Archive for the tag 'michael bloomberg'

The Parks Department says it can avoid routine maintenance by replacing wooden planks that warp over time, seen above, with concrete and plastic. (Photo by Ned Berke)

A site trailer and construction fence were installed at Brighton 15th Street this month – a first step in a controversial plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s iconic wooden planks between Brighton 15th Street and Coney Island Avenue with cement and plastic. But several elected officials are expressing outrage about the work, and at least one is threatening to cut off funding to the project.

Construction on the Coney Island Boardwalk officially began on November 11, the Parks Department confirmed, despite fierce objection from community members, advocates, and local politicians who disagree with the plan to replace the boardwalk with artificial materials.

“I remain very disappointed that the Parks Department is moving forward with this major change to the boardwalk without completing any safety studies to determine the impact it will have on the community,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger. “The Parks Department is also ignoring the will of the local state lawmakers who allocated this funding for repairs, and not for a new concrete road down the middle of the iconic boardwalk.”

The state lawmakers in question are Assembly members Alec Brook-Krasny and Steven Cymbrowitz, who together allocated $10 million to the Parks Department in 2009 for general repairs and improvements to the 2.5-mile span. The funding can be cut off at the lawmakers’ discretion – but only before the contracts are signed. That time has passed, but Cymbrowitz said he’s still going to find a way to close the funding spigot.

“I am outraged that Mayor [Bill] De Blasio and Commissioner [Mitchell] Silver have fast-tracked the destruction of an iconic landmark in southern Brooklyn. As I wrote to Mayor de Blasio, concrete and composite plastics are a poor approximation for a boardwalk. It’s a boardwalk, not a sidewalk. There are also significant safety concerns with this project since no impact study has been done,” said Cymbrowitz in a statement. “This is an underhanded misuse of the money and the mayor knows it. I will work to make sure that the millions of dollars I allocated are cut off. I fought hard for the boardwalk to be repaired, not to fund the elimination of the boardwalk as this community and all New Yorkers know it.”

He’s backed up by both Treyger and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who say that the funders’ intentions should be considered in how their money is spent.

“The money came from Assemblyman Cymbrowitz, and whoever gave the money for the boardwalk should have a voice in it,” Deutsch told this outlet.

Even though Coney Island’s boardwalk survived Superstorm Sandy relatively unscathed compared to the Rockaways’ concrete walk, Mayor Michael Bloomberg deemed all wooden boardwalks insufficient to withstand the ocean’s surges, and commissioned them to be replaced with concrete. That was the plan anyway, following a 2008 directive from Bloomberg’s office that city agencies would stop using tropical hardwoods – the type used to construct the boardwalk – for environmental reasons. The de Blasio administration has continued to press forward with those policies.

“Using tropical hardwoods could contribute to the climate change that helped destroy the boardwalk in the first place and it would be more expensive,” said a spokesperson for the Parks Department. Critics point out that there are other options, including sustainable domestic hardwoods such as Black Locust or White Oak, that can be used.

But the lower cost of maintaining concrete, long a part of the Parks Department’s justification for switching to cement, does not necessarily mean it will hold up better during storms, said Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents the Brighton Beach portion of the Riegelmann Boardwalk. He, Treyger and Cymbrowitz want an impact study that considers the performance of concrete in storm surges. Other areas, including Manhattan Beach and the Rockaways, saw huge concrete chunks barrel through the streets as they broke up during the October 2012 storm.

“[This is] about what is safer with the community in case another storm comes in,” he said. “It has to be safe, not just more resilient in terms of repairs, but what’s safe in regards to any kind of surge.”

Even before the storm, advocacy groups filed a lawsuit hoping to stop the plan, demanding a full environmental review. But just weeks after Superstorm Sandy, a judge ruled that the project did not need to undergo such a study since it would not constitute a signficant change the existing structure.

The boardwalk construction is expected to be completed in time for the 2016 beach season, according to the Parks Department. Elected officials are asking the city to terminate all construction until the concerns of residents are addressed.

Here is a map of the proposed plan via the Coney Island Boardwalk Alliance:

boardwalk-map

Click to enlarge

– With additional reporting by Ned Berke.

Photo by Erica Sherman

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

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

The New York Daily News reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos of the staging area at the Fountain Avenue landfill. (Source: GooseWatch NYC)

Photos of the staging area at the Fountain Avenue landfill. (Source: GooseWatch NYC)

Another day, another animal in the cross-hairs of the wildlife gestapo.

In the wacky world of wildlife preservation, we’ve seen battles rage over swans and cats in the past few weeks, and now concerns are being revived about the annual plans to round up and euthanize Canada geese.

The latest comes from GooseWatch NYC, an advocacy group that since 2010 has been sounding the alarm on the city’s annual goose culling. They say that members have spotted USDA Wildlife Services agents, which the city and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey contracts to manage the swan population, setting up a staging area at Canarsie’s Fountain Avenue Landfill (which has been folded into the wildlife refuge and is in the process of $20 million ecological restoration). Trucks with the USDA logo were photographed, along with kayaks, crates and corral gates used to round up the birds before carting them off for lethal gassing.

Such culling usually happens around this time every year, as Canada geese go through their molting period, hampering their flying ability and making them easier to capture.

The group is outraged, as they are every year, especially since the area is now part of the wildlife refuge. They also say that, following the 1,000 goose culling over the last two years, there are just a few dozen remaining in Jamaica Bay, suggesting that the agency seeks total annihilation and not just population control.

