By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Although many of the most visible Brooklyn “victims” of Superstorm Sandy, such as the Coney Island Boardwalk and Nathan’s, have been rebuilt, there is still a lot of work to do, and entire neighborhoods are plagued by mold and structural damage.
However, neighborhoods where strong local organizations, such as business improvement districts (BIDs), were in place had a head start in rebuilding over other areas that suffered from a lack of organization.
These points, among others, were made at a news conference on Thursday at Borough Hall that was sponsored by the Brooklyn Recovery Fund. The fund, a partnership between the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Borough President’s Office and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, raised $3.5 million, which was distributed to local non-profits. A full report will be isseud on Tuesday, Oct. 29, the one-year anniversary of Sandy.
A poster in the front of the Borough Hall Rotunda identified those neighborhoods that were most affected: Brighton Beach, Canarsie, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook and Sheepshead Bay.
Borough President Marty Markowitz, known for his ebullient optimism in general, dwelled on the “can-do” spirit of volunteers who streamed in from every part of the city to help in areas like Gerritsen Beach and Red Hook, or who contributed generously to charities.
However, he castigated those insurance companies that have been slow to reimburse victims. “They were very quick to accept premiums,” he said. “Shame on them.”
Markowitz reminded Brooklynites of the upcoming Oct. 31 registration deadline for the Build It Back program; the city’s federal-funded program to assist homeowners, landlords and tenants whose homes and properties were damaged by Sandy.
Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is seeking to assist not only businesses that were affected, but the business owners themselves. The organization is also helping people who worked for those businesses, because not every store is coming back.
The Brooklyn Recovery Fund provided $450,000 in “Fast Track” grants to 35 human services organizations, business-support networks, churches and other locally-based nonprofits to provide 800,000 meals, two tons of clothing; emergency repairs to over 70 homes, apartments, churches and residential facilities; and assistance to 180 small businesses, with over 10,000 volunteers.
Assemblyman Nick Perry, who represents Canarsie, complained that even though homes were flooded and residents’ cars washed away after the storm, Canarsie has been shortchanged by state, city and federal authorities. “Along with the Borough President’s Office, I continue to appeal for relief funding for the people of Canarsie and all neighborhoods in Brooklyn damaged by the storm,” he said.
Alexandra Silversmith of Coney Recovers reminded us that even though the boardwalk businesses, Nathan’s and MCU Park are all open, the Aquarium is still operating at only half-capacity, there is a 20 percent vacancy rate along Mermaid Avenue, and residents of local housing projects suffer from malfunctioning boilers and mold in their apartments.
Jovan Burch of Red Hook Volunteers, said Red Hook suffered because it’s near the “intersection” of three bodies of water – the East River, the Gowanus Canal and the Hudson River – all of which overflowed.
“The bottom line in every community that is still recovering from Sandy is that anyone who is still in need of repairs has run out of resources,” said Jameson Wells, executive director of the Gerritsen Beach Long Term Recovery Project. The fact that Gerritsen Beach, a neighborhood of single-family homes that was heavily flooded, was not in the city’s “A” flood evacuation zone was heavily publicized after the storm.