With the memory of Superstorm Sandy only seven months old, and the work to rebuild and recover from this devastating storm ongoing every day in our ravaged community, it’s no surprise that predictions for a very active 2013 hurricane season, which began June 1 in the United States, are a serious cause for great concern. After what we’ve been through and are continuing to experience here in Queens in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy — with so many residents still not in their homes and still attempting to repair the fabric of their lives — the thought of additional dangerous weather activity is almost inconceivable and most certainly unwelcome.
However, while we can’t control the weather, we can take steps to control our level of preparedness. We’ve learned a lot from Sandy, and I would urge my constituents to think ahead and make sure they have detailed emergency plans in place: from knowing how to contact one another in the case of an emergency; to having adequate supplies of canned goods, medicines, batteries, flashlights and water on hand; to knowing what they can do to help secure their homes and properties to minimize risks during a storm. A great deal of useful hurricane preparedness information may be found at this New York State website: dhses.ny.gov/oem/event/hurricane-safety.cfm.
As the representative of an area that was badly battered by Sandy and a member of the New York State Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy, I have been advocating for adequate funding and needed legislation to help our district address the many serious human, economic and other consequences that resulted from the storm.
As you may remember, President Obama and the U.S. Congress approved an aid package of $61 billion earlier this year to help Sandy victims in the Northeast, including those of us in New York. The aid provided to New York City and New York State is being distributed to advance a variety of recovery and rebuilding initiatives, including mass transit repairs, infrastructure improvements, bridge and road upgrades, business aid, programs and resources for homeowners, buyout programs for those who lost their homes and do not want to rebuild, and many other services. I have been promoting the need for funding bulkheads, jetties, seawalls and other flood mitigating measures. We need these infrastructure improvements immediately, and I am optimistic that this aid will come soon. Details of how to apply for it will be made available this month and I encourage those interested to call my office.
On the legislative side, I have introduced and support a range of bills aimed at addressing various aspects of Hurricane Sandy’s impact.Here is a sampling:
• S.3736: This bill would enable residents in Breezy Point to immediately start rebuilding the homes they lost through the combination of fire and flooding, one of the most horrific events of the storm. Specifically, the legislation reinstates existing building permits for homes destroyed in Hurricane Sandy and also waives certain city rules regarding street frontage issues that are unique to Breezy Point. In other words, people won’t have to reinvent the wheel to start repairing and rebuilding their homes in this deeply resilient and tight-knit community.
• S.4053: This bill would establish a grant program to enable business owners whose storefront facades were damaged by Hurricane Sandy to repair them.Giving a facelift to our commercial areas is both a practical way to show they are “open for business” and to give all of us the positive psychological boost we need as we continue to rebuild, repair and recover day by day.
• S.4405: In response to problems suffered by local residents whose homes were affected or destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, this bill would require that homeowners with coverage purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program be given at least 90 days’ notice of premium increases or the pending cancellation of their policies. The cost of flood insurance has been steadily increasing, and consumers should have the ability and time they need to make informed choices about purchasing this coverage.
• S.2128:Known as the “New York City Hurricane Sandy Assessment Relief Act,” this legislation would have homeowners whose properties lost 50 percent or more of their assessed value as a result of storm damage see their property tax bills reduced, or even eliminated if the property was completely destroyed.
As we enter the Atlantic Hurricane Season — which forecasts 16 tropical storms, eight hurricanes, four major hurricanes, and three hurricanes making landfall in the United States by Nov. 30 — there is a lot we can do to prepare for the worst and to protect our homes and our loved ones from harm.And there is also something else we can do that is equally important: Be aware and informed of storm risks, but continue to live life to the fullest in our beautiful communities.Even in the face of all the rebuilding we have ahead of us, and the tragedy we have suffered, our communities — from the beaches, to our business areas, to our unique and diverse neighborhoods — are coming back and are going to be better than ever.
Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. is New York State Senator for the 15th District in South Queens.