“It’s now obvious that the USDA intends to kill every last Canada goose they can at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a supposed safe haven for these creatures,” said David Karopkin, GooseWatch NYC’s founder, in a press release. “There is no need to kill these birds. It’s obscene and tragic, and the public has a right to know what our government is doing.”

The annual goose slaughters began in 2009 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The population reduction is being done to reduce collisions with jets at local airports, including JFK airport, located adjacent to the wildlife refuge, although critics say alternate methods, including radar upgrades, could do the trick more efficiently.

GooseWatch is also taking issue with the current mayor, who they say is walking back his campaign promise to seek out more humane ways to manage the population and reduce air strikes.

“Mayor de Blasio committed to put every approach on the table and work with independent experts and animal advocates, but now instead we’re learning that the cruel and ineffective goose removals will continue in NYC this summer, and perhaps for years to come,” said Karopkin.

A petition has been launched to end the lethal culling of geese in New York City. Another group, Friends of Animals, is planning a protest outside of the Port Authority’s headquarters (225 Park Avenue South) on Thursday, June 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The head of the New York City Office of Recovery and Resiliency is getting behind the Bloomberg-era plan to replace the Riegelmann Boardwalk’s wooden slats with concrete, saying that concrete fared better in Superstorm Sandy.

Recovery chief Daniel Zarrilli testified before the City Council last Thursday, telling them that the choice of concrete was a “sound” decision since it performs better in storms.

He added that the de Blasio administration will continue to replace the wooden boards with concrete going forward.

Bloomberg made the decision to replace the boardwalk with concrete after instituting a citywide ban on tropical hardwood in public projects, the material the boardwalk, as well as other fixtures like benches, have historically been made of. It has been fought for several years by locals who want to see the iconic wood stay, and they even filed suit against the city in 2012. Several compromises were sought, including using alternate wood materials, plastic and a combination of all three – although the city made clear its preference for concrete.

But the announcement that the new administration will stick with the plan because it performed well in Sandy is sure to be challenged by critics. In the wake of the storm, locals said that the concrete allowed sand to pile up on the boardwalk, and also served as a less effective buffer protecting the community from the flooding. They also say the concrete accelerates erosion and is less effective at drainage during storms.

The two councilmembers whose districts overlap the boardwalk, Chaim Deutsch and Mark Treyger, both support using wood.

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.

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.

brigham

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: After many years, proposals, battles and studies, the plans to begin work on Sheepshead Bay’s newest green space, Brigham Street Park, are finally unveiled.

The park will be sited at Brigham Street, sandwiched between Emmons Avenue and the waterfront. The current site is now a rubble-filled lot abutting the entrance to the bike path and greenway leading out to Plumb Beach. That entrance is about to get a whole lot more appealing with what looks like might be the new gem of Emmons Avenue’s eastern terminus.

The park will feature a playground, walking path, picnic tables and lots and lots of greenery.

Let’s take a closer look at the plans currently being circulated to local leaders by the Parks Department, and which will go for approval by the Public Design Commission later this month.

Check out the plans!

Source: Travel Salem/Flickr

I’m not one to go tanning at a salon, but I’ve got enough carrot-toned neighbors to know it’s a pretty popular pastime in our area. So I thought I’d pass along the news that the Bloomberg administration has announced a new set of regulations for tanning salons and will soon begin inspections to ensure compliance.

The biggest policy changes is a new requirement that the Health Department inspect tanning salons, UV machines and timers every two years, and that salons install signs warning customers of the dangers of skin cancer that could result from use of the equipment.

While conducting inspections, the Health department will also be checking permits, according to the New York Post, as there are at least 100 tanning salons that are operating illegally in New York City.

Here are a few more details from the paper:

Operators of UV equipment for the first time would undergo training.

The department will also enforce the state law that bars adolescents under 17 from frequenting tanning salons and launch a public education campaign at salons to warn New Yorkers — particularly adolescents — of the dangers of absorbing too much UV radiation.

So is this more nanny-ism, or good public health policy? You tell us.

nyrising

Residents help with long-term planning at a NY Rising meeting.

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article last week, examining the different and competing visions of city and state administrators when it comes to using the billions of dollars received for Superstorm Sandy recovery.

In short, the city wants to use it for long-term resiliency initiatives. The state wants to see the money funneled to homeowners seeking relief.

Here’s the nut of it:

More than a year after superstorm Sandy, the mounting frustration illustrates a broader dilemma for policy makers in New York City and Albany: Is it better to invest in pricey measures that protect the many or to help those hardest hit immediately?

The question is at the heart of different approaches taken by the city and state in how they distribute federal funds they received to help the region recover.

The city has decided to spend about $300 million of the nearly $1.8 billion it received in the first round on what is known as resiliency, or efforts to protect against future storms. The state, by contrast, has set aside just $30 million of the $1.7 billion it received on resiliency, including increasing public awareness about safe rebuilding and helping places like hospitals and nursing homes create energy backup systems.

About $650 million of the first round of federal funding the city received is being spent on housing recovery, while the state is spending about $840 million on far fewer applicants.

As it stands now, the city has only allocated enough funds to handle approximately 4,000 of the 26,000 applicants to the Build it Back program, and is prioritizing based on financial need. The program will receive another chunk of funds soon, a representative for Mayor Bloomberg said.

What do you think? Should the city have prioritized direct assistance to victims at the cost of long-term planning? Or is it better to get the big projects underway while the political will still exists?

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