Archive for the tag 'mark treyger'

Source: Luke Redmond/Flickr

Several local representatives to the City Council said yesterday that they support a proposal to throw a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea reemerged over the weekend, when U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stood with veterans to urge the Department of Defense to work with the city in planning the event, which would welcome home returning troops from the post-9/11 battlefronts. The proposal was first floated in 2012, but was opposed by the Pentagon.

“With the war in Afghanistan winding down, now is the time to keep with long-standing American tradition and kick off a campaign for the first New York City welcome home parade for troops that served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Schumer in a press release.

The Iraq war came to an official end on December 31, 2011. The combat mission in Afghanistan is expected to be complete by the end of this year. The Department of Defense will not condone a parade until combat operations are complete, but Schumer said the planning should begin now.

The Canyon of Heroes has long been the venue for the most iconic processions for returning veterans. Several parades were held during World War II, culminating with a massive procession for the troops in 1946, after the war ended. A parade was held honoring veterans of the Vietnam War in 1985, and in 1991 the city welcomed home Gulf War veterans.

Several Southern Brooklyn City Council representatives said they support bringing back the tradition, including Councilman Vincent Gentile who said he has previously called for honoring the veterans in such a way.

“If a sports team gets a parade, so should our veterans!” said Gentile. “Not only is it the right thing to do and it’s the least we can do for these brave men and women to honor the sacrifices they’ve made to protect our freedom abroad.”

Councilmembers Alan Maisel and Chaim Deutsch agreed.

“For all their dedication and sacrifice, it’s only fitting that we hold a ticker-tape parade in honor of the hard-fighting men and women of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Deutsch. “Therefore, I’ll support the campaign to revive this time-honored tradition and give our veterans a grand, New York City welcome.”

Councilman Mark Treyger said he’s on-board with the idea, but urged his colleagues not to forget about providing the support these returning veterans will need beyond a celebration in the streets.

“I am in full support of the idea to honor our veterans with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes out of recognition of their incredible service to our nation. I applaud Senator Schumer for taking up this worthy campaign and I look forward to assisting his efforts,” said Treyger. “However, our obligation and responsibility to our returning servicemen and women extends far beyond a single event. We must also ensure as a city and nation that each returning solider receives assistance with employment, health care, counseling and anything else needed to help transition back into civilian life.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday that he will “do whatever it takes” to give returning veterans a parade in the Canyon of Heros.

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.

NYCHA Making Public Housing Residents Without Heat, Hot Water, or Electricity Pay Rent in Full

Coney Island public houses have broken down on the winter’s coldest days (Source: forum.skyscraperpage.com)

After struggling through mid-winter breakdowns of heating equipment, residents of the 110 New York City Housing Authority buildings damaged in Superstorm Sandy are set to get some relief within the next six months as FEMA has agreed to cover the cost of new permanent boilers.

Issues with the boilers came to light after the February hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, where local pols took NYCHA and FEMA officials to task for leaving residents in the cold. Temporary boilers, which the city has paid approximately $3 million per month to rent, proved to be shoddy replacements that failed to withstand New York winters, and many broke down in the coldest days of winter.

NYCHA told the committee that repairs were not slated until 2016, by which time they’ll have cost taxpayers at least $120 million to rent.

“For more than 16 months, bureaucratic infighting and red tape have denied NYCHA residents the most basic of necessities — reliable heat and hot water,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, as he stood beside Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference announcing the deal.

Federal and city authorities announced on Sunday that all of the affected housing buildings, which serve 8,862 apartments, will get new boilers with the process kicking off within six months.

Under the deal, FEMA is sending the cash-strapped agency more than $100 million to cover the estimated costs to replace 60 boilers. The federal agency has agreed to also cover the $56 million the public housing authority has so far spent renting the temporary equipment. It is not yet clear if that is a separate allotment, or is being taken from the $100 million price tag.

The news was warmly received by Councilman Mark Treyger, who chairs the Recovery and Resiliency Comittee and represents many of the affected buildings in Coney Island.

“This announcement is a great step towards returning a sense of normalcy to the lives of people impacted by the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Treyger. “Residents in these buildings have gone far too long without dependable and safe living conditions. No one should have to live through the winter not knowing if they will have heat and hot water from one day to the next. Continuing to invest in our critical infrastructure, like replacing damaged boilers in NYCHA developments, is the only way for our city to fully recover. I applaud Senator Schumer and Mayor de Blasio for their efforts in securing this funding and am committed to continuing the fight on behalf of all Sandy impacted communities.”

