BY TRONE DOWD
The 1,500 residents of the Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway were thrilled to hear that more than 17 new improvement projects‑‑‑‑for which they have been waiting for a decade‑‑‑‑are coming to the NYCHA development as part of the city’s Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
“Almost five years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated this community,” Joy Sinderbrand, NYCHA’s vice president for recovery and resiliency said. “Despite having the worst natural disaster to ever impact housing, NYCHA workers, residents and community members banded together to get through that event and build back stronger.”
The $123 million investment, which began construction last week, will include funding for new roofs, elevated electrical infrastructure, boilers and generators designed to withstand high winds and torrential rain, and state-of-the-art barriers to keep flood water out of buildings in the development. In addition to the safety measures, a number of new energy-efficient buildings will be added to Redfern to house amenities and services for residents—including a community center and daycare center. Lastly, the funding will add three new playgrounds, CCTV cameras, wired access security doors and new lighting throughout the development, the last three of which will help to improve security.
“These projects will make sure that the developments here are safe, cle n, comfortable and resilient for generations to come,” Sinderbrand said. “We need to make sure that our building can withstand another storm like Sandy.”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) recalled seeing the issues at Redfern and horror that residents continued to face months after the storm ravaged the neighborhood.
“Glenn [Collins, president of the Redfern Tenants Association] greeted us and said, ‘Look at the issues we’re enduring,’” Richards said. “The temporary boilers, people not having consistent heat and hot water on a regular basis.
This really impacted the quality of life for our families, our children and our seniors.”
Collins told the PRESS of Southeast Queens that the process of advocating for upgrades has enabled the residents to take advantage of job opportunities that come with projects of this size and given them the ability to voice the needs of the community. One of those residents—Joshua Brown—said that he became a member of NYCHA’s Sandy Recovery Outreach Team in September 2014 after attending a NYCHA meeting held at the development.
“They gave a presentation of what they wanted to do to our community,” he told the PRESS of Southeast Queens. “I spoke to the director of community outreach at the time and let her know I was a resident.”
Brown said that he was hired on the spot.
“A lot of that goes to Glenn Collins because he’s the one who told me about that meeting in 2014,” he said. “I’ve been on board ever since.”
Collins said that he has been proud to see residents bounce back.
“We wanted this before Sandy, but Sandy made it happen for us,” he said. “And we are very grateful for this.”
Collins said that the increased security and financial attention from the city is particularly helpful, since the development has had public safety issues in the past.
“We’ll hopefully have safer streets with more of our community coming out to these playgrounds,” he said. “Before, we didn’t really have an opportunity to bring our kids outside to the playgrounds we had. Not just due to Sandy. We have to take care of this stuff once it’s fixed. We need this. This is what we waited for. This is what we wanted.”
Richards said that projects such as this one would go a long way to ensure that the issues affecting working class communities of color—such as the Rockaways—are addressed.
“After all the dark days, even pre-Sandy, with a lot of the issues that they’ve endured here, we now have an opportunity to address those issues.” Richards said. “You cannot address climate change without addressing inequality. For us to now be evening the score, it is going to ensure that in the long term, if another storm comes, we will be prepared.”