2013-09-27 / Top Stories

Broad Channel Bay Outrage Story Questioned

By Dan Guarino

When is a controversy not a controversy?

That is the question people are asking in Broad Channel after an internet news release appeared that stated residents of the island community “are resentful” about funding for Jamaica Bay restoration “particularly as they struggle to access funds to repair their own damage homes.”

The item, which was released by the Thomson Reuters Foundation on their website trust.org, reports that the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge “has become a flashpoint in efforts to restore the area, devastated last year by Superstorm Sandy.”

“As restoration projects at Jamaica Bay get underway, using volunteer help and outside funding, they are stirring feelings of resentment among some local residents,” it went on to say.

Broad Channel community members, however, immediately took issue with the assertions in the article, attributed to unnamed “local residents.”

For many this was the first they had heard about any reported “feelings of resentment” in the tight-knit community.

Others pointed out the item, which was picked up, and in some cases added to, by several online outlets, was released by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters global information provider, and not the well-known Reuters news service itself.

More to the point, they questioned the assertion “they say they have more pressing concerns than restoring the bay and protecting against future storm surges” and that “the convoluted process to access funds feeds confusion and resentment about the bay restoration project...while most community members are looking for compensation for their losses, they see money going instead to the restoration of the bay.”

Commenting directly on the trust.org website, long time community advocate Dan Mundy Jr., noted, “This is a poorly reported story in that it does not cite even one ‘resident’ who supports this opinion.”

Mundy wrote. “As a resident of Broad Channel, the island community in the center of Jamaica Bay and as president of this town's Civic Association I can say that residents understand that these are two totally separate funding sources.”

In fact, funding for the Bay project comes from a $645,000 New York Stated grant announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in April, established to restore 28 acres of grasses on the newly rebuilt islands of Rulers Bar and Black Wall.

Much of the money comes from mitigation funds stemming from a construction project on the Marine Parkway Bridge.

Governor Cuomo stated, “As recommended by my NYS 2100 Commission, green infrastructure projects such as this one should be an integral part of rebuilding and making New York more resilient for the future.”

In contrast, monies for residents to recover and rebuild come from federal sources, notably the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as private insurance claims, and not from New York State. Residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways have been aware of this, applying and working with these agencies within days after the storm.

In addition, homeowners, renters and businesses are also struggling with new FEMA building height regulations and changes to the federally managed National Flood Insurance Program.

Said Mundy, “In addition the overwhelming opinion in this town is that such projects are not only a very positive development for the ecology of the bay but have already produced a significant impact in diminished wave heights from the recently created wetland islands adjacent to town.

“The frustration is focused on the inept agency known as FEMA which has thrown up level after level of bureaucracy in the face of recovering residents.”

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