There may be more funding on the way.  Schumer is pushing for $175 million in federal funding to raise boilers, backup generators and change the way several NYCHA complexes receive their heat and electricity. Schumer said yesterday that he expects NYCHA to receive some type of mitigation funding to raise boilers out of the flood zone.

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.

A home in Seagate after Sandy. (Photo by Erica Sherman)

The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency held its first hearing last Thursday in Coney Island and during the meeting New York City Housing Authority revealed that housing projects that were affected by Superstorm Sandy would be stuck with shoddily built boilers that often break until some time in 2016 – by which time they’ll have cost taxpayers at least $120 million.

Last week, Councilman Mark Treyger, who heads the committee, told us that he hoped to find a solution for these boilers since they were not made to be used below 40-degree weather. We wrote:

He believes the city is dragging its feet in figuring out a permanent plan, as FEMA is requesting critical infrastructure like boilers be placed above ground-level to avoid damage in future floods. But for those in the houses, a year is too long to wait, he said.

“It shouldn’t take us a year to figure that out. We’re having this meeting now because it’s still winter weather and I don’t want it to continue to be a lingering, ongoing problem. The money should be there, and that’s another part of this hearing and we need to track that money,” he said.

But instead of a solution, the committee was told by NYCHA’s Executive Vice President Raymond Ribeiro that the boilers wouldn’t be going anywhere until 2016, according to the Daily News.

Some of the boilers repeatedly broke down earlier this year during the coldest days of the season. The reason for breaking down, the Daily News reported, is because they were made in places like Texas and Tennessee and were never intended to withstand the cold of the north. But after Sandy left the normal heating system utterly destroyed, they couldn’t find anything better in time for the winter season and they now don’t have the funding to replace the boilers.

The Daily News reports:

NYCHA says it can’t move forward until its insurers and the federal government commit to specific funding. Ribeiro added that NYCHA’s insurers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have told the Housing Authority that they’ll only pay for boiler repairs, not replacements.

On top of being unreliable, the boilers are also expensive. During our interview with Treyger he estimated that each boiler costs about $50,000 a month. There are 24 such boilers across the city being used by the Housing Authority, which comes out to $3 million a month. By 2016, the boilers will have been used for 40 months and come out to $120 million for rent and fuel, according to Daily News’ calculations.

To combat the breakdowns they saw at housing projects like O’Dwyer Gardens, a six-building NYCHA complex in Coney Island that’s home to more than 100,000 residents, NYCHA has used other forms of heating to keep the boiler’s pipes warm, including jerry-rigged kerosene heaters to warm the boilers’ pipes.

A home in Seagate after Sandy (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Fifteen months since Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in Brooklyn’s coastal neighborhoods, the city’s response has been a far cry from awe-inspiring. Sure, the numbers are staggering: $60 billion in Congressional aid to the region; $5.2 billion distributed; dozens of agencies, and a stack of recovery-related legislation with a word count yet to be assessed.

There’s another jaw-dropping number: zero. That’s the amount of money that has reached property owners through New York City’s $644 million Build it Back program.

Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Gravesend, Coney Island, Bensonhurst and Sea Gate, is hoping to use the newly formed committee he chairs, the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, to reboot the process and get residents and business owners the help they need.

Near the top of his agenda is an effort to reopen the application process for Build it Back, and expedite payouts to encourage confidence in the program.

“It’s absolutely crucial that they reopen the process and do a better job at outreach,” Treyger told this publication. “The low number of applicants and the fact that zero people have been helped so far, that’s just unacceptable.”

Treyger said he sat down with Build it Back representatives last week for a status update on their work. They reported to him that the 11224 area code that covers Coney Island and Sea Gate only saw between 800 and 900 applicants – a far cry from what he said is thousands of homes impacted by the flooding.

The recently inaugurated councilman said he believes the city failed in its outreach efforts.

“I was amazed by that number because I know in that zip code there were thousands of people impacted by Superstorm Sandy. And that spoke volumes because it shows that the city did not do adequate outreach into diverse communities in our city. And that’s just one zip code,” he said.

