Official Point of View

The Calm after the Superstorm

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Councilman Donovan Richards (at podium), speaks at Wednesday’s Rockaway Sandy Recovery Opportunity and Resource Fair.

Councilman Donovan Richards (at podium), speaks at Wednesday’s Rockaway Sandy Recovery Opportunity and Resource Fair.

Two years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine that our community could ever experience the level of upheaval caused by Super Storm Sandy. Neighborhoods along the entire Rockaway Peninsula struggled to make sense of the devastation and worked diligently to piece together the remaining fragments of their lives.

Despite the passage of two years, the distress experienced by so many families continues to linger to this day. Citywide, much has transpired in the effort to rebuild homes, restore communities and return to a sense of normalcy, but much work remains. In spite of the initial challenges posed by the storm, Sandy provided an opportunity to reconstruct the Rockaways, retain its unique character, and keep climate change and resiliency in mind.

Whether we speak of improving the structural integrity of buildings or transitioning to renewable sources of energy, we must keep in mind that resiliency does not mean any one particular fix or solution. Resiliency must also include addressing longstanding issues. Many public housing complexes that were in desperate need of repair and resources well before Sandy are beginning to receive the institutional support needed to improve the quality of life for residents. The bayside of the peninsula experienced extensive damage, particularly the bulkheads which were installed protect an eroding shoreline. After Sandy, the bulkheads were left in severe disrepair and currently offer little to no protection.

After fielding numerous complaints from those along the bay, I have reached out to related city agencies and to the Army Corps of Engineers to not only rebuild the seawalls, but to also provide in the interim temporary measures for the current hurricane season until a permanent solution can be formulated.

The recovery process for coastal communities also includes engaging all stakeholders- from the single parent living in the neighborhood to the agency heads, as we tackle these varied issues. Under the current mayoral administration, some progress has been made to serve and accommodate victims. The increased responsiveness of government agencies is also important to reestablish trust and keep them accountable to the public.

Looking to a carbon emissions free future,

Mayor de Blasio announced the installation of solar panels on city-owned buildings as part of his administration’s green buildings initiative. I also partnered earlier this week with his office, New York City Housing Authority, the Department of Environmental of Protection, Housing Recovery Operations, Small Business Services and other agencies to bring further support to this community via a resource fair.

In a district known for disparities in health, employment, transportation and other areas, I know that sustainability must also meet basic needs and reduce inequities. Local hiring, applicable skills training, and community development must be part of the equation.

To mark the two year anniversary of Sandy, I am partnering with Councilmember Eric Ulrich to provide residents with a comprehensive update of the recovery while providing community members with a forum to voice their concerns on our recovery.

Super Storm Sandy altered not only the physical landscape, but also personally touched the lives of those living on the peninsula. Regardless of the ongoing challenges, we must grasp the opportunity to improve our beachfront community. I look forward to the task and challenge others to join me in creating a stronger and greater Rockaway for future generations.

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