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Archive for the tag 'hurricane sandy'

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The following was sent to us from our friends at the Gravesend and Bensonhurst NY Rising Community Reconstruction Committee:

Community residents and business owners in the Gravesend and Bensonhurst neighborhoods of Brooklyn are encouraged to attend a Public Workshop on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 to learn about the State-sponsored New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program. Attendees are invited to discuss the program with NY Rising Committee members and the project team, and provide input on how the community can be better prepared for future storm events. The communities of Gravesend and Bensonhurst are eligible for up to $3 million in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) assistance through the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement resiliency projects.

When: Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Where: Block Academy, 133 27th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY

Who: Gravesend and Bensonhurst Planning Committee, NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program

Contact: Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, (212) 480-2321, info@stormrecovery.ny.gov

The New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program is one of several Storm Recovery Initiatives and was established to provide additional rebuilding and revitalization assistance to Communities severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. The State has established the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program to facilitate community redevelopment and resiliency planning. For additional information, please visit http://stormrecovery.ny.gov/community-reconstruction-program.

Just a BJ’s stock photo… (Source: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr)

Just a BJ’s stock photo… (Source: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr)

The new BJ’s Wholesale Club in Bensonhurst will open its doors to shoppers for the first time this Saturday, September 13, Bensonhurst Bean has learned.

The big box retailer’s latest location at 1752 Shore Parkway, near Ceasar’s Bay, will be open for business beginning at 9am, but the grand opening celebrations are not slated until a week later, on Saturday, September 20. A representative for the company said they’ll be partying that day with “lots of food” in the form of sample carts, as well as other festivities and a ribbon cutting with local elected officials.

BJ’s was originally slated to open July 12. Construction delays, however, pushed it back to the September date.

The retailer will occupy the ground floor of a 200,000-square-foot space at 1752 Shore Parkway known as the Bay Center. The center will be two stories tall with commercial units above the BJs. The project is being developed by Thor Equities.

Construction kicked off in December 2012.

BJ’s will be open 9am to 10pm, Monday to Saturday, and 9am to 8pm on Sundays.

Flyer for Gravesend & Bensonhurst Public Engagement Meeting #1

In an expansion of the state New York Rising initiative to improve resiliency in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, a new committee has been created to strengthen Bensonhurst and Gravesend, with the first meeting scheduled for this Sunday.

New York Rising aims to recruit locals for identifying key community assets and gather their thoughts on the best way to protect them from future disasters.

The workshop this weekend focuses on evaluating the damage from Sandy, gathering feedback and proposals, and creating a vision for the community moving forward. Backed with $3 million from the state and federal governments earmarked specifically for our neighborhood, contracted consultants then use the feedback to draw up several proposals. The ideas are presented to the community for feedback.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m., at Bensonhurst Park on Bay Parkway.

To learn more about New York Rising, go here. For a comprehensive rundown of the effects of Sandy on the community and key assets the committee is already looking into, check out this presentation.

Just a BJ’s stock photo… (Source: Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr)

The opening date for the BJ’s Wholesale Club at 1752 Shore Parkway has been pushed back due to construction delays, Bensonhurst Bean has learned.

(UPDATE: When will Bensonhurst’s BJ’s open? September 13!)

The Bensonhurst location, near Ceasar’s Bay, was slated to open July 12. But a representative for the company informed Bensonhurst Bean yesterday that they’re still putting the finishing touches on the location, and will be opening doors on an unspecified date in September.

The big box store will occupy the ground floor of a 200,000-square-foot space at 1752 Shore Parkway that will be known as the Bay Center. The center will be two stories tall with commercial units above the BJs. The project is being developed by Thor Equities and is expected to be completed sometime in 2014.

Construction kicked off in December 2012.

bjs

(UPDATE: When will Bensonhurst’s BJ’s open? September 13!)

UPDATE (July 15, 2015): Due to construction delays, the opening has been pushed back to September.

Original post.

Tipster Alina Tsui sent us the above photo of a flier, announcing that the new BJ’s Wholesale Club will open doors on July 12.

As we’ve previously reported, the megastore will occupy the ground floor of a 200,000-square-foot space at 1752 Shore Parkway that will be known as the Bay Center. The center will be two stories tall with commercial units above the BJs. The project is being developed by Thor Equities and is expected to be completed sometime in 2014. The time table for construction was sped up to spur jobs in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Construction kicked off in December 2012, and appeared to be coming along by July 2013.

BJ’s is expected to bring 250 jobs to the area, but critics have also expressed concern that it will siphon away business from the neighborhood’s existing commercial corridors.

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.

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.

American National Red Cross building (Source: Wikipedia)

American National Red Cross building (Source: Wikipedia)

The Red Cross, like many prominent charity organizations, promised aid and relief to scores of victims following the events of Superstorm Sandy. Aljazeera America is reporting that the organization has since informed many victims initially told they would receive help that they are now ineligible to access resources because of policy changes instituted by upper management operators.

After Sandy struck last year, the Red Cross raised $308 million for the relief effort, creating their Move-In Assistance Program in the process. The money raised was the highest gathered by any charity organization. The program promised storm victims that their belongings lost in the storm would be replaced and that they would be given $10,000 to find a new place to live. While the Red Cross is claiming that their program has helped nearly 3,000 victims, hundreds have been denied help due to eligibility requirements that were changed following promises made.

Aljazeera America relayed the story of Rosaline Fernandez, a storm victim who was promised help but ultimately never received it:

Rosaline Fernandez and her three children live in a tiny apartment. It’s all the high school Spanish teacher could find – or afford – after Superstorm Sandy ravaged her Jamaica Bay home on Long Island, N.Y., a year ago. The bay water met the ocean water, soon destroying her car, the furniture inside her home, her kids’ clothes and all the food.