The polyglot district he represents has high numbers of Russian, Chinese and Spanish speakers that the city didn’t do well in reaching, he claims.

“They must reopen but this time we really have to get this right. We have to partner with community organizations, local media, they have to reach out to different language media. We really need to do a much better job of reaching the diverse communities of our city,” he said.

Treyger is currently drafting a letter to the de Blasio administration officially requesting the process be reopened.

But the local pol also acknowledged that “recovery fatigue” among homeowners may cause them to be reluctant to apply, coupled with the latest headlines that money is not yet flowing.

“I think once money starts flowing and people see progress with their applications, that will instill confidence in applying. Some folks have no faith and were discouraged, and once they see progress I think that will motivate people to apply,” he said.

The administration is currently in the midst of the comment period for its fifth amendment to the proposed action plan for community development block grants for disaster recovery, the federal program funding Build it Back. While the plan includes an increase in funding for Build it Back, representatives present at a public hearing last night at Sheepshead Bay High School could not say if more would be needed to reopen the process as Treyger proposes. The mayor’s office has not yet returned a response to our inquiry.

Build it Back aside, Treyger is hoping to use his role as chair of the Council’s Recovery and Resiliency Committee to make Sandy recovery a top priority for the de Blasio administration.

The committee will hold its first-ever hearing in Coney Island on Thursday, February 27, at 10 a.m. at the Carey Gardens Community Center (2315 Surf Avenue). He said he hopes holding it in a Sandy-impacted zone will boost resident participation.

But the agenda at the first meeting is more pressing than reopening Build it Back. It will focus on a plan to replace temporary boilers at dozens of NYCHA buildings affected by the storm.

According to the councilman, NYCHA residents have been hooked up to temporary systems for 15 months, suffering from mechanical breakdowns that left them without heat on some of the most bitter cold days of 2014.

Treyger said he has been told the city pays in the ballpark of $50,000 per boiler per month, but they are faulty. Some of the boilers, he said, were not built to withstand low temperatures, causing the breakdowns they saw at housing projects like O’Dwyer Gardens, a six-building NYCHA complex in Coney Island that’s home to more than 100,000 residents.

To cope with the cold, some residents heated their homes with their home ovens, putting families at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

He believes the city is dragging its feet in figuring out a permanent plan, as FEMA is requesting critical infrastructure like boilers be placed above ground-level to avoid damage in future floods. But for those in the houses, a year is too long to wait, he said.

“It shouldn’t take us a year to figure that out. We’re having this meeting now because it’s still winter weather and I don’t want it to continue to be a lingering, ongoing problem. The money should be there, and that’s another part of this hearing and we need to track that money,” he said.

Build it Back will be on the agenda for their March meeting, Treyger said. He also hopes to persuade the administration to appoint a “Sandy Czar” to coordinate between city, state and federal recovery initiatives, as well as to spur reform in the handling of New York City’s co-operative housing schemes for disaster recovery. Co-ops are viewed by the federal government as businesses, not primary residences of homeowners, and so were not eligible for FEMA funds in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Overall, the local pol is hoping that his committee will help reboot the process, and open the funding spigots for residents.

“This is an oversight committee. But oversight to me means we’re listening to people on the ground, listening to the residents living the day-to-day trauma resulting from Superstorm Sandy,” he said. “I will judge this recovery by those people, families, homeowners, business owners. We want to see progress. Quite frankly, I’m tired of seeing more Powerpoint presentations than progress on the ground.”

wagner-adams

Coney Island Hospital Executive Director Arthur Wagner presented Borough President Eric Adams with a plaque on Wednesday, honoring the new beep’s service to the community as an elected official and member of the New York Police Department.

The ceremony was the highlight of the institution’s Black History Month celebration, which also featured presentations and performances by hospital employees.

Adams, who replaced Marty Markowitz in January, is a former state senator and police officer. He co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a group that provides assistance to community based organizations for neighborhood improvements. As an elected official, he was a leader in the fight against the controversial stop-and-frisk practices.

Before a room of about 75 hospital employees and community members, including Councilmember Mark Treyger, the borough president delivered a 20-minute speech that touched on the borough’s historic diversity, celebrating it but also remarking on the tremendous work still to be done for equality.

