Archive for the tag 'sandy aid package'

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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.

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Residents identified assets and potential projects during October’s workshop.

The second public engagement meeting of the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program to restore and protect Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach will be held tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. in the Amity School (3867 Shore Parkway).

The first engagement meeting took place in 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.

During tomorrow’s meeting, officials and consultants will unveil a set of proposals and priorities devised, in part, by community residents. They are soliciting feedback for further refinement before issuing their final report, which will be the roadmap for state investment going forward.

A draft of the plan, which will be the topic of tomorrow’s meeting, is available for review here. You can comment on the plan in person at the meeting, or submit comments online.

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Source: Brian Hedden via Bay Ridge Odyssey

Republican Congressman Michael Grimm is asking the federal government to earmark $600 million for the Build it Back program, the housing recovery project designed to help Superstorm Sandy victims, and take control over Sandy funds out of the hands of of local authorities, reports SILive.

While the money is already on its way as part of a larger package, Grimm wants the government to earmark that amount specifically for Build it Back and not permit New York City or state authorities any flexibility with the funds.

“The City of New York needs to take a better look at how they’re allocating their resources. It’s not their money to just allocate as they see fit. This is the people of Staten Island’s money — that was the intent of Congress. And they need to be stewards to that money,” Grimm said.

Thus far, the billions in federal aid money flowing into city coffers has come in the form of Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) and has allowed the city to be flexible in the way it spends it. In a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Grimm advocated that the city needs an additional $600 million just for housing alone, and that the city should have no say in how this cash is spent.

“I don’t have faith that the city will do the right thing for the people that I represent in Staten Island,” Grimm said.

Abraham Lincoln High School. Source: Google Maps

Abraham Lincoln High School. Source: Google Maps

New York Rising, the state initiative to put long-term storm resiliency planning in the hands of communities, is gathering tomorrow to unveil drafts of their plan for Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Manhattan Beach and Sea Gate. Members of these communities are invited to attend and give feedback.

The meeting is scheduled to take place in the cafeteria of Abraham Lincoln High School (2800 Ocean Parkway) on Tuesday, November 12 between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.

As we’ve previously reported, New York Rising is an initiative spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo that gives community members power in determining how to spend $750 million in federal Sandy aid dollars. The last meeting was held in late October and a strong public showing is vital for the program’s success.

Event organizers are planning to report on the progress made so far with the public, share ideas for future projects and take community input on ideas for other resiliency projects.

For more information on New York Rising, click here.

The Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach coalition will meet on November 20.

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Senator Charles Schumer sent a message to anxious New Yorkers, still waiting to receive repairs and funds for their Superstorm Sandy devastated homes: the money is coming. Newsday is reporting that Schumer promised that the city will receive $6.3 billion in aid in 2014, a figure that will hopefully address the cash shortages for the Sandy-related projects of 2013.

Last week, we reported that city officials with the Bloomberg administration were worried that the “Build it Back” program was short about $1.9 billion. Schumer is now declaring that in 2014, of the $6.3 billion heading the city’s way, $1.4 billion will be used directly for homeowners affected by Sandy, nearly covering the shortage. Newsday reported on comments made by Schumer at a press conference promising the flow of federal dollars and acknowledged the hiccups in the process:

“The spigot is now open,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan. “A year from now, people will feel a whole lot better about the Sandy process than they do today.”

He acknowledged frustration with the pace of spending this year, blaming red tape and the need to establish new programs to disburse the funds. “It should’ve been quicker,” he said.

NBC News reported more fully on the money breakdown:

He said $2.5 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go to New York communities in 2014 to pay for permanent projects as well as reimbursement for repairs already done.

Additionally, Schumer expects at least $1.5 billion in storm-related transportation projects in New York to receive funding.

Smaller pots of money will go to fund coastal protection projects, green infrastructure and health-related projects.

Schumer said another $207 million will be allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan.

If Schumer’s words prove true, it looks like Sheepshead Bay could expect a good year come 2014. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Source: Andre R. Aragon / FEMA.gov

Source: Andre R. Aragon / FEMA.gov

The city announced that it might not have enough money to cover all the 24,000 applicants of the “Build it Back” program, leaving officials scrambling for solutions to address the needs of thousands of homeowners devastated by Superstorm Sandy. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the city is approximately $1.9 billion short on funds.

