OPINION: Sandy Recovery: Not over yet

When one hears about superstorm Sandy, one’s first instinct, especially nowadays, is to say, “Oh, that’s old news!” But just like the old Irving Berlin song from the 1920s, “The Song Is Ended, but the Melody Lingers On,” the effects of the hurricane are still felt.

Just look at the long-term shutdowns on the R train’s Montague Street Tunnel and the G train’s Greenpoint Tube. Turning our attention to Manhattan for awhile, on a recent visit to Battery Park, I was shocked to find out that most of it is still being reconstructed and is fenced off.

Thus, it was a welcome development when, as Paula Katinas of the Eagle recently reported, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that will provide relief to New York City residents subject to higher property taxes as a result of repairs to homes that were severely damaged by the storm. The repairs would have raised the homes’ property values because they are classified as improvements.

“In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, homeowners across the downstate region were forced to invest in significant repairs to make their homes more resilient – investments that would increase their taxes under normal circumstances,” the governor said. “Sandy was not a normal circumstance, however, and I will not allow taxes to be raised on property owners simply because they are repairing the damage that was done and planning wisely for the future.”

Although Cuomo chose to make his announcement at Kill Van Kull on the North Shore of Staten Island, many Brooklyn neighborhoods were devastated by the storm. Gerritsen Beach was almost totally flooded and its houses ruined by mold, and much of Red Hook was also flooded. Large parts of Coney Island were flooded and went without electricity for months, and looting was widespread on Mermaid Avenue. Some of the stores in DUMBO were invaded by flood waters, and it took months for them to reopen.  

The New York Aquarium on the Coney Island Boardwalk has yet to fully recover—only part of it has reopened. Another Brooklyn attraction, Jane’s Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park, was out for months because its mechanism was damaged by all that water.

There was so much damage in so many communities that a community group from Canarsie held a press conference to protest the fact that not enough aid efforts were focused on their neighborhood, which needed help, too.

I suspect that much of the long-term impact will be not on property taxes but on home insurance rates. Most of the areas that were hard hit by the storm are dominated by single- and two-family houses, although large apartment houses were also hit, especially in Coney Island and Brighton Beach.

The waterfront park at Kill Van Kull, according to Katinas, was chosen for the press conference because it is the “first post-Hurricane Sandy resilient waterfront park.”  Two to three feet of extra soil was added to the park to absorb excess rain water and sea water.

I know that the Bloomberg administration had plans to shore up the waterfront as a response to Sandy and to climate change in general. I hope Mayor de Blasio is following through with these plans. I can think of some Brooklyn waterfront parks that could also use some shoring up – the Valentino Pier in Red Hook, parts of Brooklyn Bridge Park, Kaiser Park near Coney Island, Marine Park in Flatlands and others.