Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy'

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.

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.

Post-disaster housing prototype project

(Source: nyc.gov)

Last Saturday, a prototype for emergency living quarters was unveiled. The experimental post-disaster housing module stacks five steel units on top of each other like Lego pieces to create accommodations that are more comfortable than your rotting, soggy home after Superstorm Sandy.

The project has been in the works for six years now. The NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC) and the Army Corps of Engineers all came together to help create the prototype.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported:

The prototype includes a living area, bedrooms, bathroom, fully-equipped kitchen and storage areas, but the configuration is flexible, said project architect Jim Garrison, a professor at Pratt and principal of Garrison Architects.

The next step, Garrison said, is to connect the prototype to city utilities and then test it out with human guinea pigs.

“The idea is, try it out, solve all the problems, and then you’re ready to build quickly when the time comes,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

The project was run by Housing Recovery Program Manager at OEM Cynthia Barton. The housing project has been in the works since 2008, when Barton brainstormed the “What If New York City…” design competition.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

The  12’ by 40’ units are a far cry from poorly insulated FEMA trailers, and can fit more people onto the available land. They are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, Garrison said. The balconies keep the sun from shining directly into the interior, and the insulation keeps the heat and AC from escaping.

And as the Daily Mail reported, the Lego-style homes will be the the nation’s first “urban post disaster prototype.” Three of these houses have been erected in Downtown Brooklyn and they will stay up for a year, during which time volunteer students from NYU-Poly will live in them to see how they fare.

It actually looks pretty cozy. I wonder if maybe we can solve New York City’s affordable housing crisis with these. They’ve even got balconies!

Here are some photos of the units and the construction process, released by OEM via Facebook:

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Staten Island after Superstorm Sandy. (Source: Desiree Arroyo/Flickr)

Build it Back isn’t the only government-sponsored aid program that has failed to distribute money to those hit by Superstorm Sandy. More than 330 small businesses that were affected by Sandy are still waiting for federal money meant to help them recover, according to DNAinfo.

The federally-funded NYC Hurricane Sandy Loan & Grant program has about $42 million intended to be distributed in loans of up to $150,000, and grants of up to $60,000, to any business in the city that needed help to get their business up and running again. The program started last June.

DNAinfo reports:

So far, however, only eight business owners have received any money, according to the city’s Department of Small Business Services, the agency that is administering the program.

The eight businesses that have received money have gotten a total of $2.5 million, the SBS said.

The money for the loan and grant is meant to go toward working capital — cash used for payroll, marketing, utilities and rent — as well as purchasing moveable equipment.

But many owners said because of the delay in processing their applications, they’ve already had to invest a large amount of cash to buy all their new equipment, and get their business off the ground — all of which has left them with debt that these federal funds can’t help with.

When it was announced that Build it Back, the city-run program for property owners, hadn’t actually given any money out, city officials blamed unnecessary bureaucratic paperwork for slowing down the problem.

This time, officials blame the delay on strict, anti-fraud laws. DNAinfo reports:

Officials from the Department of Small Business Services acknowledged to DNAinfo New York that the application process for the federal funds has been long and complicated. After fraudulent use of federal money following disasters like Hurricane Katrina, the government has become even stricter in how they distribute relief funds, officials said.

According to SBS officials, out of more than 335 applications submitted, 143 applications are currently with the lender that decides on the loan and grant amounts, the final step in the process, and should be approved soon. Another 40 are in the final review phase with the SBS, before they are sent to the lender, and 155 applications are in earlier stages of the process.

If you have a small business and want to apply to the grant, the guidelines can be found here. For those who have already applied for the grant and loan program, the SBS and mayor’s office said they are working with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to try and get the loan and grants out more quickly. They’re also hoping to remove the cap on the amount of funding a business can receive.

During the meeting, Marty Golden used a microphone similar to the one in this picture. Photo by Erica Sherman

State Senator Marty Golden covered a range of issues from heroin to flood insurance at a well-attended meeting of the Manhattan Beach Community Group meeting last night.

