2013-10-25 / Columnists

From The Councilman’s Desk

When Sandy Met Lily
Commentary By Councilman Eric Ulrich

ERIC ULRICH ERIC ULRICH The massive relief effort launched to help people affected by Hurricane Sandy was extraordinary. Despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of my district was devastated by the storm, a majority of residents have made a remarkable recovery. Many homes and businesses have been renovated and Rockaway is in some ways looking better than ever. From Breezy Point to Belle Harbor and Rockaway Beach to Broad Channel, the people I represent have experienced physical, financial and emotional pain beyond compare. And despite all of the progress that has been made over the past year, there is still so much work to do before life gets back to “normal.” One year after the storm, many residents still face the threat of the dreaded ‘unknown’. Will flood insurance premiums skyrocket? Will property values remain stable? Will Build it Back cover the cost of badly needed repairs? Will flood mitigation and storm protection measures be in place before the next storm? For many, these questions loom large over the decision to stay or pack up and leave. Thankfully, most are staying. This is perhaps the greatest sign of triumph over the storm. Phase two of the recovery effort is well underway and has done an excellent job of providing for the long-term needs generated by the storm including: housing assistance, legal counseling, job-training and more. New York City has also found creative ways to invest some of the federal disaster aid that was appropriated by Congress earlier this year. The Game Changer competition for instance, funded by Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), promises to address a wide range of needs on and off the Peninsula. The fact that not one neighborhood on the peninsula has opted in to Governor Cuomo’s proposal to essentially buy out homes in coastal communities is also a sure sign of Rockaway’s resurgence.

In these uncertain times, it is both helpful and reassuring to know that no storm will ever break the spirit of a true New Yorker.

The past year will be remembered not so much for the lives that were shattered or the homes that were destroyed but rather for the strong sense of community that brought us closer together. It is in times such as these that we realize we need others and others need us. Now more than ever, Rockaway’s road to recovery is dependent on the willingness of people to remain steadfast in their love and loyalty to this place we call home.

On a very personal note, my daughter Lily will turn one this Halloween. She was born amidst a sea of ruin, only two days after the storm. And yet, like the beautiful flower that blooms from the dirt and rises from the ashes, she brought light to my life and great joy to the hearts of many. She continues to brighten up my days and is my reason for believing that even a hurricane can never keep you down.

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