Over the holiday weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a major initiative for post Sandy improvements in Howard Beach. New York Daily News says that feds approved a $50,000,000 project (funded by federal recovery funds) to “develop sand dunes, salt marshes and other vegetation along a section of the Queens coastline in a bid to keep floodwaters from reaching businesses and homes.” These improvements are slated for a 150-acre tract along Spring Creek and Jamaica Bay. Engineering studies and design work will start up in 2014, and construction is only expected to take a year. When Sandy hit more than one year ago, a total of 3,000 homes in the Howard Beach area suffered serious damage.
This is our final installment of a three part series on Arverne View, a housing complex in the Far Rockaways. When Hurricane Sandy hit, L+M Development Partners was in contract to purchase the complex. They closed when the development, then called Ocean Village, had no power whatsoever. In the year since, the company undertook a massive renovation project that addressed the building problems before Sandy, as well as the many concerns of building resiliency after Sandy hit. In Part One, we detailed the extent of the renovation. In Part Two, we toured just about every corner of the complex, which is still under construction. For Part Three, we talk with three residents who live here now. Belinda Cook, a Rockaways resident for years, came to Arverne View after being displaced from her home by Sandy. That’s the same story for Mirian Herrera, who spent six months in a hotel after being displaced by the storm. Finally, we talked to Lola Vaughn, who has lived in the same apartment at the complex since 1987. Read their stories, after the jump.
Andrew Cuomo announced that LaGuardia Airport will receive about $37,000,000 for five different projects that protect against flooding, CBS reports. Hurricane Sandy flooded the airport with 100 million gallons of seawater, closing it for three days and canceling a total of 3,300 flights. The money will go toward projects like installing flood barrier berms, concrete floodwalls and gravity drains, replacing generators and rehabbing the airport’s power distribution grid. The majority of funding — about $28,000,000 — will come from a disaster mitigation and recovery award from the federal government.
Today the Food Bank for New York is holding the Far Rockaway NY Rising Conference, a neighborhood event that features a wide range of presentations focused on “remembering, recognizing and rising” one year after Hurricane Sandy. Until 4pm at the Community Church of the Nazarene (1414 Central Avenue) local pols, city representatives, Red Cross reps and Food Bank for New York reps will be on hand to discuss the critical role of food preparedness during events like Sandy. Food Bank for New York will also unveil two mobile disaster response centers which it purchased with support from the American Red Cross. The centers will be used to conduct benefits outreach, including SNAP screenings and free tax preparation, in the hardest-hit areas. The units also have built-in satellites and telecommunications capability. The Food Bank will send the mobile units on the road this month.
Then, this evening at 6:30pm, Councilman Donovan Richards is hosting the “Sandy: One Year Later” panel and community discussion at the Queens Library at Far Rockaway. City and community representatives will give brief updates on the work that they have been doing around the Rockaways. That will be followed by a community discussion on the recovery effort. All the event details are here. Also this evening at 7:30pm, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn will hold a commemoration and healing Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea (1920 New Haven Avenue), also in the Far Rockaways. Details on that here.
Today’s news is filled with stories paying tribute to Hurricane Sandy victims one year after the storm, with more than a few of them chronicling the persisting struggles of rebuilding for homeowners. This DNAinfo piece looks at contractor fraud in the Rockaways. According to the story, contractor fraud runs rampant in areas affected by the storm, with licensed contractors giving inflated estimates, taking money and disappearing, or unlicensed contractors simply taking the money and running. According to a lawyer with the New York Legal Assistance Group, “What happens often, instead of best practices where you get three estimates, people were just starting to do emergency repairs and just assuming whatever insurance was paid out, the contractor would take.” Oftentimes that wasn’t the case, with contractors sometimes charging twice as much than what insurance will pay — in one case, a contractor charged a woman thousands of dollars for materials donated from a relief organization. Because of these problems, a high number of storm victims continue to live in uninhabitable or partially repaired homes. In the year after Sandy, the Department of Consumer Affairs received a total of 600 complaints about contractors.
An article at Queens Courier talks about the insurance claims that have also plagued homeowners of damaged properties. Since the storm the number of complaints to the Department of Financial Services spiked, with residents concerned they are not receiving enough insurance money for repairs. The DFS is scheduling site visits with an adjuster from an insurance company to give sites with insurance issues a second look.
Queens Courier reports that Howard Beach residents held their first meeting this week regarding $18,000,000 given to the neighborhood through the state’s NY Rising Community Reconstruction program. The program provides funds to more than 100 communities severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The community ultimately decides where the funds will go. At the meeting, Howard Beach residents expressed a desire for investing in solar panels, having gasoline on hand for generators, building a central storm hub and strengthening churches and high ground shelters. The community will hold three more meetings before submitting a final plan; the next public meeting is scheduled for November 18th at P.S. 207.
DNAinfo reports tworeopenings in the Rockaways, one year after Hurricane Sandy. Madelaine Chocolate Factory, a family-run company in a 200,000-square-foot headquarters one block from Jamaica Bay, celebrated its reopening this Tuesday. Sandy brought four feet of water into the building — every piece of equipment sustained damage and the company lost $8,000,000 in inventory. According to DNAinfo, the business hiatus and building repairs cost the company approximately $50,000,000 in business. Madelaine resumed limited production over the summer and the owners are hoping to resume full operation as soon as possible. Over in Rockaway Park, Curran’s Superior Meats celebrated its reopening at a new location on Beach 116th Street. The reopening was part of a celebration of businesses fixed up through a pilot program sponsored by Citi and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. The family-owned butcher was located in Belle Harbor for 50 years before Hurricane Sandy hit. It officially moved to its new location on Beach 116th Street in June.
Mayoral contenders Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota both visited Queens this weekend, with de Blasio speaking at length about the inequalities in the Far Rockaways both before and after Sandy. The NY Daily News reports that de Blasio said “he’d use federal storm aid to create living-wage jobs for people in storm-hit neighborhoods, and build affordable housing cheap enough for those displaced by the storm to afford.” Lhota, who visited Howard Beach, stressed the need for better infrastructure. According to Newsday, Lhota’s camp accused de Blasio of “blatant political maneuvering” by visiting the neighborhood now and doing little to help residents before running for office. De Blasio, however, does have a record of mobilizing workers after the storm, as well as helping New Yorkers with city, state and federal disaster assistance.
The City Council just passed a resolution asking Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants, reports Queens Courier. Citywide, co-op and condo owners have been denied FEMA grants for property damaged by Hurricane Sandy. The word “co-op” isn’t included in the law, despite no statute banning co-op owners from being eligible for grants. According to the Courier, “Co-op and condos are also categorized as ‘business associations,’ which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.” The measure to amend the law went through Congress in two weeks, and now it’s at a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
The Wave reports that work is starting on a collaborative Sandy memorial sculpture in the Rockaways called “Sea Song.” The 16-foot-tall sculpture, planned for the community garden at Beach 59th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, is inspired by “prayer trees” found around the world. The tree-like structure, built from salvaged material left in Sandy’s wake, will be a place for visitors to leave messages and mementos. It’s a collaborative project started by two individuals with the help of local groups and initiatives. They are now hosting public build sessions at 23-04 Cornaga Avenue every Saturday, weather permitting, from 12 to 6 pm. Participants must be at least 16 years but there will be activities for younger kids. They hope to hold an unveiling ceremony in the garden sometime around the one year anniversary of Sandy.