Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy aftermath'

The Shorefront YM-YWHA will be hosting a legal clinic tomorrow, April 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. for homeowners who were affected by Superstorm Sandy.

If you were underpaid by your flood insurer, call (646) 786-0887 today to schedule an appointment with a legal professional. A legal professional will help you to prepare a self-made Proof of Loss.

If you wish to attend this clinic, it is important that you RSVP by the end of today.

The Shorefront Y is located at 3300 Coney Island Avenue and they can be contacted by calling (718) 646-1444.

sb_heart911HEART 9/11, a disaster response organization dedicated to facilitating physical and emotional recovery after traumatic events, is offering an eight-week Resilience Boot Camp course for residents of Gerritsen Beach and the surrounding area who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

The program, which is free of charge, will teach mindfulness and stress reduction skills to better manage traumatic situations and improve resilience.

Weekly sessions will take place at the Gerritsen Beach Fire Department “Vollies,” 52 Seba Avenue, every Thursday from March 27 to May 22, 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Once trained, community members will be able to offer the program in their own community to others on an on-going basis.

“With the number of natural disasters on the rise, this is an important step to creating permanent improvements in the psychological health of individuals, families and communities impacted by disaster,” said Dr. Leo Flanagan, HEART 9/11’s, director of Community Resilience.

Resilience Boot Camp’s benefits to participants include:

  • Increased well-being and happiness
  • Ability to set and achieve goals that are important to you
  • Reduce feelings of stress and negativity
  • Recovery from cognitive, emotional, and social impacts of traumatic events
  • Improved behavioral and physical health post-disaster

To register for Resilience Boot Camp, email katiechace@heart911.org or call (862) 902-5471 extension 101. For more information, visit www.heart911.org.

Photo by Allan Shweky via screwedontheboardwalk.com

Photo by Allan Shweky

Residents of Manhattan Beach weren’t the only ones affected by Superstorm Sandy in that area. Jonathan Pywell, the director of forestry for New York City Parks Department, told community members during a meeting held by the Manhattan Beach Community Group that many of the trees in their area were going to be removed because of damages they sustained during the storm.

“The trees here were devastated,” Pywell said. He then explained that after the storm they had inspected the area and decided to remove 250 trees. “And it sounds like a lot. Well, it is.”

Sandy’s surge doused all of Manhattan Beach, and while many recall the word “surge” as the point of destruction, for the trees in the neighborhood the true damage happened after. As the water seeped into the soil, the salt went to work on the roots, killing much of them. Pywell and his team of six (and only six) use a percentage scale to determine how thorough the damage is. Anything below 50 percent is considered likely to die, at which point the tree has to be removed.

“We’re trying to find a balance between saving trees and public safety,” Pywell told the community members, explaining that once a tree dies there’s a chance of it coming down on people and property. “The reality is there’s a fine line we have to travel.”

The residents in the audience had no doubt witnessed tree removals in the area since the removal process picked up the pace a few months ago. Out of the 250 trees that were slated for removal – using a roofing nail to indicate the unlucky trees – 75 have already been removed. The 180 that are left will be removed over the course of the year.

But the news isn’t all bad. Pywell told Sheepshead Bites that because of all the rain and snow over the winter season, some of the salt left behind by the storm is being washed away.

“What we’re finding is the sites we sampled have less salt,” he said. Just how extensive this reduction may be is still unclear. Pywell and his team will have to first conduct another inspection of the area (as well as other areas in Brooklyn, as his team serves the entire borough) before he will know for sure how much salt has been removed.

Many residents were concerned that the removal of so many trees would leave the neighborhood barren and ugly. But Pywell explained that they are working on replacing the trees in the area. And the city is also still giving away trees for free. And as the city and Pywell begin to replace the trees, they plant with the idea that another storm will come.