Currently, the city has $648 million to spend on housing repairs while it is estimated that $2.6 billion will be needed to cover all the homeowners that have applied for assistance. The Journal described the breakdown of the federal money allocated to the city and addressed the fears of officials in coming up with the extra cash:

So far, the city has been given about $1.8 billion in federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which pays for the program. It decided to spend the $648 million on housing, about $700 million on resiliency measures and about $300 million on grants to stricken businesses.

With $648 million, the “Build it Back” program can rebuild about 4,000 homes for lower-income people and wouldn’t be able to reimburse for repairs already made, according to the city’s rebuilding office.

“We don’t know how much money we are going to get. We got $1.8 billion. We know that’s not going to cover everybody or even going to be close,” said Cas Holloway, a deputy mayor.

Mr. Holloway and state officials said they expected further allocations from the federal government but weren’t certain of the timing or the amount. A spokeswoman for Housing and Urban Development didn’t respond to a request for comment.

City officials expressed increased frustration with the slow pace of Washington when it comes to distributing the necessary funds. Officials blamed the red tape of Washington for the turtle-like pace of aid distribution and already noted its consequences:

New York officials said federal rules, some implemented after Katrina, have required them to perform lengthy tasks, such as conducting environmental reviews on every home that must be repaired and determining whether rebuilding work is happening on Native American burial grounds…

The slow pace of distributing the portion of the money meant for housing has had widespread effects, New York officials said. Many who lost their homes during the storm have lived for months in hotels at government expense, stayed in cramped quarters with family and friends, paid rent on apartments while falling behind on mortgage payments or lived in homes without kitchens or other amenities.

Some said they had all but given up on getting help.

“Do I have any faith in it? Not really,” Nicole Chati, a resident of New Dorp Beach on Staten Island, said of city programs to help her rebuilding her home. “I’ve gone through so much of, ‘We’re going to help, we’re going to help,’ and it’s just not there.”

Brad Gair, the city’s housing recovery director, blamed the system for holdups.

“It’s very, very difficult to get this money. It’s very hard to explain to people. It’s very hard to keep their trust in a process like this,” Gair told the Journal. “We’ve got to fix this system.”

To date, only one homeowner, a Staten Island resident, has received funds through Build it Back’s acquisition program.

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Nearly 100 neighbors joined government officials and consultants to share their local expertise and draw up storm resiliency plans on Monday, kicking off the first in a slate of workshops sponsored by New York State to give locals a say in recovery and resiliency initiatives.

The workshops are the most public stage to-date of a $750 million initiative announced in July by Governor Andrew Cuomo, called New York Rising, aimed at recruiting locals in identifying key community assets and their thoughts on the best way to protect them from future disasters. The officials and consultants have had several private meetings with local committees of stakeholders and activists, who drew up a roster of initial proposals. The meetings – two of which were held locally this week, in Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach – then turned to the broader public to add more input and refine the plan.

One thing organizers sought to make clear is that this wasn’t a plan about rebuilding from Superstorm Sandy, but a broader community development plan seeking to strengthen the neighborhood’s residential and economic bases from future disasters.

“It’s not a Build it Back program. It’s not about insurance. It’s not about FEMA. It’s about the future of our communities,” said Jim Donovan, co-chair of the NY Rising Reconstruction Committee for Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach. “The most important thing is the future, the children, the grandchildren, the great-grandchildren. Where are they going to live? How do we make our community more sustainable, more resilient? That’s what this whole committee is about.”

After running through a presentation, the attendees split up into half a dozen different groups and received extra large maps of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach. The maps were already marked with known assets including schools, infrastructure, hospitals and more, and the residents were asked to add anything they felt were important assets that planners should know about. They added historical relics like the Ocean Avenue footbridge, and problematic infrastructure like outdated sewage lines and below-street-level housing.

The sewage line were of particular concern for most in the room, and although the groups operated independently every group added it to the map.

“Before the tsunami came out of Sheepshead Bay [during Sandy], it came out of the sewers. The water came up the pipes and into our houses. And then the tsunami came,” bellowed one man during the meeting.

The groups also began putting forward their own proposals, including key locations for flood gates, utility infrastructure in need of elevation and more.

