Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy recovery'

The following was sent to us by the Brighton Neighborhood Association:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The Ryan Center at Floyd Bennett Field

A new institute established to bolster the social and ecological research of Jamaica Bay and the communities around it has won millions of dollars in grant money to make the critical resource more resilient, and are turning to locals for their input.

The Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) seeks to be the hub for all research about the area, including the environmental, social and economic resilience of the communities that abut it, which includes Sheepshead Bay. The institute will be the center of exchange between scientists, managers, policy makers and community leaders, and is hosted by Brooklyn College.

The organization won $7.7 million for the construction of a new center and a research vessel, and another $3.6 million from the Department of Interior for projects that will help advance understanding of resilience in coastal ecosystems.

With that money on its way, they’re now turning to the public to ensure their research responds to neighbors’ needs. They institute is hosting two focus groups this Thursday following a survey of community organizations it conducted in the spring, hoping to better understand what happened during Sandy and how it affected the communities on its borders.

The focus group will take place at the William Fitts Ryan Visitor Center (50 Aviation Road at Flatbush Avenue), on Thursday, September 4. The first session will be noon to 2pm, and the second at 6pm to 8pm. They will provide a light lunch of dinner.

To sign up, e-mail Bryce DuBoise at bd333@cornell.edu. The cutoff was technically August 27, but DuBoise told Sheepshead Bites that there are still several openings for those interested. Check out the flier for more info.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Nearly two years after Superstorm Sandy came ashore, many of our neighbors are still struggling to rebuild. Local pols are trying to make it a little easier by bringing in-office services to the community.

Council members Mark Treyger and Chaim Deutsch are both hosting reps at their offices from various agencies to help in the recovery.

Deutsch has a representative from Build it Back in his 2401 Avenue U office every other week, available by appointment only. After complaints from constituents that Build it Back was not readily accessible, even after the promises from the agency to ramp up its effectiveness, the rep is being made available to review cases one-on-one and cut through the red tape. Appointments can be made by calling the district office at (718) 368-9176, and the rep will provide help and insight, in addition to giving them a status update regarding their application.

Meanwhile, Treyger is working with The Legal Aid Society and the city’s Build it Back program to provide residents with free assistance at his 445 Neptune Avenue district office in Coney Island.

A representative from The Legal Aid Society will be at the office each Tuesday through mid-September to meet with residents still experiencing the impacts of Superstorm Sandy and to assist with the following issues: landlord/tenant disputes over repairs and rent abatements; Temporary Disaster Assistance Program (TDAP) vouchers or Section 8 vouchers received due to displacement by the storm; consumer debt collection; flood insurance issues; Small Business Administration (SBA) loans; and contractor fraud. The lawyer is available to meet confidentially by appointment or on a first-come, first-served basis on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In addition, a case manager from the city’s Build it Back program is available every other Monday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

To make an appointment at Treyger’s office for either service, call (718) 373-9673.

“Many storm victims still have difficult and important decisions to make, so it is imperative that they have someone they can turn to for reliable information and advice. I urge anyone who needs legal assistance as a result of Superstorm Sandy or help navigating the Build it Back program to take advantage of these programs available right here in the community,” said Treyger in announcing the service.

Carro Center, where tonight’s meeting will be held.

Don’t blame us for the late notice. We only received it this afternoon.

The Southeast Brooklyn Waterfront (Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Georgetown) NY Rising Community Planning Committee to Host Public Meeting on Tuesday, July 29 for the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program 

New York – Community members of Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, and Georgetown are encouraged to attend a public meeting on Tuesday, July 29th to learn about the State-sponsored NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program. This program will leverage local knowledge and build upon existing local efforts to help storm-impacted Communities become more resilient through innovative community-driven plans.

When:          Tuesday, July 29, 7:00pm
Where:           Carmine Carro Community Center, 3000 Fillmore Avenue (between Madison Place and Marine Pkwy) Marine Park, NY 11229
Who:            Southeast Brooklyn Waterfront Planning Committee (including Mill Basin, Marine Park, Bergen Beach, Georgetown), NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program
Contact:       Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, 212-480-2321info@stormrecovery.ny.gov

The New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program is one of several Storm Recovery Initiatives and was established to provide additional rebuilding and revitalization assistance to Communities severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The State has established the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program to facilitate community redevelopment and resiliency planning. For additional information, please visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/community-reconstruction-program

Forget the link above, you want this one. More specifically, you can check out a presentation they showed to the committee members, providing an overview of how the program works [pdf]. For even more information, you might want to check out the minutes from that meeting [pdf], which go more in depth.

 

Source: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

The American Red Cross is coming under fire for refusing to disclose how it spent more than $300 million in funds raised for Superstorm Sandy relief, claiming that the information is a “trade secret.”

