Much ado about the money.
An area city councilman this week called on the comptroller to conduct a comprehensive audit of all Federal Emergency Management Agency allocations to the city Department of Parks and Recreation toward the rebuilding of the Rockaway Boardwalk and related park amenities in Rockaway Beach.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Park) is urging Comptroller Scott Stringer to investigate how the city intends to spend $480 million in FEMA reimbursement funds it is expected to receive for the reconstruction and rehabilitation. Parks had originally budgeted the project at $274 million.
So now, inquiring minds want to know: To date, how has the money been spent? And, what is the de Blasio administration planning on doing with any extra funds?
“It is imperative that every federal dollar the city receives for rebuilding communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy is spent wisely,” said Ulrich, whose district was hit especially hard by the superstorm two years ago. “That is why I am asking Comptroller Stringer to use his powers as our city’s chief financial watchdog to bring about more accountability and transparency. The Parks Department must come clean and open the books regarding how much money the new boardwalk will actually cost and where this money will come from.”
Ulrich indicated that he will also ask the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency and the Committee on Parks to hold a joint oversight hearing investigating the matter.
“We are going to look at the $480 million. We are going to look at what has come in and what has come out in a number of buckets,” Stringer told NY1 News.
According to published reports, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver has noted that he felt that any additional FEMA funds could spell political trouble down the line. The city has said that if there is some cash left over it would work with the community to determine what projects would get top billing, those same reports indicated.
In an interview with The Beat, Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said that while nothing has been officially confirmed, any excess funding should be spread around CB 14. Gaska also said that though Parks started out on shaky footing with the Rockaway community, “for the most part they have certainly tried to right the wrong.
“We’ve had seventeen to eighteen meetings in the community over the past year,” Gaska continued. “[Parks hasn’t] included everything we’ve asked for, but they have shown a willingness to listen.”
Gaska indicated that most of the frustration with the boardwalk project is focused on excessive duration. He said that many community members have expressed concerns over the 2017 date, and that rebuilding should have been a two-year undertaking.
“It’s three miles of boardwalk, not many places have that,” he noted. “And we’re not just replacing wood. They’re removing old pilings and installing new pilings—they are redoing everything.”
By Michael V. Cusenza and Patricia Adams