporation (HHC) announced last week.

“Few services are as critical as our hospitals during extreme weather. This unprecedented investment will make four key public hospitals much more resilient next time they need to be,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference at Coney Island Hospital on Thursday.

The new building will be constructed in a section of the hospital campus’ parking lot near Avenue Z. It will be elevated by pillars 10- to 15-feet high, allowing water to pass beneath in the event of a future flood.

When it’s completed, the new building will be the largest investment and expansion of the hospital in more than a decade.

The hospital’s critical services – many of which were off-line for months after Superstorm Sandy – will all be housed in the new, flood-proof structure. A ramp will bring ambulances to a second-floor Emergency Room, and the medical center’s most used services – X-ray, CAT scan, MRI, pharmacy and lab departments – will all be in the same building.

“This is a big deal for the community. They should be excited about it,” said Coney Island Hospital’s Associate Executive Director for Public Affairs Robert Cooper. “This is going to shore it up and guarantee that there won’t be any disruption in their healthcare in another storm like Sandy.”

When it’s completed some four to five years from now, it’ll be the largest investment and expansion of the hospital since the completion of the  inpatient bed tower building in 2006.

The parts of the campus not currently storm-proofed, which include the tower building and the main building, which houses the emergency department, will be wrapped in a 1,720-foot flood wall, designed to protect from a storm surge on the scale of that predicted to occur only once every 500 years.

Exact specifications of the new building are not yet known. Although the hospital worked with HHC, FEMA and consultants on the proposal and have created a rendering, seen at the top of this post, the actual designs have not been finalized. The project will go out to bid shortly after funding comes through the federal pipeline.

In addition to the new building, a portion of the $923 million is being used to reimburse the hospital for repairs already made to the facility’s basements, first floor and electrical systems.

Despite being more than a quarter-mile away from the waterfront, the hospital suffered severe flooding during Superstorm Sandy, devastating its basement and first floor. The hospital was evacuated after the storm and its emergency department was shuttered until February 2013. It did not see all services restored until later in the spring, and its temporary closure caused overflows at other hospitals that stretched resources thin.

Video tour of damage after Sandy, filmed in November 2012:

Some improvements have already been made to make the campus more resilient, including the elevation of electrical systems and the acquisition of temporary flood barrier systems that can be deployed before another storm.

Coney Island Hospital is the only major public hospital in Southern Brooklyn, and the only HHC facility in Brooklyn damaged during Sandy. Officials also announced on Thursday that Bellevue Hospital will receive $376 million, Metropolitan Hospital will receive $120 million, and Roosevelt Island’s Coler Specialty Hospital will receive $181 million as part of the same grant through FEMA’s 428 program for resiliency.

Local pols are praising the investment in resiliency for local healthcare services.

“We must do all that we can to minimize future impacts to public health facilities like this vital Southern Brooklyn institution that serves thousands of people,” said Councilman Mark Treyger via press release. ” We can’t afford having Coney Island Hospital and others lose power and shut down emergency room access, when so many in our vulnerable residents rely on our public hospitals.”

“In the crucial months following Hurricane Sandy, residents were transported and referred to nearby hospitals. In a medical emergency, seconds can mean the difference between life and death,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch in a statement.

Photo by Jesse Coburn

Photo by Jesse Coburn

By Jesse Coburn

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the day “transcendent.” Senator Charles Schumer predicted “a glorious future” for the neighborhood. Shola Olatoye of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) dubbed the plans “a triumph.”

They sang these praises while announcing that $108 million in federal funding would go toward renovating a low-income Coney Island housing project severely damaged in Superstorm Sandy.

But some living in the Coney Island Houses have their doubts. “I don’t trust them,” said Judy Toro, 66, a resident since 1996. “They make a lot of promises.”

It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy tore through New York, but many public housing tenants are still feeling its effects. The storm caused $19 billion in losses across the five boroughs, and these low-income residents were among the hardest hit. The Coney Island Houses, a five-building complex with nearly 1,400 residents at 2410 Surf Avenue, will be the first such property damaged by Sandy to undergo major repairs, and the city now hopes to acquire roughly $1 billion in additional federal funding for similar improvements in other public residences.

“My house is falling apart, little by little before my eyes, and I don’t see anything being done.”

 

–Coney Island Houses resident.

But decades of strained relations with NYCHA have left some tenants deeply suspicious of the beleaguered city agency, causing even good news to be met with wariness.

