BY LUIS GRONDA
As the two-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy passes on Wednesday, residents in areas of Queens that were hit the hardest were able to ask several of those in charge of recovery on the latest progress and how things could be done better or faster.
Residents packed into the auditorium at Beach Channel High School on Monday night for a Sandy Town Hall/Resource Fair. The meeting served as an opportunity to grill those in charge about the latest involving recovering from the storm as well as get help for their specific situation.
Several commissioners from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration attended the meeting, including Parks Dept. Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Dept. of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd, Director of Build It Back Amy Peterson and the director of the Mayor’s office of Recovery and Resiliency, Daniel Zarrilli.
The event was co-hosted by Council members Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) who represent southern Queens and the Rockaway Peninsula in the City Council.
The commissioners first gave an update on how each of their departments are doing on Sandy recovery two years later.
Silver updated residents on the reconstruction of the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk. He said the new boardwalk will be elevated above the flood plane, built with reinforced steel and concrete and built to be better protected from a future storm, including six miles of retaining walls. He said construction began on the boardwalk in April of this year and is expected to be completed by Memorial Day in 2017.
“While the boardwalk will also provide recreational opportunities and serve as a transportation artery, its main purpose is protection,” Silver said.
The Parks commissioner also apologized for what he wrote in an internal City Hall memo that was leaked last month. In the memo, he said that money coming in from Federal Emergency Management Agency for the boardwalk could become a “political liability” and the Army Corps of Engineers is delaying long-term feasibility projects related to Sandy recovery.
Silver said the words he used in the memo were “unfortunate” and “incorrect” and what he meant was it is not a political liability to get those resources, a sentiment de Blasio said on a recent visit to Southern Queens.
“What I meant, and I wish I had said specifically, was that the Rockaway community is concerned about how any FEMA reimbursement money is to be allocated and we understand those concerns,” he said.
The ferry service ending for residents on the peninsula and others in Brooklyn and Manhattan was also a sore subject during the town hall.
Kyle Kimball, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, said they cannot continue the ferry because it is not financially feasible for the City to continue to pay for it and they have “analyzed six ways to Sunday to try to find a way to make this work.”
According to Kimball, for every person that pays $3 to ride the ferry, the City pays $30 per person, per ride, which totals about $5 million that Kimball says the City could not allocate for in its budget.
In comparison, the Staten Island Ferry is $4 a passenger per ride, the subway is $.60, the East River Ferry is $2 per passenger, according to Kimball. He added that the Rockaway Ferry is “so much more expensive compared to other forms of transportation available here.”
Those comments drew negative reaction from the audience, who began yelling over Kimball as he continued speaking. The City is scheduled to end the ferry service on Oct. 31.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, email@example.com or @luisgronda.