I was speaking to some neighbors in our community at a beach party. They are part of a group that calls themselves "the burn outs.” They all had their homes in Belle Harbor burn down during Superstorm Sandy. They are all determined to rebuild! In fact several of their homes are currently being constructed. They share information with each other and do their best to navigate city requirements so they can successfully reconstruct their homes.
In the course of our conversation two issues came up that struck me as unreasonable and insensitive.
I was told that as a result of building a new home they are required by the Buildings Department to pay the city a $1,800 fee for two trees. One tree is to be planted curbside by their new home and the other someplace else in the city. They would be responsible for the tree planted elsewhere in the city for a one year period.
Now I do not disagree with the Building Department’s requirement for those building a new home. Considering the mitigating circumstances related to the devastation Super Storm Sandy dealt to our community these homes should be granted an exception. The $1,800 fee should be waived!
Think about it, the city is replacing dead trees curbside by homes at no cost to homeowners in the community while those individuals that experienced the loss of their homes are asked to pay for a replacement tree. That just doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
The second issue brought up is a real Catch 22! When their homes burned down to the ground the city waived any permit requirement for tearing down their homes, a reasonable thing to do under the circumstances. Considering all the homes burned to the ground there wasn't very much demolition required. Sandy took care of that.
Now when the homeowners go to the Buildings Department to file plans and get a permit to build their homes, they are told they need to have their demolition permit on file before a construction permit can be issued. It seems to fall on deaf ears at the Buildings Department that the mayor waived that demolition permit requirement. See what I mean about a Catch 22!
Even with these issues and others, the “burn outs” continue to demonstrate their "Rockaway True Grit” determination to carry on and build back Rockaway better than before!!!
As we approach the first anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, the Buildings Department needs to assist individuals rebuilding as a result of the storm. They should be given special consideration by eliminating certain fees and "Catch 22" requirements. If only the city would listen and be more reasonable these issues could be better resolved. Hank Iori is the President of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association.