I have been saying for quite some time that it’s easy for anyone to stand up on a soapbox and rip apart groups tied to the Sandy recovery process, yell and scream that not enough has been done and call on the respective parties to speed up their work. While these are important sentiments, actions always speaks louder than words. The harder thing to do, in my eyes, is roll up your sleeves and solve the problem.
As we approach two years after the superstorm, recovery has made slow and steady progress. We all know on Oct. 30, 2012, my district was decimated and devastated. Now in October 2014, while some have fully recovered, others wait for reimbursement and even still others wait to reconstruct the homes they lost.
Build it Back was chronically problematic at its inception, but in the last several months has made strides towards recovery. Director Amy Peterson took over, and worked with myself and other local elected officials to get program representatives into the affected areas. Build it Back staff are currently next to my Howard Beach office every Wednesday.
Last week, the mayor announced that by the end of the year, construction will begin on 1,000 homes and 1,500 homeowners will be reimbursed. While progress announcements are encouraging, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.
For those still waiting, there are still local resources available to help you, and legislation moving through Albany to help secure a future safer from storms. We need to look outside of the highly promoted options and explore every single outlet of recovery and rebuilding stronger.
The members of the local New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program are our partners in recovery. The committee, made up of people from the community, has created a comprehensive plan to rebuild and protect our community, including details on protecting the coastline, increasing access to isolated areas and more. The full package can be found on New York Rising’s website, stormrecovery.ny.gov.
Representatives from the Legal Aid Society are reaching out to help those still struggling as well. I hosted a meeting with these representatives in Howard Beach to discuss Sandy’s past and potential storms of the future. They touched on specific practice areas and experiences in assisting superstorm victims with FEMA, homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance and Build it Back.
Also, many have heard of the forthcoming Spring Creek Flood Mitigation Project — a project that cannot be completed quickly enough. New and Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach, chronically flooded, low-lying areas, need storm protection, and they need it now.
The first phase of data collection and topographical studies should be completed in the coming months, and I continue to work with all involved organizations as the project progresses. Ultimately, the project will bring low- and high-level salt marshes, grasslands, dune complexes and maritime forests at increasing elevations. All of these additions will help guard against storm surges that come with tropical storms and strong Nor’easters.
Frankly, it has been two years too long. But regardless, as we continue our lives we can confidently know that with each passing day, we get closer to full recovery. I will continue my own efforts, rolling up my sleeves and working with my colleagues in government, along with city and state officials, to ensure that not only the progress continues until every storm victim has recovered, but that at the end it will leave us better than before.
Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. is New York State Senator for the 15th District, in South and southwestern Queens.