Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy recovery'

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.

nyrising-sheepshead

The New York Rising project, a state-sponsored, federally-funded program to make coastal communities more resilient in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, will unveil the final proposals for Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach tonight, revealing the $21.3 million vision to help us better withstand and more quickly recover from future disasters.

The meeting kicks off at 7:00 p.m. at the Brooklyn Amity School (3867 Shore Parkway), and all are welcome to attend.

The workshop represents the culmination of nearly a year of work by a committee of grassroots stakeholders, who worked with planning experts and consultants to identify shortcomings and vulnerabilities in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and propose ideas that would fill those gaps. After several public hearings and draft plans, they’re finalizing the plan that the state will begin implementing. You can read the full report here, but we’re boiling it down to what you need to know ahead of tonight’s meeting.

The first thing to note is that there’s already $13.3 million allocated to Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach to see many of these projects through. It’s still several million shy of covering all the costs of the full vision, and the committee’s job is to come up with the list of projects to receive those funds. This is basically the highest priority stuff that they’re asking the state to pay attention to. Once the report is finalized, the state will pluck from the list and give their final go-ahead.

There are also projects that the committee thinks is a good idea, called featured projects, but not good enough to receive money from the existing pot. Those will require separate funding from what’s already been doled out by the feds. To keep it simple, we’re not including these in our list.

If you think any of these ideas are a waste of money, or you have suggestions for a tweak or change in plans, make sure you attend tonight’s meeting. While the plan is final, representatives from the governor’s office and other agencies responsible for implementing it will be in attendance, and your input could change how they move forward and what they prioritize.

Without further ado, here’s the list of projects that the local committee is recommending for funding through federal money already held by the state. We’ve organized them in order of estimated price tag.

  • Installation of sewer cut-off valves for one- and two-family homes - $5.7 million – Timeframe: 18-24 months  – One of the most frequently heard complaints after the storm was that homes flooded not from actual stormwater, but from overflowing sewers that backed up into homes. This proposal would provide funds for the purchase and installation of several thousand cut-off valves for local property owners. Essentially, the valves seal off the property if waste is heading the wrong way through the pipe.
  • Elevating and retrofitting homes  – $2.5-$3.5 million – Timeframe: two years – The project would help provide direct financial assistance to fund elevation and retrofitting of homes in the area, including a public education component to inform homeowners of additional available resources. The project includes assessing the number of homes in the area that need to be raised or upgraded, and determining eligibility guidelines for the work.
  • Installation of backup generators at key facilities - $2.55 million – Estimate time to implement: 12-16 months – Many of the waterfront senior homes and community spaces struggled in Sandy’s wake to get back up and running because of power outages, and neighbors also had few places to charge cell phones and other technology they relied on. This proposal seeks to install 13 large-scale generators at key facilities in the high-risk flood zone. They’ll be limited to public facilities or private buildings that serve critical needs, like health and medical services, food or medical supplies, and will be flood-proofed.
  • Retrofitting key businesses and community services assets - $2.5 million – Timeframe: 16-24 months – Sandy knocked a huge swath of Emmons Avenue and Sheepshead Bay Road businesses out of operation for several months, and that includes pharmacies and grocery stores. This proposal would fund the installation of risk reduction measures, such as deployable small-scale flood barriers at all entrances to a property, as well as upgrades like the elevation or enclosure of mechanical equipment. It’s not clear how many businesses and community facilities would be covered by the $2.5 million.
  • Create an Emergency Response and Recovery Center in Sheepshead Bay - $2.4 million – Timeframe: 12-16 months – Committee members argued that recovery from Sandy was hampered by the lack of a central location for response operations, both in the immediate aftermath, when food and basic supplies were crucial, and in the months that followed, when residents needed access to information and resources. This proposal is to study potential locations for a new or existing building, assess options to make it flood proof, and then lease, buy or construct such a space. Once created, it would be staffed before, during and after a storm as a space for pre-disaster planning and post-disaster operations, including storage of supplies and equipment.
  • Retrofitting the Gerritsen Beach Vollies and Fire Department - $2.4 million – Timeframe: 12-16 months – The Vollies Hall and Gerrittsen Beach Fire Department Station played a critical role in the aftermath of Sandy, becoming the de facto headquarters for relief operations. While they escaped the worst of Sandy’s wrath, it may not fare so well in future storms. The committee proposes building second floors on both of these one-story structures, and retrofitting it with resiliency equipment including flood barriers, generators, storm gates and even solar panels.
  • Backflow prevention measures on city stormwater outfall pipes - $740,000 – Timeframe: 12 months – Many Sandy victims didn’t see the water coming from the Bay, they saw it rising out of the sewers. That’s because the stormwater infiltrated the sewer system through outfall pipes on the coastline, where it reemerged from street grates and home sewer lines. This project proposes to take a look at the system to analyze the infrastructure, and to install devices that would automatically close five outfall pipes in Sheepshead Bay and 11 in Gerritsen Beach when water begins heading in the wrong direction.
  • Resilient streetscape improvements on Emmons Avenue - $500,000 – Timeframe: 12 months – The Emmons Avenue corridor would be upgraded with benches and lighting, additional tree beds and grass plantings – as well as the installation of green stormwater drainage and attenuation systems. Green spaces help with drainage after a heavy rain event and help prevent flooding on roads and sidewalks.
  • Repair and reconstruct Canton Court bulkhead in Gerritsen Beach - $490,000 – Timeframe: 6-9 months – Sandy did major damage to this bulkhead, which supports a roadway, and the street is now collapsing. This project allocates funds to tear it down, build a new one and repair the street.
  • Study Gerrtisen Beach streets for infrastructure repairs - $200,000 – Timeframe: 6-8 months – This project will produce a report to be given to the Department of Transportation for a plan to upgrade the neighborhood’s street infrastructure with better catch basins and drainage systems. The plan will then be in the city’s hands to budget for.
  • Feasibility study to improve the resiliency of Sheepshead Bay’s courts - $150,000 – Timeframe: 12 months – The worst hit homes in Sheepshead Bay were those in the “courts” – the bungalow colonies along Emmons Avenue that sit five feet below street level. In addition to their low-lying nature, the web of sidewalks between them have no city-connected drainage systems, turning the entire thing into a swimming pool on moderately rainy days. This study will consider various measures to improve stormwater drainage and help alleviate the persistent flooding, and it would also look at modifying the buildings to be more resilient, and even connecting the whole system to city infrastructure. There is no funding to actually implement any proposals the report may produce.
  • Storm surge protection for Sheepshead Bay -  $100,000 – Two-year project – New York Rising stakeholders for Manhattan Beach repeatedly complained that much of their flooding came from the Sheepshead Bay side of the peninsula, not the ocean. As such, they’re proposing a “reconnaissance study” to identify viable options to keep the bay contained in future storms. If some options seem doable, a feasibility study will commence, and then implementation. There is not yet funding for either the feasibility study or the implementation.
  • Evacuation planning for Gerritsen Beach - $50,000 – Estimated timeframe: 3 to 4 months - Gerritsen Beach’s only evacuation route is Gerritsen Avenue – which is also at risk of flooding. This proposal is to fund a study to see if the route can handle the traffic volume that would emerge in an emergency situation, resulting in proposals to alter operational plans (such as a parking ban on the corridor during an evacuation event, which would open up an additional lane of traffic).

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.

The following announcement was sent to us from the office of New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer:

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