In addition to resiliency proposals, the groups were tasked with creating a wishlist for broader community development, including restoring the “nautical uniqueness” of the area, boosting tourism through marketing campaigns and weekend express trains, and stronger zoning laws that would prevent over-development in areas like the bungalow communities.

Although some attendees were excited by the visions put forward, others were left wondering what it had to do with storm resiliency.

“It’s a meeting to get rid of stress, that’s all it is,” said Lake Avenue resident Bob Haggerty.

Another attendee, who left in the middle of the meeting, was more succinct:

“What kind of crap is this?” she said.

Even the organizers of the meeting acknowledged that there were still many more obstacles to overcome before the plans could be put in place. The consultants hired by the state will review the proposals, and prioritize them in order of need, cost and feasibility.

The group will come out with a draft report on October 28, the one year anniversary of the storm. In November, a second public meeting will be held for more public input, and the final plan will be issued in March.

At that point, there’s little plan in place for enacting the proposals laid out. Representatives from the Department of State, which is overseeing the initiative, acknowledged that there is not yet funding for many of the ideas, and they hope to work with city agencies on the key infrastructure proposals.

Beyond that, the consultants are charged with identifying funding sources for realizing the “wishlist” items that the community has prioritized.

If you were unable to attend and would like to provide input, visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/nyrcr/community/gerritsen-beach-and-sheepshead-bay and submit your comments via the yellow contact button on the right.

You can also join the conversation using the hashtag #NYRising on Twitter (@NYStormRecovery). Follow the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program on Facebook (NYStormRecovery) or go to www.stormrecovery.ny.gov. For more information, email info@stormrecovery.ny.gov.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that the continuing government shutdown could cause serious delays in distributing Superstorm Sandy relief money. The New York Daily News is reporting that Bloomberg and mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota all expressed the same opinion that the shutdown could harm people and businesses trying to recover from the storm.

With much of the federal workforce furloughed, aid money flowing from Community Development Block Grants is likely to be slowed due to the lack of government workers pushing it through the system.

In his weekly radio address, Bloomberg described dire consequences if the shutdown doesn’t end soon.

“Right now, Washington’s gridlock is doing real harm to our nation’s economy – and if they don’t get their acts together soon, New York City families, especially those who endured the worst from Hurricane Sandy, will feel real pain,” Bloomberg said, “If, for example, you’re a business owner in the Rockaways, this could mean a longer wait time to get grants and loans – prolonging what has been an already difficult and cumbersome process for so many.”

Bloomberg also said that politicians in Washington had lost sight of the fact that their disagreements were affecting the lives of real people, stating that, “Enough is enough.”

The Daily News described how both De Blasio and Lhota agreed that the gridlock in DC must come to an end, yet they both descended into partisan bickering over who was to blame:

“The Republicans in the House if they want to live up to the phrase patriotic should settle this problem now so the people in this country who have suffered from natural disasters don’t suffer more,” [de Blasio] said.

“Mr. Lhota is a Republican. He’s a proud republican. He is someone who’s been a Republican all his life. And his party continues to do things that hurt the interests of New York City. And I think that Republicans like him should have long ago fought back against the negative trends in their party. They should not have accepted it and they should have considered leaving the Republican Party,” he said.

“I don’t understand in this day and age how someone could continue to be a Republican and say that they want to help New York City move forward.”

Lhota condemned the shutdown and insisted trying to tie him to Republicans in Washington is unfair. “I’ve blasted the Congressional Republicans for their actions,” he said.

“While I may be a Republican, I don’t believe in what those Congressional Republicans are doing. They’re serving themselves, they’re not serving the people who elected them.”

Sheepshead Bay, post-Sandy. Source: U.S. Coast Guard, via the Office of Response and Restoration

Sheepshead Bay, post-Sandy. Source: U.S. Coast Guard, via the Office of Response and Restoration

New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program invites the community to provide input to the Sheepshead Bay/Gerritsen Beach NY Rising Community Reconstruction Plan.

There will be two consecutive meeting dates at different locations, either of which residents are invited to attend:

  • Monday, October 7 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Waterford on the Bay, 2900 Bragg Street
  • Tuesday, October 8 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Public School 277, 2529 Gerritsen Avenue

During the meeting you will:

  • Hear about the program and how it can help your community.
  • Provide input to the community’s vision for the future to increase resilience post-Sandy.
  • Tell the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program what issues you would like addressed in the recovery and mitigation plan.