“The first floor was completely washed out,” Fernandez told America Tonight. “There was mold. There was water. There [were] funky smells.”

Months of living in a hotel came and went before Fernandez heard that the Red Cross could help her out. She said she spoke to a caseworker who told her about the Move-In Assistance Program, a program that has helped nearly 3,000 households, according to the Red Cross. She said that the caseworker explained how Fernandez would be eligible for money to move into a new place and that all of her household items would be replaced. The Red Cross told Fernandez that she was eligible for $10,000. Once she found a new home, all she had to do was submit a W-9 tax form and the application, and she’d be set. Months later – and now more than a year after Sandy – she has not received her Red Cross aid…

“There are hundreds of people across New York that all have the same story, that were all told they would be assisted or they’re eligible for assistance, and did homework for the Red Cross,” said Ben Smilowitz, founder of the Disaster Accountability Project, a nonprofit aiming to improve transparency in relief organizations. Smilowitz, a former Red Cross volunteer during Hurricane Katrina, said that many people affected by Sandy “jumped through hoops, took days off work to collect information, and then only to find out that they weren’t eligible in the first place.”

As Smilowitz indicated, Fernandez was not alone in her struggle, as hundreds of other victims have been left in the cold by a change in Red Cross policy. What that change was exactly, and why it was instituted remains a mystery, but according to the report, many Red Cross employees, trying to help struggling families, were left outraged and dismayed by the upper management’s decision to do so:

The Red Cross worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said that, in general, he believed that the humanitarian organization attempts to be a good steward of donors’ dollars.

“However, the decision that was implemented on May 6 didn’t seem to have anything to do with that,” the worker told America Tonight. “There were clients who had received a commitment from the Red Cross for money to assist them in recovering from the storm, but then were deemed ineligible. That’s not assisting clients. That’s not directing the donor dollar where it should be. That’s lying to the victims of the storm and survivors of the storm.”

The Red Cross insists that the program criteria has been consistent since February, but that’s not what Red Cross workers say. America Tonight spoke to several former workers and one who still works there. They told MacVicar that after May 6, there was so much confusion about the program that they were ordered to not speak to their clients. Some Red Cross workers were so upset about telling clients they were no longer eligible for assistance that they quit their jobs. None of the current or former Red Cross employees who spoke to America Tonight could say for sure why the change was made, knowing only that it came from upper management.

For its part, the Red Cross has promised Congressional staff members that they would review their policies and attempt to honor any promises made that they have since rescinded.

“If clients believe they were promised assistance by a Red Cross caseworker and our documentation supports this, we will honor their request, even if they do not fully meet program criteria,” a spokesperson for the Red Cross told Aljazeera America.

Time will tell if the Red Cross comes through on their promise.

Have you or anyone you know been given assistance by the Red Cross following Sandy. Did they make you a promise but later deem you ineligible for funds? Lets us know.

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.

Source: nycedc.com

Future plans for Coney Island Creek. (Source: nycedc.com)

As Mayor Michael Bloomberg exits the stage, he is hoping a big part of his legacy will include the successful follow through on a $20 billion “resiliency” plan that would seek to protect the city’s coastlines from rising sea levels and future storms. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) laid out one such plan that involves both beautifying and fortifying Coney Island Creek, through a plan that would unite Coney Island’s Kaiser Park with Bath Beach’s Calvert Vaux Park.

During the events of Superstorm Sandy, Coney Island Creek got hammered, suffering massive flooding and heavy damage. The NYCEDC described the damaged sustained to the area by the storm, the strategy to protect the area and how the proposals would improve the surrounding community:

During Hurricane Sandy, Coney Island Creek was the main source of inundation for much of the Gravesend and Coney Island neighborhoods.  Low edges and topography contributed to “backdoor” flooding that caused enormous damage.  Building off recommendations from the Mayor’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) released in June 2013, a key recommendation was a detailed feasibility study of integrated hydrological management strategies.

These strategies would prevent and mitigate upland flooding in adjacent areas while improving waterfront open space, strengthening connections between neighborhoods, and establishing principles for sound development around the Creek. This assessment would consider technical feasibility, cost, phasing, environmental considerations, and other important issues that will inform implementation.

The city’s website broke down the specifics of these plans even further as well as what the project needs going forward to become a reality:

The proposal for Coney Creek includes:

  • Coastal Protection: The installation of a new levee and tidal barrier system at the mouth of the creek to manage the flow of water during a similar future coastal storm. As a first phase, the City intends to install shoreline protection along the creek’s lowest lying edges to provide interim protection in advance of a larger investment.
  • Stormwater Management: By incorporating operational controls to the City’s stormwater management system, this system would allow the creek to absorb stormwater runoff and improve drainage to protect adjacent neighborhoods and infrastructure during coastal storms or extreme precipitation events.
  • Parks: By combining Calvert Vaux and Kaiser parks around a renewed and restored wetland and lake complex, this system can bring together two neighborhoods historically separated by Coney Island Creek and achieve better waterfront access and a new destination park in Southern Brooklyn.

Next steps: A portion of the City’s Community Development Block Grant funding has been allocated for the planning of this project. An RFP is currently being developed for a team to develop the concept further and provide critical information about technical, environmental and planning issues as well as costs.

The whole concept sounds fantastic and expensive but no one said storm proofing the New York City coastline was going to be easy or cheap. I suppose forking over a lot now might prevent being forced to pay a ton later when the city is engulfed by ocean waters.

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