Investigative news outlet ProPublica has been fighting to get the independent relief organization to reveal how it spent donated funds on Sandy between the storm and February 2014, but the organization refuses to give a breakdown.

But the organization did fork over information to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating this and other charities – so ProPublica filed a public records request with his office to see what was handed over.

The site reports what happened next:

That’s where the law firm Gibson Dunn comes in.

An attorney from the firm’s New York office appealed to the attorney general to block disclosure of some of the Sandy information, citing the state Freedom of Information Law’s trade secret exemption.

The documents include “internal and proprietary methodology and procedures for fundraising, confidential information about its internal operations, and confidential financial information,” wrote Gabrielle Levin of Gibson Dunn in a letter to the attorney general’s office.

If those details were disclosed, “the American Red Cross would suffer competitive harm because its competitors would be able to mimic the American Red Cross’s business model for an increased competitive advantage,” Levin wrote.

The letter doesn’t specify who the Red Cross’ “competitors” are.

The Red Cross is a public charity and occupies a unique place responding to disasters alongside the federal government.

Some of the organization’s redaction requests were trivial: lines that simple read “American Red Cross,” or sections of letter stating they were willing to meet with the attorney general.

Those requests were denied by Schneiderman’s office, but others included information that the attorney general agreed was “proprietary and constitutes trade secrets,” such as “business strategies, internal operational procedures and decisions, and the internal deliberations and decision-making processes that affect fundraising and the allocation of donations.”

ProPublica has not yet received the documents from the attorney general, but the outlet says it will report on them when they do.

UPDATE (6:00 p.m.): Councilmember Mark Treyger, chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, asked us to tack this on to the article, following the introduction (with Councilmember Ulrich) of a bill to create a monitor to oversee Sandy relief funding to prevent fraud.

“Citizens who donate to disaster relief efforts, including in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, have a right to know that their money is being used to help victims recover and rebuild. With so much funding at stake, and residents still in need of so much assistance, I remain concerned about the potential for misuse of relief funds, including by government agencies, contractors and private organizations. That’s why I worked with my colleague Council Member Eric Ulrich to introduce legislation this week establishing an independent monitor to investigate instances of waste, fraud and abuse in order to maximize the amount of aid delivered to impacted neighborhoods across New York City. To be clear, I am not accusing the Red Cross of any improper activity, but rather am reiterating the need for openness and transparency as the recovery effort moves forward.”

Photo by Erica Sherman

Locals are finally beginning to see the benefits of the Build it Back program after the de Blasio administration promised to ramp up its efforts last month, but remain cautiously optimistic as the program moves forward.

Residents hard hit by the storm stated at last week’s Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association meeting that several people in the area have begun receiving reimbursements and construction agreements. The group’s president, Kathy Flynn, noted that her own application has moved forward and she has a meeting with her appointed design team this week, while others in the group relayed progress reports from their neighbors, including two who are in the post-design phase, and another whose home is in the process of being raised.

“They’re not the bad guys anymore,” Flynn said before the group. Still, Flynn noted that, although there appear to be improvements, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach toward the program.

It’s a stark contrast in tone from several months ago, when frustrated residents tore into city officials for the lack of progress or clarity on the situation. At one point, members of the group chastised a Department of Buildings liaison who came to speak about new zoning regulations in the wake of Sandy, but ended up serving as a proxy target on which to vent Build it Back frustrations.

Progress isn’t just being seen in our neck of the woods. City & State reported on Thursday that 61 construction projects are underway with Build it Back funding, and 254 reimbursement checks totaling $4 million have been disbursed. Additionally, 10,309 homes have been inspected, 4,808 people have had an “option review meeting,” and 1,872 applicants are ready to move forward with the program.

It still falls far short of the approximately 20,000 applicants to the program, but it represents significant strides from where the program was in March. At that time, only six construction projects were underway, and only $100,000 in reimbursement checks had been mailed.

De Blasio promised an overhaul of the program upon appointing a new director, Amy Peterson. That announcement was followed by the release of an internal report on Sandy recovery, which recommended getting 500 construction projects underway and 500 checks in the mail by the end of the summer. De Blasio said at the time that he would seek to meet the report’s goals.

Are you a Build it Back applicant? Are you seeing better results since Peterson’s appointment? Share your experiences in the comments section.

The Kings Bay YM-YWHA will be hosting a public forum on Superstorm Sandy recovery tomorrow, June 17 at the Y, 3495 Nostrand Avenue. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the forum starts promptly at 6:00 p.m.

City Councilman Mark Treyger will speak about his efforts on the Recovery & Resiliency Committee, and attendees will also hear from other areas of planning and recovery such as Sheepshead Bay / Gerritsen Beach NY Rising plans.