Here’s the cliff notes to Golden’s appearance:

  • He talked about the high concentration of senior citizens in Brooklyn, especially in the south, and said that this population needed to be respected and not forced out of the borough by increases in taxes.
  • The heroin problem in New York City has reached an all time high, Golden said. The problem is especially acute in Brooklyn, where many children are dying of overdoses. And he blamed lawmakers going easy on drug dealers when they repealed much of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of the 1970s several years ago. Since then, much of the Rockefeller Drug Laws have returned, a point Golden is proud of. “Drug dealers are the bad guys and I want to get them off the streets,” he said.
  • On the point of legalizing weed, Golden said he was against it. “If anyone thinks marijuana isn’t a gateway drug, they’re fooling themselves,” Golden said.
  • When it comes to the “nightmare” of Manhattan Beach residents, Golden wants to build up infrastructure in the area to prevent future flooding. He discussed the possibility of things like flood gates and retainer walls.
  • While on the topic of Superstorm Sandy, Golden is trying to prevent flood insurance from going up for those in flood zones.
  • He also addressed the big news this week about the possibility of a national competition and the New York and New Jersey area losing $1 billion in disaster aid. “We’re all going to stand together to make sure that this money stays here,” he said.

(Source: Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood)

New York City, New York State and New Jersey may have to compete for more than $1 billion in promised Superstorm Sandy relief that the federal government is now looking to redirect to victims of other natural disasters.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is considering sending off $1 billion of an as-yet unspent $3.5 billion in Sandy relief funds to other parts of the country that are dealing with their own natural disasters. This decision could leave New York City short of funds at a time when there is a renewed effort by local politicians to pick up the pace on programs like Build it Back, potentially throttling the program just as it’s poised to hit its stride.

When Superstorm Sandy hit, Congress set aside about $60 billion in 2013 for Sandy aid. More than $15 billion went to HUD for distribution on the local level to help relief efforts and get people back in their homes. Since then, about $10.5 billion has been spent, leaving $3.6 billion still available, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports:

HUD officials recently briefed members of Congress on a proposal that would create a national resiliency competition to more widely distribute about $1 billion to $2 billion of the remaining Sandy aid to areas that have recently suffered disasters. It would be the first time HUD held a national competition for federal disaster money. The contest would reward projects that make communities more resilient against future disasters, according to people familiar with the plans.

Senator Charles Schumer said yesterday that he will fight any attempt to take money away from the region’s aid relief.

“We will fight to ensure that every one of New York’s needs are met before a national competition sends a single Sandy relief dollar elsewhere,” Schumer said via Bloomberg News.

And Schumer isn’t the only one who said that he will fight this possibility. Bloomberg News writes:

Representative Michael Grimm, a New York Republican whose district includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, has been in “constant contact” with Donovan [the Secretary of HUD] to stress his district’s needs, said Nick Iacono, a spokesman for the lawmaker.

Grimm and other Congressional representatives sent a letter yesterday to HUD’s Secretary Shaun Donovan asking for more information about the proposed reallocation, The Journal reported yesterday.

The letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was signed by 13 members of the House of Representatives. They expressed “concern with the lack of consultation and briefing between HUD and members of the House and their staff on this issue.”

The announcement comes at a time when city officials are paying renewed attention to relief efforts. Initiatives like the Build it Back program, which had been in a lull until recently, have become the center of attention. The program is partially funded by HUD money and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has recently announced intentions to repair the homes of all those who qualify, rather than just the financially neediest applicants – greatly increasing the estimated cost of the program.

The Journal reports:

In the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has set an ambitious goal of getting 500 Sandy-damaged homes rebuilt by the end of the summer; currently only nine homes have started construction. City officials have said they need $1 billion in additional federal money for the Sandy recovery, and even more to complete a city resiliency plan.

“We’re working closely with HUD and our federal partners to ensure that we have the resources to fully recover and rebuild. It’s vital that funds get to the NYC homeowners and public housing residents who need them,” a city spokeswoman said in an email.

De Blasio has criticized HUD’s decision. “The legislation was passed to serve the needs of people in New York and New Jersey who were devastated by Sandy. And it was about both getting people back on their feet and providing the resiliency we need for the future,” de Blasio said via the Daily News.

The feds, however, expressed puzzlement at the reaction, saying that the bill authorizing the $60 billion aide package explicitly stated that a portion of the funds could be redirected to other disaster zones, and that the Sandy region should never have relied so heavily on the third and final round of funding. The Journal notes:

Federal officials said the city and states have overestimated their remaining needs. They said local representatives shouldn’t have expected the third round of funding to provide a significant infusion of new funds based on how the $60 billion Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill passed in 2013 was written.

In the three years covered by the Sandy aid bill, 208 major disasters have been declared by the federal government. A person familiar with the proposal said 48 states would be eligible for the national competition, along with Puerto Rico, District of Columbia and 18 other areas including New York City and Joplin, Mo., which was hit by a tornado in May 2011.

A portion of the third round of funding would also likely go to Rebuild by Design, a regional resiliency competition that HUD launched with much fanfare. Secretary Shaun Donovan, a former New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development commissioner, is said to have been inspired by his work under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had a propensity for holding competitions to generate excitement around government work.

