BY RODNEY D. GANTT
Local and state officials recently announced that city agencies will receive nearly $47 million in federal funding as reimbursement for their efforts to rebuild beaches and other areas in the Rockaways devastated by Superstorm Sandy.
The funding provided by FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Program, a grant program that provides aid to states and local areas in the aftermath of major disasters, is used to “reduce the loss of life and property due to natural disasters and to enable mitigation measures to be implemented during the immediate recovery from a disaster,” according to a spokesperson from Sen. Charles Schumer’s office. The funding will go to New York’s Office of Management and Budget on behalf of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Schumer worked together with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio to procure the reimbursement.
“This federal funding will help make sure local taxpayers are not entirely on the hook for the repairs made to Rockaway beaches after Superstorm Sandy,” said Schumer.
The money originally provided by the city was used for repairs to three public-service buildings including a restroom and concession stands along the boardwalk. Repairs were also made to four boardwalks known as “entry islands” in an effort to be ready for would-be beachgoers.
“Rockaway is home to some of the best beaches in New York City, and when Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the community, New York City worked hard to make sure public-access areas and damaged facilities were repaired in time for the summer season,” said Schumer.
“Thanks to a partnership between city, state and federal agencies, millions of New Yorkers had access to Rockaway Beach merely months after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” said New York City Parks commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, who called the funding “tremendous progress.” He added, “This funding will enable us to continue our efforts to protect the Rockaway peninsula.”
Gillibrand said she is pleased the city will receive the “critical” funding to help cover the cost of the repairs.
“This FEMA funding will help provide much-needed resources on the ground as recovery efforts continue,” said Gillibrand. “I will continue to fight for funding so we can rebuild even stronger and be ready for when the next storm hits.”
Like Gillibrand, De Blasio and other officials said the funding will help improve the city’s preventative measures in the event of future storms.
“This federal funding is crucial to strengthening our resilience measures and ensuring that the Rockaways remain safe and enjoyable for all New Yorkers,” said De Blasio.
He thanked FEMA as well as Schumer and Gillibrand for supporting the city’s efforts to prepare for “21st-century threats” like Sandy.
“Four years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated the Rockaways and other parts of the city, highlighting a growing vulnerability across our coastline to storms and the growing impacts of climate change,” said Daniel Zarrilli, senior director for Climate Policy and Programs and chief resilience officer in the NYC Mayor’s Office. “Today’s announcement marks another step in our recovery as we work to ensure the Rockaways and neighborhoods across the city are ready to withstand and emerge stronger from climate impacts.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (D-Ozone Park) has been a staunch critic of how New York officials have handled Sandy relief efforts. Ulrich, whose council district consists of some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in New York City like Howard Beach and the Rockaways, has repeatedly pointed out the tardiness of relief efforts and the inability of the city to help out his constituents.
Trone Dowd contributed to this article.