Toro’s tenth-floor apartment overlooks Coney Island’s beach and boardwalk, but the interior doesn’t quite match the view. Black mold grows in her bathroom, plaster is crumbling in the living room, and she said roaches and spiders have infested the kitchen walls. “My house is falling apart, little by little before my eyes, and I don’t see anything being done,” she said.

Problems like these have long afflicted public housing, but Toro said that they’ve only gotten worse since Sandy. A large water stain on her grandson’s bedroom floor provides a blunt reminder of the storm, which left residents of the Coney Island Houses without heat and electricity for 22 days.

The long list of outstanding repairs in Toro’s apartment is symptomatic of the ailments plaguing the housing authority, the largest such provider in the nation, with 334 developments that accommodate more than 400,000 tenants. Its 2014 projected deficit is $191 million, due largely to a steady reduction of federal funding. And though the backlog of work orders has decreased greatly in recent years, it still runs in the tens of thousands.

Superstorm Sandy only exacerbated these chronic issues. The storm affected more than 400 public housing buildings across the city and left more than 80,000 residents without basic amenities for weeks. The Coney Island Houses is one of many properties still relying on temporary boilers two years after the storm.

“The funding, design, and implementation challenges [of NYCHA's Sandy-related repairs] are unparalleled,”

 

–Nicholas Bloom, an urban historian.

As part of the renovations, NYCHA will install back-up generators, build an elevated structure to house new boilers, and replace numerous mechanical, electrical and architectural features damaged by the storm. It also will install new surveillance cameras to provide everyday security and to allow authorities to monitor the property in the event of another storm. The funding will not, however, cover repairs for storm-related damages in apartments like Toro’s that are above the first floor.

A NYCHA spokesperson said work should begin next summer. If successful, this approach to implementing Sandy repairs, which relies on funding from FEMA, may serve as a model for renovations in at least 15 other public housing developments that sustained heavy damage in the storm.

According to Nicholas Bloom, an urban historian and professor at the New York Institute of Technology, the sheer magnitude of damage at some properties has made it uniquely difficult for the authority to carry out repairs. “The funding, design, and implementation challenges are unparalleled,” he said. As for the two-year wait for extensive Sandy-related renovations, Bloom praised the city agency for not “rushing a fix.”

An authority spokesperson echoed the need for patience: “Very early on in the aftermath of the storm, once we made temporary repairs to restore critical utilities, we made a determination that it would be irresponsible to simply repair in place and rebuild for short-term expediency instead of long-term sustainability, which could potentially compromise our infrastructure and leave our residents vulnerable.”

But this protracted wait has left some residents skeptical of the authority’s ability to care for its aging buildings. “When I see it, I’ll believe it,” said Carmen Gonzalez, 61, of the planned renovations. “They’re always promising.”

Amelia Riviera has called the Houses home for more than three decades, and the 57-year-old said the problems facing the buildings predate Sandy. “We had to wait for a storm to get help like this?” she asked, mentioning longtime issues like faulty elevators, broken security cameras, and trash on the facility’s grounds. “The buildings were already corrupt.”

Photo by Jesse Coburn

Photo by Jesse Coburn

The Coney Island Houses consist of five 14-story towers that accommodate 1,398 low-income residents. The buildings were completed in 1957—one of many high-rise, low-income developments built on the outskirts of the city.

Cheap land, low population density, and preexisting poor communities made places like Coney Island and the Rockaways seem like logical places to put these new housing blocks. Since then, however, these beachside locations have proven a mixed blessing, as residents are isolated both geographically and economically from the rest of the city. Crime continues to trouble the neighborhood, although it has significantly improved in recent decades. And the area’s median household incomeremains among the city’s lowest.

But as the 2012 storm made painfully clear, natural phenomena count among the most serious threats to the neighborhood and its almost 10,000 public housing residents.

The city has received pointed criticism for its response to public housing impacted by Sandy. In “Weathering the Storm,” an independent report by a group of community advocacy and research organizations from 2013, the authors wrote: “The City’s response to Superstorm Sandy was slow and communication to residents before, during and after the storm was inadequate.”

But the report saw promise in the wave of progressive politicians and officials who have arrived in local public office in recent years. Chief among them is Mayor de Blasio, for whom housing is a central concern. And according to Judy Toro, the authority’s response time to work orders has improved in the past few months. Recently she received a new refrigerator, three years after submitting her request.

For residents like Toro, however, such developments will have to become the norm rather than the exception if perceptions of the authority are to improve. The upcoming renovations could represent such a sea change. But Toro is less than certain: “I’m not holding my breath.”

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?

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