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Queens Chronicle

Got $65M to spare for a flood barrier?

Dropped by feds, officials search for funds to protect Howard Beach

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:08 pm, Thu Sep 19, 2019.

After the Federal Emergency Management Agency refused last month to finance the construction of a flood-protection wall in Howard Beach, Queens officials have started to hunt for $65 million to keep the plan alive.

“We are far from pulling the plug on this project,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).

Borough President Melinda Katz called a closed-door meeting last Monday in her office shortly after news of the rejection began to reverberate through official ranks.

The meeting included Addabbo, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park), leaders of several civic associations and representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Park Service, who joined the meeting via conference call.

The Corps of Engineers is the agency that is responsible for constructing the proposed flood barrier on land that is part of the Gateway National Park.

The agenda was “simply how to keep the project going,” said Addabbo.

The list of possible sources for such a large sum is short.

Either the city or the state — or a combination of the two — will likely have to step in, officials believe.

State and city officials seemed to have been caught off guard by FEMA’s decision to drop the proposal to build a 15-foot-high earthen wall — called a berm — in Spring Creek Park between the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge and the Belt Parkway, near Lindenwood.

The berm is a major component of the city’s flood resiliency plan announced last year to protect the west side of Howard Beach from the kind of flooding that damaged hundreds of homes there after Superstorm Sandy.

FEMA had already given New York $3.3 million to design and engineer the berm, which led state and city officials to believe the federal government would come through with the estimated $65 million to build it.

But the agency ruled in June that the project no longer met its cost-benefit analysis, meaning the cost of the berm was too high for the relatively small area it is intended to shield.

Parts of Spring Creek Park, which was a landfill before its takeover by the federal government in 1972, have been found to be contaminated by toxic waste, Addabbo said.

The berm construction could not begin until the contamination is dug up and removed, the Parks Service told officials.

That would give Queens officials as much as a year or two to find new money.

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