The next meeting of the Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG) will be Wednesday, April 23 at 8:00 p.m. inside Public School 195, 131 Irwin Street at Hampton Avenue.

Guest speaker, State Senator Marty Golden, will discuss and answer your questions on topics including:

  • How does the New York State budget affect you?
  • Will your property taxes go up?
  • What is New York State doing to make sure your home is not flooded again?
  • Is the legislature allocating more funds for Sandy-damaged communities?

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.

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.

Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that Build it Back payments were finally in the mail, and that some construction projects are now underway. The city’s new director of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson, elaborated on the numbers at a hearing on Monday, saying only $100,000 in reimbursement checks have been mailed, and only six construction projects have begun.

That’s out of 20,000 applications.

The numbers came out during a hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, headed by Councilman Mark Treyger. The seven-hour long hearing was spent blasting the program, for which even its new leadership agreed needs a jumpstart.

Metro reports:

The city’s new Director of Housing Recovery Amy Peterson admitted to the Build it Back’s blunders and “overly complicated” process but promised to turn it around.

“Early missteps, unrealistic assumptions and overly complicated processes have hindered rebuilding,” she testified to the Council.

Peterson, who started her tenure on Monday as well, vowed to make up for the setbacks.

“We’re going to make sure the money gets out to people,” she said.

Peterson added that another $800,000 worth of checks will be mailed this week.

Treyger and others used the opportunity of the first public hearing on Build it Back to detail the program’s shortcomings.

“Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources, and other problems have thwarted the building of even a single home,” he said, according to Brooklyn Daily.

The new chief attributed the problems to a lack of resources, and burdensome bureaucracy, according to the Daily report.

“This process includes multiple different steps in which customers interface with variety of different contractors and specialists,” she said. “From a process standpoint, the continued passing of responsibility from one contractor to another has had the effect of diminishing accountability.”

… Other problems were the result of federal requirements, Peterson said. The program was designed to not repeat the sins of past disaster relief programs, which were rife with contractor fraud and shoddy construction.

“The intent was for clients of the program to feel assured that construction would be done correctly, to the resilient building standards, and that they would bear no risk that funds would be reclaimed or extorted,” she said.

The Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, at their meeting last night, said that after a long silence neighbors have started receiving calls from the program. Officials are setting up appointments to discuss the options for which the victims qualify, and compensation packages are being drawn up.

But the group also said that too many questions about the process remain unanswered.

“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about it,” said civic president Kathy Flynn. “We’re getting a lot of questions … we don’t have the answers. And every time they send out another e-mail,” it seems the terms have changed.

Flynn said that although the signs of movement are positive, she’s not optimistic.

“I’m not counting on them to give me anything. If I count on it, it’ll be another five years. Or forever,” she said.

Photo by Erica Sherman

Four months after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that he is renewing the push to help victims of Superstorm Sandy, including reallocating $100 million in funds specifically targeted to residential rebuilding.

The mayor also repeated his vow to cut through the red tape that has long plagued recovery efforts, and has made three appointments he says will be key in moving the efforts along.

The New York Times reports:

Bill Goldstein, most recently the executive vice president of the MTA Capital Construction Company, will be a senior adviser to the mayor, overseeing all recovery programs.

Amy Peterson, the president of Nontraditional Employment for Women, which offers training for women in industries like construction, will direct the city’s Housing Recovery Office. Daniel A. Zarrilli, the acting director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, will lead the newly formed Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

The $100 million in aid will fill a critical gap. Previous aid money was first distributed to assist poorer hurricane victims deemed “priority one” by the city. Victims labeled “priority two” and “priority three” had been told they would have to wait. Many of these lower-priority homeowners are city employees — police officers, teachers, firefighters — with limited incomes or savings.

This money, the mayor’s office said, will ensure that all homeowners with destroyed homes can build new ones, regardless of the homeowner’s priority level.

The funds are expected to cover the cost of approximately 500 homes.

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Housing Recovery office, which oversees the Build it Back program, will have a staffing boost of 35 percent, bringing the total number to more than 100 employees.

The announcement follows headlines critical of the Build it Back program, which has so far failed at distributing any of the $648 million in aid.  As of February, none of the nearly 20,000 single family homes (defined as homes with between one and four residential units) registered for the program have started construction, and only 154 of those registrants have had their awards selected.

However, the city has ramped up the process in recent week. The city’s own Sandy Tracker website, last updated in mid-March, shows that the number of registrants with their awards selected has more than tripled. Although not reflected on the tracker website, de Blasio claims the agency has recently sent out the first batch of reimbursement checks, and that some construction projects are already underway.

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