As we slowly recover and begin to rebuild our neighborhood, businesses and homes from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, we’re constantly remindedof the strength and resiliency of our community and neighbors. I want to acknowledge and thank the NYPD, FDNY, the National Guard and all of our first responders, from the bottom of my heart for their heroic actions and all that they have done for our community. In addition, the volunteers who have spent months in the community, giving everything and asking for nothing, are a true example of what makes our state and country great.
It’s been three months since Hurricane Sandy decimated our homes, and while there has been remarkable progress, the reality is that thousands of small businesses and families in southern Queens and Rockaway are still in need of relief and guidance. There are enormous challenges ahead of us, but if we work together and stay strong, our community will be back stronger than ever.
We have been through so much and yet we must stay focused on the future and our opportunity to investigate and explore the last few months in an effort to develop a better plan and stronger infrastructure. We must also hold agencies accountable for their delayed and slow assistance and create entities and organizations that are efficient, organized and work for the people. In the year head, I will be relentlessly working to accomplish these goals and continue to assist in the recovery for southern Queens and Rockaway:
Accountability for utilities: Presently, LIPA still has thousands of residents without power in their homes and this is simply unacceptable. Going forward, working together with the governor and the Moreland Commission, I will ensure this company no longer practices any business in Rockaway and that our community is provided with affordable, reliable utilities.
Accountability for insurance companies: I have sponsored legislation that would create the Homeowner’s Bill of Rights (A.2287) to protect families who were affected by the storm from the unconscionable deeds taken by insurance companies. This bill of rights would require insurers to provide property owners with an easy-to-understand disclosure notice detailing their coverage in the event of a catastrophic occurrence; how and when to file a claim; their rights if a claim is denied or a settlement offer is insufficient; and where and how to obtain coverage for catastrophic events. In addition, other legislation introduced would require insurance companies to promptly process claims resulting from storm damage and tighten the timeframe requirements for insurers to respond to claims resulting from disasters and emergencies.
Small businesses need help: Small businesses are the backbone of our community and are still struggling to survive and rebuild. Last month, I urged NYC Small Business Commissioner Robert Walsh to assist with recovery and relief efforts and provide additional financial support. I’m proud to announce in response to my concerns he immediately toured store fronts that were devastated by Sandy in southern Queens and Rockaway and announced additional available grant funding. Much more must be done and I will continue to work with every economic agency to provide the tools our businesses need.
Beaches need attention: Almost 1 million cubic yards of sand were displaced from our beaches during Hurricane Sandy, and while the Parks Department has done an outstanding job working with community partners, we must make immediate investments and think about long-term solutions or our efforts will have been wasted. Our eroding beaches were a concern prior to Sandy and now that call must be amplified. I will continue to advocate and work with the Parks Department and the Army of Corps of Engineers to provide long-term solutions to rebuilding our beaches and boardwalk, while preserving Rockaway’s history and protecting our communities.
Reliable transportation alternatives: I have been a staunch advocate for the restoration of the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line and reinstating of the Rockaway Ferry Service long before Hurricane Sandy. The past few months have only further illustrated the need to provide real public transit options not only to protect local residents but also to encourage growth and recovery.
There is a lot of work to be done and the time to act is now! While we still face many challenges in recovery, I’m proud to say that we are moving in the right direction and my office will continue to work around the clock until every family has completely recovered from the storm and is safe and secure back in their own home.
Phillip Goldfeder is New York State Assemblyman for the 23rd District in South Queens.