2013-12-13 / Front Page


By Kevin Boyle

When? That is the question. (Just don’t hold us to it). A graduate level researcher stopped by The Wave to gather information for a study. She said she had done work in New Orleans after Katrina and that it was her experience that government money and action didn’t really kick in until the two year mark. If her analysis holds true, Rockaway is still a ways off from seeing real spending.

Of course, some spending is already occurring. Administrators, staffers, consultants and planners are getting their share. New York City received $1.77 billion in CDBG money. One tenth, a hefty $177 million, is going to administration and planning and consulting. Another $111 million is being spent by New York State for these services.

Elsewhere, money is just starting to flow. As part of the City’s $1.7 billion, $648 million was set aside for housing recovery. The program, Build It Back, has started releasing some of these funds. Of the $648 million, however, just $306 million is for 1-4 family homes. Multi-family and public housing are in line for $333 million and $9 million is for rental assistance.

There are 26,000 registrants for Build It Back. It is very likely that all $306 million will be used on Priority 1 cases. Priority 1 money will first go to households with less than 80 percent of Area Median Income and for homes that were severely damaged or destroyed. Construction on some Priority 1 houses is expected to begin in early to mid-2014.

It is still unclear if Priority 2 (repairs) and Priority 3 (reimbursements) will be paid at all. The City recently received what is called its second tranche of Sandy relief money, another $1.3 billion. This money has not yet been divvied up so it is unclear how much each seg- ment – housing, businesses, resilience, and administration and planning – will get. As part of the CDBG rules, it is necessary to have a public comment period before allocating any of the new funds. With just two weeks to go in the Bloomberg administration, it is likely that Tranche 2 money and its rollout will be administered by the incoming de Blasio team. As of now, the only date that is certain is de Blasio’s swearing in, January 1, 2014.

On the beachside, questions that start with when are no less clear. The boardwalk will have new pilings but the actual start date is still being worked on. It is expected that the first part of construction, connecting Beach 86th Street to Beach 97th Street, will begin in early spring.

The completion of the boardwalk is even more of a guess. A Parks official said “four years” at a recent Community Board committee meeting but other Parks and City officials said no such timeline was in place. It is possible, according to Greg Clancy of the EDC (the agency overseeing the boardwalk rebuild), that using new pilings instead of building upon the existing ones, will speed the construction.

Other beachfront projects with fuzzy timelines involve the Army Corps of Engineers. A lot more sand is coming to Rockaway beaches. It was supposed to immediately follow the first round of replenishment which occurred this summer and concluded in September. The contractor on the job pulled its pipes to go work on another job though he has promised to come back with a bigger pipe in January. As of today, the sand pumping is scheduled to begin next month and continue through the winter and spring with the goal of a Memorial Day finish.

In February, while sand is being poured onto the beaches, the Army Corps is expected to reveal preliminary plans for Phase 1 of its Reformulation Study. The Reformulation Study (which has two phases) is the big plan for the peninsula and Jamaica Bay. Under consideration are jetties and t-groins, rock revetments, fortified dunes, seawalls, and even massive gates that could conceivably be built from the tip of Breezy Point to Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn or at the Marine Parkway Bridge. Phase 1 plans are a bit more modest and cover the ocean side only with an emphasis from Beach 9th to Beach 149th Street. West of Beach 149th Street includes National Park Service property and the Breezy Point co-op. As of now, these entities are making independent decisions about beach protection.

As of today, Phase 1 of the Reformulation Study is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. Phase 2 would be concluded approximately a year later. If this timeline holds, bids would go out in 2016 and some of the protective measures would take shape that same year.

Other projects are moving along, though none offer hard deadlines. The Game Changer, an $18 million dollar competition to spur economic growth in Rockaway, is expected to wrap up soon, possibly in the next couple of weeks. It remains to be seen if the $18 million is awarded to one contestant or split among a number of projects.

New York State is also offering some money to the peninsula and Broad Channel. With its New York Community Rising Reconstruction program, the State will be pouring in more than $60 million dollars to make Rockaway “better and stronger.” Breezy Point, Rockaway West (west of Beach 74th Street), Rockaway East, and Broad Channel are the four zones working on short and long term projects. Committees have been established in each zone and are expected to have plans and proposals submitted to the State by March 31st, 2014. The State, however, has not offered a timeline for when proposals would be funded. For that matter, the proposals are just that: proposals. The proposals are advisory and the State is not required to implement them.

Another “when” hanging over Rockaway is the adoption of flood maps by New York City. There will be a 90 day comment and appeals period occurring in the spring (date to be announced). Once appeals are resolved – how long this takes is uncertain – FEMA issues a Letter of Final Determination which initiates an adoption period before the maps become effective. The expected timeframe is somewhere in 2015. (This, coincidentally, is around the same time the Army Corps is expected to have completed Phase 1 of the Reformulation Study. The implementation of the study recommendations could affect mapping and insurance rates.)

As for Biggert-Waters and looming flood insurance hikes, the when is uncertain here as well. There are ongoing efforts in Congress to delay the bill. In theory, each time an effort is turned back another piece of legislation can be offered up. One key element of the law – the mandated affordability study – is set to get underway in January. The expected duration of the study is 18 months. It so happens, the results of the affordability study will be revealed around the same time New York City is considering adopting FEMA’s new flood maps.

So, mark your calendars, just use a pencil with an eraser.

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