There will also be time to speak directly to Build it Back case managers and specialists to learn updates on the progress of your own application.

To learn more, contact Empower Sheepshead RC Program Coordinator Vadim Shiglik at (718) 648-7703 extension 260 or vshiglik@empowersheepshead.org.

boats

More than 18 months after the storm, 10 twisted, tattered vessels were finally removed from a city-owned Knapp Street lot after being dumped ashore by Superstorm Sandy and abandoned by their owners.

Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein’s office tipped us off to the removal operations, which took place on Tuesday. Here’s the statement from their office:

Assemblywoman Weinstein, after months of exhaustive communication with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Sanitation, is ecstatic that the agencies were able to collaborate in order to remove ten (10) derelict boats in the empty lot at 2501 Knapp Street.

The boats, which washed ashore during Superstorm Sandy, were never claimed by their owners and have since become a dumping site and a persistent eyesore. After constituents complained, the Assemblywoman observed the boats, which sat on city owned property, and immediately started negotiations to ascertain who was responsible. The Sanitation Department was able to visit and clear the site on June 10th.

Photo by Erica Sherman

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Mark Treyger:

Council Member Mark Treyger, Chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, is pleased to announce the passage of City Council legislation he sponsored to provide relief from tax increases on properties that were damaged during Superstorm Sandy and subsequently rebuilt to its prior condition. As a result of today’s law, property owners will not be penalized with unfair tax increases simply for performing critical repair work to their homes.

The issue arose several months ago, when storm victims began being hit with increased property assessments and real estate taxes as a result of necessary repair work to repair damage caused by the storm. The impacted property owners facing higher tax bills included several residents of Sea Gate and Coney Island who contacted Council Member Treyger for assistance. He has since worked with Mayor de Blasio and his City Council colleagues including Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilman Vincent Ignizio to have this legislation passed as quickly as possible. Thanks to today’s legislation, most property owners who had their 2014 fiscal year property assessment reduced from 2013 as a result of storm damage, but then increased for fiscal year 2015 due to repairs, are eligible for this partial abatement.

“Victims of Superstorm Sandy were being victimized all over again by unfair increases in their property tax bills. To make matters worse, this was happening at a time when many families’ budgets are stretched to the maximum and every dollar counts. To ask someone to pay higher taxes for necessary repair work is patently unfair and only adds insult to injury for these New Yorkers. I am pleased that Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, our State Legislature and the City Council recognized the urgent need to immediately address this issue and came to a solution that is fair for all sides,” said Council Member Treyger.

Homeowners whose fiscal year 2015 assessment exceeds the fiscal year 2013 assessment that reflected the property value prior to the storm are covered under this law. The abatement will appear on impacted homeowners’ July property tax bills. In cases where the repair work resulted in an increase in the building’s square footage, this law provides for a decrease that is proportional to the increase in the building’s size.

For more information on eligibility requirements, contact 311 or the NYC Department of Finance at nyc.gov/finance.

build-it-back

Bill Iannotti, Councilman Chaim Deutsch, and Housing Recovery Office Director Amy Peterson outside the Iannotti home. (Source: Deutsch’s office)

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Chaim Deutsch:

New York City Council Member Chaim Deutsch (D-Brooklyn) was recently joined by Build it Back Director Amy Peterson touring several properties that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. During the visits, Council Member Deutsch and Director Peterson met with homeowners in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach, visiting families still waiting for financial relief.

“When I brought Build It Back officials to view these homes, there was an instinctive reaction — they saw firsthand how frustrated people had become waiting for reimbursements.” Deutsch said. “My thanks to Director Peterson for joining me in reaching out to my constituents, and giving the people affected by Hurricane Sandy the attention they deserve.”

Last month, Council Member Deutsch’s office was contacted by Bill Iannotti, a constituent who spent his life savings repairing his home and had been seeking reimbursements through Build it Back for over a year. Council Member Deutsch, shortly after visiting his home with Director Peterson, was notified that the Iannotti family should expect to be reimbursed soon.

“I know the Build It Back Program was started with good intentions, but the process of getting reimbursed is far too slow and I began to give up hope. Fortunately, Councilman Deutsch stepped in and helped me recover what Sandy took away.” said Mr. Iannotti. “I am grateful to the Councilman for taking a proactive approach to advocate for all of his constituents.”

Council Member Deutsch will continue working closely with the city’s Build It Back program, which was designed to assist homeowners in repairing their storm-damaged properties. Following Amy Peterson’s appointment to head up the relief program, Council Member Deutsch has renewed confidence that Build it Back will move forward expeditiously.

Council Member Deutsch urges his constituents who need assistance with Build It Back to contact his District Office 718-368-9176.

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