If you are unable to attend and would like to provide input, visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/nyrcr/community/gerritsen-beach-and-sheepshead-bay and submit your comments via the yellow contact button on the right.

You can also join the conversation using the hashtag #NYRising on Twitter (@NYStormRecovery). Follow the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program on Facebook (NYStormRecovery) or go to www.stormrecovery.ny.gov. For more information, email info@stormrecovery.ny.gov.

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

Allan Tannenbaum, Untitled, 2012. © Allan Tannenbaum. (Courtesy of ICP via the Epoch Times)

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a common theme circulating in the social and political atmosphere has been one of defiance. The message has been to rebuild and redevelop, even in the most vulnerable coastal communities. A report in Mother Jones is arguing that the attitude of continually trying to defy nature is costly, risky and could very well backfire despite billions in planned improvements.

In their analysis, Mother Jones target comments made by prominent political leaders and suggest that “retreating” from the coastline might be a more a realistic option:

Retreat needs to be considered not as a defeatist last-resort, but as proactive strategy needed in some places.

Take New York City, for example, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed 257 initiatives to be pursued over the next 10 years at an estimated $20 billion. He has repeatedly emphasized that the city “will not retreat from the waterfront.” But it will be hard to stand by this categorical commitment as sea levels continue to rise.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a $400 million home-buyout program, of which a meager $170 million has been HUD-approved. Only homes with damage more than 50 percent of their value are eligible. The Oak Beach community in Staten Island has applied as a pilot program for a community-based buyout, but hasn’t yet been approved. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is encouraging rapid rebuilding while also proposing a limited buyout program. But with no funding set aside for it, he has made clear he prefers to rebuild rather than retreat.

The report lays out the case that rising flood insurance premiums coupled with expensive new building regulations laid out by FEMA create unfavorable options for homeowners trying to live in coastal communities. Previously, we had reported on the new flood lines drawn by FEMA that will drastically increase costs for homeowners in vulnerable areas. For example, if you have a $250,000 home with a ground floor four feet below sea level, and cannot meet FEMA’s new building regulations, you may have to pay $9,500 a year in flood insurance. By comparison, a home hoisted three feet above the flood line will only have to pay $427 a year, but the cost of doing so will be expensive.

It is because of these reasons that the Mother Jones report is advocating other options like buyouts, curtailing development and fixing the infrastructure:

These options should include support for buyouts in mid-Atlantic communities, at least for coastal and estuary locations that are either at elevations of ten feet or less above the local mean higher high tide or 5 feet above the latest mapped FEMA 1 percent per year base flood elevations, whichever is higher. Once buyouts at these elevations are secured, they should progress to higher elevations.

Disallow new residential development in those low-lying elevations unless it is flood-adapted (safely moored and floatable or substantially raised with raised or floodable utility connections). With urgency, local building codes need to be re-written to take this into account, since those specifications don’t yet exist.

Know that flood-protective structures—sea gates, levees, or walls—have limits. To start, sea levels will inevitably surpass their finite design heights. But before that ever happens, they introduce their own collateral hazards. A barrier system meant to protect an estuary or river with considerable discharge could flood communities behind the protective systems.

Develop a set of land-use priorities. Infrastructure, including transportation networks, sewage treatment plants, solid waste facilities, energy supply and distribution systems, utilities, and public health facilities demand the highest priorities for adaptation, whether by protectionaccommodation (some utility distribution systems could be made submergible; other system elements could be raised or made floatable); or by retreat to higher ground. In any case, for this essential infrastructure, higher flood standards need to be considered (such as the 0.2%/year flood elevations), and margins for sea level rise must be added that are in a time horizon commensurate with the expected lifetime of the facility itself. New rights of way will need to be relocated from low-lying areas to higher elevations.

The report even goes as far to suggest creating alternatives to subway systems, which they believe are too vulnerable to constant predicted future flooding, calling for an overhaul of the century old rail system.

Interesting stuff. Whether or not you accept the recommendations in this report, the critical point is that the city is at a crossroads with billions of federal dollars to spend on potential solutions. It is up to our political leaders, engineers and city planners to make sure that they are covering every angle of the recovery process and make decisions that mitigate the full impact of future natural disasters.

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