“Diversity is important for resiliency,” he said and explained that the majority of the trees in the area were London Plain trees, a type that is especially vulnerable to salt water. And so he said that the city would replace removed trees with ones that can deal with “wet feet,” or a mild exposure to salt water.

“This area could potentially flood again,” he said. “I know you don’t want to hear that.”

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Source: Howard N2GOT / Flickr

The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Source: Howard N2GOT / Flickr

The Rockefeller Foundation bestowed a $250,000 grant to the City College of New York (CUNY) to figure out a way to stem the disastrous consequences of major flooding in Jamaica Bay, according to a CUNY release.

Last year, Superstorm Sandy thrashed the city and flooded much of Jamaica Bay. While Jamaica Bay’s beaches and wetlands provided some resistance to the intense flooding, surrounding urban development limited the effectiveness of the natural barriers. This has led researchers to investigate solutions to increase overall protection to the natural environment of the bay.

The team is being led by Catherine Seavitt Nordenson, an associate professor of landscape architecture at CUNY’s Spitzer School of Architecture. Nordenson was hopeful that work to protect and enhance Jamaica Bay would benefit the surrounding area and environment.

“As sea levels rise and the risk of storm surge and flooding from hurricanes and other storms increases, the vast scale of Jamaica Bay allows this region of the city to be recast and restructured as an impactful ecological, infrastructural and community asset that can enhance the region’s resiliency,” Nordenson said.

The CUNY release described the phases that the research would undergo as well as other cooperating partners in the project:

Princeton University is coordinating the multi-university effort with a planning and engineering team. The City College grant, for $250,000 over 14 months, will be developed in three phases, each concluding with an interim review with peers from City College, other CUNY institutions, and invited guests.

In addition, Princeton will organize public workshops that will include representatives from the other institutions receiving grants – University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University and Princeton – and a panel of expert advisors.

At the end of each phase, the City College team will produce a report with a narrative and documentation of that phase’s research, studies, analyses, maps and resilient design proposals. The final phase will conclude with the preparation of a final summary report and public exhibition.

It’s really amazing to see the commitment to long-term planning and vigorous scientific research needed following Sandy. Hopefully, when future storms hit, people will be safer, more property can be protected and the environment can be preserved.

American National Red Cross building (Source: Wikipedia)

American National Red Cross building (Source: Wikipedia)

The Red Cross, like many prominent charity organizations, promised aid and relief to scores of victims following the events of Superstorm Sandy. Aljazeera America is reporting that the organization has since informed many victims initially told they would receive help that they are now ineligible to access resources because of policy changes instituted by upper management operators.

After Sandy struck last year, the Red Cross raised $308 million for the relief effort, creating their Move-In Assistance Program in the process. The money raised was the highest gathered by any charity organization. The program promised storm victims that their belongings lost in the storm would be replaced and that they would be given $10,000 to find a new place to live. While the Red Cross is claiming that their program has helped nearly 3,000 victims, hundreds have been denied help due to eligibility requirements that were changed following promises made.

Aljazeera America relayed the story of Rosaline Fernandez, a storm victim who was promised help but ultimately never received it:

Rosaline Fernandez and her three children live in a tiny apartment. It’s all the high school Spanish teacher could find – or afford – after Superstorm Sandy ravaged her Jamaica Bay home on Long Island, N.Y., a year ago. The bay water met the ocean water, soon destroying her car, the furniture inside her home, her kids’ clothes and all the food.

“The first floor was completely washed out,” Fernandez told America Tonight. “There was mold. There was water. There [were] funky smells.”

