Launching his “New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program” with a conference packed with hundreds of people representing neighborhoods across the city – and state – in Albany last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged community members to think long and hard about how to best implement $750 million in federal funding for storm reconstruction. As part of the program, Howard Beach could receive more than $18.4 million in federal aid.
Leaders from throughout South Queens attended the conference last Thursday, including Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway), Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton, and Frances Scarantino, president of the Rotary Club of South West Queens.
“The New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program will empower localities to develop and implement recovery plans after the damage done by the devastating natural disasters to hit our state over the past two years,” Cuomo said at the conference, which was telecast. “This program recognizes that New York’s effort to build back better must be a two-pronged approach, with the state not only leading critical infrastructure and broad investment strategies but also providing localities the resources they need to invest in their own future. When we are done, we will have risen to the challenge of making our great state not only more resistant to future storms, but stronger, more prosperous and more prepared for years to come.”
Cuomo was joined at the event by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, who chairs the federal Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force.
Donovan too praised the program, which could secure up to $16.5 million in aid for Breezy Point, $10.4 million for Belle Harbor, $16.7 million for Rockaway, and $5.5 million for Far Rockaway. The HUD secretary said the program will allow communities the chance to “develop bold plans that will make New York stronger, more economically competitive and better able to withstand future storms.”
The program will assist 102 communities that have been severely damaged in storms to craft rebuilding plans. Each plan will be developed by regional planning committees of civic leaders, experts and officials. Grant amounts will be based on FEMA assessed damage levels, as well as applications for new infrastructure and other mitigation, and will be awarded once the community’s plan is complete and submitted to the state for approval.
At last week’s conference, experts from around the nation discussed such topics as economic development, resiliency, urban sustainability, and environmental impact in order to help residents begin their own process of drafting a plan. Engineers were on site as well and touched on strategies, solutions and lessons from past disaster recovery efforts.
Alongside Queens, other areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy that are eligible for funding as part of this program are Staten Island and lower Manhattan, both of which could land as much as $25 million.
Thursday’s gathering comes Sandy and tropical storms Irene and Lee devastated much of New York, with the natural disasters touching nearly two-thirds of the state.
By Anna Gustafson