Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy'

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.

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.”

Photo by Erica Sherman

With new reports every week about the growing frustration New York City’s Superstorm Sandy victims feel towards recovery programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio has acknowledged that the city “needs to do better,” and said his administration will find a new approach.

Wall Street Journal reports:

“Some of [the inefficiencies in relief] is in the way that the federal law was written that made this very complicated,” Mr. de Blasio said Sunday in response to a question at a news conference.

“Some of it was on the implementation side, and New York City needs to do better,” he said.

He said he agreed with Mr. Bloomberg’s focus on resiliency and fortifying the city for future storms.

But he said he didn’t think “the effort to respond to the needs of a lot of folks affected by Sandy was as strong as it should have been.”

“We intend to come in with a different approach,” he said.

It’s being seen as a rebuke of the approach of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, whose administration was instrumental to the rollout of the programs now confounding residents – including Build it Back, which has distributed only $9.7 million of the $648 million allocated for it.

According to the city’s own Sandy Tracker website, 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.

By comparison, the state received $838 million for housing recovery from the federal government, and has already written $573 million in checks to more than 7,000 homeowners.

While de Blasio implied criticism of Bloomberg’s approach, the new mayor has not yet appointed a head of Build it Back. City Councilman Mark Treyger of Coney Island has called for the appointment of a Sandy recovery czar to help hold the city accountable.

De Blasio did not elaborate on the “different approach” he intends to pursue.

http://d8bixwancjkpp.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/statenisland.jpg

Staten Island after the Hurricane Sandy
(Source: Flickr photo by Desiree Arroyo)

Build it Back, the city-run program to assist property owners in their recovery from Superstorm Sandy, has so far failed to help any of the 19,920 homeowners who have signed up for assistance, according to an analysis by Alliance for a Just Rebuilding.

Build it Back was created to supply cash to single-family and multi-family homeowners in need of repairs or reimbursement. Registration for the program started in July 2013 and closed in October. And since then families have either waited to no avail or have gone on to other assistance options. DNAinfo reports that city officials, “including Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference on Thursday, have said that the complicated, document-heavy process for receiving funds from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has slowed the release of funds.”

The process for Build it Back hasn’t moved past this paperwork stage. Out of the 19,920 homeowners who have signed up only 173 have been able to establish how much aid they’re going to get out of the $648 million that the federal government has given to Build it Back. And absolutely no construction work has been done using the funds.

Many people have moved on and found other means of repairing their homes, but, according to advocates interviewed by the Daily News, leaves many of New York’s neediest with no alternative.

The program is required by federal guidelines to prioritize distribution based largely on income. So while more well-heeled victims can dig into their own pockets or quarrel with their insurance companies, the poorest are left waiting for the taps to flow.

“It is really a lifeline for folks who don’t have any other means to do repairs,” Nathalie Alegre, coordinator of the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, told the Daily News. “It’s extremely concerning the program hasn’t been able to speed up to the degree people need to get on with our lives.”

Are you registered for Build it Back? What has your experience been?

The Friends of Gerritsen Beach Library is assisting with the Secret Sandy Claus Project, by operating as a toy donation location. The Secret Sandy Claus Project is the brainchild of Gravesend resident Michael “Sandy Claus” Sciaraffo, who decided to don a Santa suit and distribute toys to children who lost their own in Brooklyn, Staten Island, the Rockaways, and parts of New Jersey, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

If you can, please donate new, unwrapped toys at the Gerritsen Beach Library, 2808 Gerritsen Avenue, from now until December 20. Library hours are Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Tuesdays from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Wednesdays through Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The library is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

While it is difficult to find those silver linings in events as destructive as Superstorm Sandy, stories of bravery and heroism have surfaced, centering on people saving lives in the face of horrendous circumstances. The New York Daily News is reporting that a group of MTA employees helped rescue a group of residents and themselves in the storm’s worst moments last year.

The amazing acts of heroism involved the rescue of four transit workers trapped in a Coney Island facility, a man and woman who had abandoned their car on Neptune Avenue, and an elderly lady gripping on to a fire-alarm box who was submerged up to her neck in water. The New York Daily News described the rescue effort undertaken by a determined group of MTA workers:

All would escape, thanks to a rescue operation that started with signals division maintenance supervisor Michael Watt and superintendent Eric Williams answering a radio call for help from their four trapped colleagues…

Watt and Williams had just evacuated the signals facility and arrived at another transit building on Bay 50th St. when the emergency call came in.

“We have to get out of here,” superintendent Steve Miller said from his office. “You have to come back and get us.”

Watt and Williams jumped into their MTA Suburban. By the time they reached Neptune and Stillwell Aves., the water was up to the SUV’s door handles. “It had to be moving 15 mph,” Watt said. “It was fast and dangerous.”

The MTA employees trapped inside the facility— Miller, superintendent Sal Ambrosino, and signal maintainers Colombo Solimo and Kevin Puma — couldn’t push open the doors. The water outside was too high, the pressure too great. The building’s windows were locked from the outside, one of the men said.

Members of the group headed to the garage and opened a roll-up door. Afraid the electronic controls would short out if they waited much longer, they opened the door. The ensuing torrent into the garage was so powerful it picked up 5-foot-tall “gang boxes” easily containing more than 100 pounds of tools.

“I was walking down a narrow hallway towards the garage when a 4-foot wave comes shooting throughout the building,” Miller said. “The water’s up to my chest.”

The four fought their way to the Suburban, which was idling on a bit of higher ground on Neptune Ave. Miller waded to the building and shut the roll-down gate to protect the facility from any looters.

“There’s millions of dollars worth of equipment in there,” Watt explained.

Miller, a certified rescue scuba diver, helped the young man and woman reach the Suburban. She was hysterical, screaming “my mother, my mother,” the transit workers recalled.

“I looked down the street and I see this older lady holding onto the fire box,” Miller said. “She’s about 100 to 150 feet away, and the water’s up to her neck.”

Miller and the young man waded to the woman and, taking one arm each, pulled her back to the Suburban.

Wow. The incredible actions of the team has put them in contention for a Hometown Heroes in Transit award, a special award put together by the MTA, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and the New York Daily News that honors transit workers who give extra effort in helping their communities. Best of luck to all the nominees on their amazing work.

Honestly, in a culture that makes spectacles of rewarding the accomplishments of actors and athletes, the Hometown Heroes in Transit award is an honor that actually means something. It puts into perspective what really counts in our society.

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.

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