Months of living in a hotel came and went before Fernandez heard that the Red Cross could help her out. She said she spoke to a caseworker who told her about the Move-In Assistance Program, a program that has helped nearly 3,000 households, according to the Red Cross. She said that the caseworker explained how Fernandez would be eligible for money to move into a new place and that all of her household items would be replaced. The Red Cross told Fernandez that she was eligible for $10,000. Once she found a new home, all she had to do was submit a W-9 tax form and the application, and she’d be set. Months later – and now more than a year after Sandy – she has not received her Red Cross aid…

“There are hundreds of people across New York that all have the same story, that were all told they would be assisted or they’re eligible for assistance, and did homework for the Red Cross,” said Ben Smilowitz, founder of the Disaster Accountability Project, a nonprofit aiming to improve transparency in relief organizations. Smilowitz, a former Red Cross volunteer during Hurricane Katrina, said that many people affected by Sandy “jumped through hoops, took days off work to collect information, and then only to find out that they weren’t eligible in the first place.”

As Smilowitz indicated, Fernandez was not alone in her struggle, as hundreds of other victims have been left in the cold by a change in Red Cross policy. What that change was exactly, and why it was instituted remains a mystery, but according to the report, many Red Cross employees, trying to help struggling families, were left outraged and dismayed by the upper management’s decision to do so:

The Red Cross worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said that, in general, he believed that the humanitarian organization attempts to be a good steward of donors’ dollars.

“However, the decision that was implemented on May 6 didn’t seem to have anything to do with that,” the worker told America Tonight. “There were clients who had received a commitment from the Red Cross for money to assist them in recovering from the storm, but then were deemed ineligible. That’s not assisting clients. That’s not directing the donor dollar where it should be. That’s lying to the victims of the storm and survivors of the storm.”

The Red Cross insists that the program criteria has been consistent since February, but that’s not what Red Cross workers say. America Tonight spoke to several former workers and one who still works there. They told MacVicar that after May 6, there was so much confusion about the program that they were ordered to not speak to their clients. Some Red Cross workers were so upset about telling clients they were no longer eligible for assistance that they quit their jobs. None of the current or former Red Cross employees who spoke to America Tonight could say for sure why the change was made, knowing only that it came from upper management.

For its part, the Red Cross has promised Congressional staff members that they would review their policies and attempt to honor any promises made that they have since rescinded.

“If clients believe they were promised assistance by a Red Cross caseworker and our documentation supports this, we will honor their request, even if they do not fully meet program criteria,” a spokesperson for the Red Cross told Aljazeera America.

Time will tell if the Red Cross comes through on their promise.

Have you or anyone you know been given assistance by the Red Cross following Sandy. Did they make you a promise but later deem you ineligible for funds? Lets us know.

Source: nasa.gov

Superstorm Sandy as seen from outer space. (Source: nasa.gov)

The New York City Council passed new building code laws last week in an effort to make structures more resilient should another natural catastrophe like Superstorm Sandy strike again.

The New York Times laid out the details of the new building code laws in their report:

One change requires residential buildings five stories or higher to add faucets in common areas like laundry rooms so that residents on higher floors have some access to water for drinking, flushing toilets and other uses. Upper floors lose water when electric pumps stop working during blackouts, a problem that worsened conditions and forced many people out of their buildings after the hurricane.

The requirement applies immediately to new residential construction, while existing buildings have eight years to add the fixtures…

Another piece of legislation requires new and existing hospitals and nursing homes in flood zones to install hookups that would enable quick connection to temporary generators and boilers so that such facilities can maintain electricity and heating when the power is out. The law requiring the hookups is effective immediately for new buildings, but gives existing buildings 20 years to comply.

Another new law makes it easier to install backup generators and generators that run on natural gas, which is considered a cleaner and more reliable source of power than diesel fuel. And a fourth law allows temporary flood barriers on sidewalks.

Russell Unger, who chaired the task force charged with providing the Council with recommendations, spoke to the overall singular goal of the new laws.

“It will make it much more possible to stay in a large building for an extended period without power,” Unger told the Times.

Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons

State Senator Diane Savino (Source: Thomas Good via Wikimedia Commons)

A pair of New York State politicians are trying to make it easier for emergency personal to rescue disabled residents should another disaster like Superstorm Sandy strike in again the future. SI Live is reporting that State Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Michael Cusick are introducing legislation that would require counties to create and maintain a confidential list of disabled citizens so rescue workers could prioritize their rescue in the event of a wide scale emergency.

