Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy recovery'

The Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club after the storm.

When the sun sets tonight and the clock turns to 8:15pm, thousands of people along the northeast coast will simultaneously light candles and begin a moment of silence, remembering the destruction that swept through coastal communities courtesy of Superstorm Sandy. That moment will mark exactly two years since the high-tide breached the walls of Sheepshead Bay and began dousing our streets, our business, our homes, and claimed 125 American lives.

Like last year, contemplating a slew of “anniversary” articles is a gut wrenching endeavor, and one that I find difficult considering we still wrestle with the effects every day – and cover it nearly as often. It’s not two years since Sandy. Here in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach and Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach – and dozens of other impacted communities – Sandy is still very much every day.

But there is a need for a long view. Things are getting better. They are returning to normal, and on many fronts we are better prepared for another storm today than we were on October 28, 2012. It is the obsession of just about every citywide media outlet today, so here are some of the best, most enlightening articles published this week on the progress made, and the work still to be done.

If you feel we missed one worth sharing, let us know in the comments or at editor [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com and we’ll add it. And don’t forget to come to the candlelight vigil  tonight to support and be supported by your neighbors.

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.”

A scene from last year’s Light up the Shore event. Photo by Ned Berke

The following is a press release from the Bay Improvement Group:

Elected officials, recovery organizations, community leaders, and residents of Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, will gather on Wednesday, October 29 at 7:30pm to remember the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated South Brooklyn, including this waterfront community.

The remembrance, part of a city-wide initiative “Light the Shore” spearheaded by the long-term recovery groups, will be held overlooking the water on the deck of the Baron de Kalb Knights of Columbus, located at 3000 Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay.

In addition to residents impacted by the disaster, elected officials Councilman Chaim Deutsch and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz; representatives of nonprofits involved in Sheepshead Bay’s recovery, including the Bay Improvement Group (BIG), Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS), Kings Bay Y, and Resurrection Brooklyn Relief; and religious leaders will attend the event, now in its second year.

A brief memorial ceremony will be held alongside the bay, or inside, in the event of rain. Light refreshments will be offered afterwards, when residents will also have the opportunity to meet disaster assistance representatives and learn more about recovery services they are still offering.

No reservations necessary. All welcome.

Questions about the event may be addressed to Bay Improvement Group at 718-646-9206 or by emailing bayimprovementgrp@gmail.com.

buildbackWith the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy soon upon us, state Senator Martin Golden will host Build It Back customer service representatives, tomorrow, October 24, at the Ancient Order of Hibernians, 2750 Gerritsen Avenue from 12pm to 8pm.

The representatives will be on hand to answer questions from those recovering from Sandy.

If you have any questions or need additional information, call Golden’s office at (718) 238-6044 or email golden@nysenate.gov.

Photo by Erica Sherman

After successfully fulfilling his pledge to begin construction on 500 homes hit by Superstorm Sandy through Build it Back by the summer’s end, Mayor Bill de Blasio set a new target on Monday to double that number by the end of the year.

De Blasio announced the new goal of 1,000 homes by December 31 at a press conference in Broad Channel Monday, where he touted the program’s progress since its overhaul under his administration. He also said the program will send 1,500 reimbursement checks by year’s end.

The New York Daily News reports:

To date, 727 homes have started construction, and 878 homeowners have received reimbursement for work they did themselves.

That’s out of 14,000 active applicants in the Build It Back program — which hadn’t started work on a single home when he took office in January.

“Every check means a family is getting back on their feet. Every construction start means a family will get back in their homes,” de Blasio said.

The new goals come two years after the storm impacted thousands of New Yorkers, leaving many without heat or hot water. While emergency measures helped many return to their homes, it left others in debt and more still with work to be done before being “made whole.”

The Build it Back program kicked off under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but stalled under its own bureaucratic red tape. No homeowners had received reimbursement checks or construction agreements by the time de Blasio took office, when the new mayor overhauled the program with new leadership and the elimination of many restrictions.

Still, with 14,000 applicants on the docket, it remains a long road ahead. There are other measures of the program’s march forward, and, the New York Times reports, de Blasio said that nearly half of the applicants – 6,400 – have been offered help, with 4,000 accepting it. As many as 1,500 have started the design process, the step before construction can begin.

A report earlier this month from the Department of Investigation noted that it “could potentially take several years to complete the work.” A survey of applicants for the report revealed that 90 percent of the 14,000 hadn’t received any help.

The mayor is hoping to ramp up the program even further, expanding the program’s design and construction capacity. The city will release a request for proposals on how best to do that soon, CBS reports.

A Con Edison employee was repairing the wiring yesterday (Source: Aliza

A Con Edison employee was repairing the wiring yesterday (Photo by Aliza Chasan)

By Aliza Chasan

Two years after Superstorm Sandy, one park in Gravesend is just now getting power back.

Though the streets in the area didn’t see much above-ground flooding, the storm’s salt waters managed to corrode the underground wiring serving the park at the corner of McDonald Avenue and Avenue S. As a result, the McDonald Playground bathrooms have been locked to keep people from injuring themselves in an unlit bathroom.

“Babies, if they want bathroom, they can’t go and it’s a problem for parents,” Olga Sianashka, 38, said. “I’m all the time playing with my children here and it’s not working,” she said about the bathroom.

It took some time for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to become aware of the problem as the power lines serving the park don’t supply electricity to any area houses.

Once Phil Mazzeo, a Parks Department electrician, found out, he checked the park’s property box and found the Con Ed wires were destroyed. After that, it was a matter of waiting for Con Ed to come out.

“I called 311 maybe five or six times,” Aliza Krassallosik, 40, said. “Why can’t the public go to the bathroom as well?”

Bobbie Colon, 37, said the bathroom situation is “outrageous” and that the park’s problems go beyond a locked bathroom.

“This was a really nice park five years ago, but now it’s someplace you really don’t want to come to.”

Photo by Erica Sherman

I’d wager a bet that I already know the answer many of our readers will give to the question posed in our headline. But Gotham Gazette is the one asking the question, and we thought we’d get in on the action.

The news outlet dispatched more than a dozen reporters to Manhattan’s Lower East Side and Brooklyn’s Red Hook earlier this month asking that question. It’s part of a larger report that includes a more comprehensive survey that will be released in a few weeks. They live-blogged the initial responses, and the answers were fairly diverse.

Some said they were still going through it. Others expressed concern that there’s little to do to reverse rising sea levels, though others still pointed out that they were somewhat comforted by the measures they’ve taken to be better prepared and minimize damage. Several expressed confidence in the government’s mitigation projects, while others didn’t seem to know a lick about them.

That’s the Lower East Side and Red Hook. What about Southern Brooklyn? Do you feel like we’re better positioned to withstand severe weather now than we were two years ago?

Let us know in the comments, and take Gotham Gazette’s survey.

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.

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