2013-02-08 / Top Stories

Locals Raise Concerns At Sandy Town Hall

By Miriam Rosenberg

It was a full house at the Knights of Columbus on January 31. (Photo by Miriam Rosenberg) It was a full house at the Knights of Columbus on January 31. (Photo by Miriam Rosenberg) It was standing room only at the Knights of Columbus Hall last week as elected representatives from the city and state attended a Sandy Recovery Town Hall Meeting hosted by State Senator Malcolm Smith. Close to 200 people jammed the hall on January 31st for the second of six meetings to get information, exchange ideas about how federal money should be spent, and to alert officials about challenges still faced by residents in the aftermath of Sandy.

“It will be very important what we talk about here tonight,” said Smith, a co-chair of the Bipartisan Senate Task Force Hurricane Sandy. “We in government agree we don’t corner the market on intelligence and we don’t have the indigenous information that you may have after Sandy and you would know better how that money should be spent.”

The task force is considering a number of ways in which monies will be distributed. Among those would be the reimbursement of services rendered by first responders, help for those who need assistance in rebuilding their homes, help for businesses and, another category Smith told residents “will be up to you.” The final amount is not yet known, but he said “it will be a substantial amount.”

The questions and concerns during the more than two hour meeting were many: questions about difficulties concerning insurance, who will administer the money to the community from the state and the city, concern about temporary barriers to keep additional water from coming into homes, mold awareness, concern over whether public officials are doing what they should be doing, youth involvement, concern about areas with no lights, property taxes, status of area hospitals, beaches, worries about safety of drinking water, and jobs. A recurring concern was about the need to protect people and homes against the next big storm.

Debra from Beach 69th Street said Arverne has only gotten worse. “There are no bulkheads there,” she said. Ann Wolf from Beach 109 Street added “There is no protection from the ocean.” Eddy Pastore, of the Friends of Rockaway Beach added that the “situation is so vulnerable for so long …People are fed up with delays and lack of response…. Something needs to be done.”

Many complained that the response by the city to Rockaway was almost non-existent after the storm hit.

“There was little presence of city officials,” said one resident.

Senator James Sanders Jr. assured NYCHA residents they would not be forgotten.

“I have spoken with the governor and NYCHA will get a portion of the money,” said Sanders.

Councilman Peter Vallone also said that he had put in a resolution to insure that houses of worship receive funding for their recovery.

According to Tai White, spokesperson for Smith, as of Tuesday, some work has already begun on some of the concerns brought up at the Town Hall meeting.

This is the second of six Sandy recovery meetings that Smith will be holding. A location for the next meeting, scheduled for the end of this month, is still being worked out. The plan is to move the location of the meetings each month so that everyone on the peninsula can be involved.

While a final report from The Bipartisan Senate Task Force will be released in a few weeks, the preliminary findings were made public on Monday.

“It is my belief and my hope that within the same week [of the release] you will see a broad announcement from the state as to the amount of money that is coming to the state and some of the broad categories of how they’re looking to spend it,” said Smith.

Among those attending Senator James Sanders Jr., Councilmen Peter Vallone and Reps from Ulrich, Goldfeder, Marshall, Addabbo, Councilmen Leroy Comrie (Deputy Majority Leader) and Peter Vallone Public Safety Committee Chair), Community Board 14 Chair Delores Orr, and RDRC executive director Kevin Alexander.

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