“If you look under the fingernails of every ethnic group, you will see the dirt and grime of climbing up the mountain of hope and prosperity to participate in the American Dream. We’re all in this together,” said Adams. “Black history month is the reflection of the human experience, and how do we ensure the periods of subjugation and danger and unfair treatment of groups stops right here and right now under this generation. That’s what this is about.”

You can hear the full audio of Adams’ speech here:

City Hall (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The City Council rules committee announced the committee appointments today, helping determine the influence Council members will wield over the next few years.

Committee appointments are important posts, helping to write and usher through legislation to be voted upon, or delaying their passage (sometimes indefinitely). They can also hold hearings, taking city agencies to task. Oh, and there’s perks, too, including bonuses as high as tens of thousands of dollars on top of their $112,500 base salaries (not bad for a part time job, eh?).

During the race for City Council speaker, in which Melissa Mark-Viverito emerged victorious, many political observers wondered if there would be a quid-pro-quo for support. The Brooklyn delegation was predicted to be the biggest benefactor of this largess, having been a key supporter of Mark-Viverito and delivering the votes that put her over the top.

That support appears to have paid off, with five out of Southern Brooklyn’s six City Council members appointed chairmanships, and two of them on the powerful leadership committee. David Greenfield, now a senior member of the legislative body, may not have landed on the leadership committee, but he did win chairmanship of the Land Use committee, a very influential post where he’ll preside over hearings and legislation that will determine the fate of some of the largest development projects in New York City.

Notably, Chaim Deutsch has boasted at public meetings that he expected to benefit from his early support for Mark-Viverito, who he aligned himself with even before the rest of his Brooklyn colleagues. While it didn’t pay off with any chairmanships, Deutsch, a fierce supporter of the NYPD and controversial practices like stop-and-frisk, did win appointment to the public safety committee. A subcommittee on non-public schools was also created, and he is its only member.

With eight committee appointments, Jumaane Williams also made out well. He’s the chair of the housings and buildings committee, a timely post as advocates call for major reforms in the New York City Housing Authority, of which he’s also been critical. His district also suffers from high foreclosure rates, an issue he’s now in a better position to tackle. (Clarification: It’s been pointed out to us that Housings & Buildings doesn’t oversee NYCHA. However, it does have a role in affordable housing and so Williams will still be a key player in that conversation, which is also gaining momentum in the city.)

Mark Treyger similarly received an appropriate role as chairman of the recovery and resilience committee. His district, which includes Coney Island, was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, and he’ll hopefully bring his constituents’ concerns to the forefront in this role.

Without further ado, here’s how appointments shook out for Southern Brooklyn’s City Council members:

Vincent Gentile

  • Oversight & investigations, chair
  • Leadership committee 
  • Consumer affairs
  • Economic development
  • Education
  • Public safety

David Greenfield

  • Land use, chair
  • Government operations
  • Technology
  • Transportation
  • Youth services

Jumaane Williams

  • Housing & buildings, chair
  • Leadership committee
  • Education
  • Higher education
  • Land use
  • Public safety
  • Rules, privileges & elections
  • Zoning & franchises

Chaim Deutsch

  • Aging
  • Contracts
  • Education
  • Oversight & investigations
  • Public safety
  • Waterfronts
  • Non-public schools (subcommittee of education)

Mark Treyger

  • Recovery & resiliency, chair
  • Aging
  • Education
  • Land use
  • Parks & recreation
  • Planning, dispositions & concessions

Alan Maisel

  • Standards & ethics, chair
  • Community development
  • Education
  • Parks & recreation
  • State & federal legislation
  • Veterans

Politicker has the comprehensive list for all Council members here.

de Blasio (Source: Streets Blog)

Well, if you’ve managed to stay away from the television, radio, newsstands, social media or any website geared towards New York residents, here’s the list of citywide and borough winners from last night’s election, as well as those in Southern Brooklyn races:

  • Bill de Blasio (Mayor)
  • Letitia James (Public Advocate)
  • Scott Stringer (Comptroller)
  • Eric Adams (Brooklyn Borough Presidnet)
  • Kenneth Thompson (Brooklyn District Attorney)
  • Chaim Deutsch (CD48)
  • Vincent Gentile (CD43)
  • Mark Treyger (CD47)
  • Alan Maisel (CD46)
  • David Greenfield (CD44)
  • Jumaane Williams (CD45)

What do you think? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? Or a whole new era for Brooklyn and New York City?

Let us know in the comments below.

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