As we reported earlier in the month, a federal judge ruled that the city had no adequate plan for evacuating the elderly and disabled should another disaster like Sandy strike again. The legislation proposed by Savino and Cusick was in response to this ruling.

“Judge Furman’s ruling holds out what we and those in the disabled community have said, that the city and state need a registry and a plan for the evacuation, shelter and rescue of our disabled neighbors,” Savino said.

Cusick agreed with Savino in calling for action, noting the consequences of inadequate preparedness.

“Individuals with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster will only get the assistance they require if there is some sort of registry,” Cusick said. “We saw first hand the chaos and confusion during Superstorm Sandy with regard to evacuation procedures.”

While Cusick’s bill has passed in the Assembly, it has not yet passed in the Senate. SI Live also noted that the legislation would also force operators of high-rise apartment buildings to update their own emergency plans and provide emergency escape plans for their disabled residents.

Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

A federal judge has come down hard on the outgoing Bloomberg administration, ruling that the city has inadequate plans for helping the disabled evacuate should a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy strike the city again. WNYC is reporting that Judge Jesse Furman’s ruling came from a lawsuit waged by the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and the Center for Independence of the Disabled who argued that the city violated the Americans with Disability Act.

According to Furman, the city’s plans for the disabled in case of a major emergency were insufficient.

“Most significantly, the city’s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services,” Furman wrote in his ruling.

WNYC listed three crucial foundations of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled’s lawsuit that Furman agreed with:

  • Many of the evacuation shelters were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs;
  • There was inadequate transportation to help disabled people evacuate, especially from high-rises;
  • Emergency officials had no plan to find and rescue those trapped after an emergency.

While Furman came down hard on the Bloomberg administration as far as the disabled go, he did praise them for doing an otherwise “outstanding” job when it came to preparing for future catastrophes.

The Bloomberg administration tried to hold the ruling in a positive light in a statement:

“While we are disappointed with the Court’s conclusions, we are gratified it recognized that the City’s extensive planning is impressive, and the efforts and valor of those responding to emergencies have been ‘extraordinary.’ Planning for the needs of people with disabilities has always been and remains a priority for the City. We are continuing to review this decision and assess our next steps.”

Here’s hoping that city administrators take this ruling seriously and find a way to adequately accommodate the city’s disabled should another disaster strike.

Are you disabled or have disabled family or friends that were in the evacuation zone during Superstorm Sandy? What was your experience like?

Source: Hu Totya via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Hu Totya via Wikimedia Commons

As seniors prepare for another winter, many in homes battered last year by Superstorm Sandy, fire safety becomes a huge concern. According to a press release, the FDNY Fire Safety Education Unit will be installing smoke, carbon monoxide and hard-of-hearing detectors, as well as performing in-home safety reviews, for elderly and disabled residents whose homes had to be repaired following the events of Sandy.

The program comes courtesy of a $590,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security and is earmarked for residents living within the realms of Community Boards 13, 15 and 18. The release described the reasons behind the program and how it might save lives:

With the cold weather season upon us, so many of us depend upon having heat in our homes to keep us warm, but with home-heating equipment such as portable space heaters and fireplaces, come certain risks. The possibility of fire increases by 33 percent during the winter months of December, January and February, with the FDNY reporting that fire remains the major causes of death in the home.

There were 106 fires attributed to Superstorm Sandy last year – 21 of which occurred during the powerful October 29, 2012 storm, and 85 fires in the months following, which were attributed to damage from the storm.

If you would like an installation in your home, you can call (718) 281-3872.

Thanks to Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz for providing the information on the program and the service. The assemblyman has encouraged constituents with any questions to contact his office too at (718) 743-4078.

Stay safe, everybody.

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.

Next »