By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The New York State Senate’s Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy Recovery, a panel that includes Brooklyn state senators Diane Savino (D-Staten Island-Bensonhurst) and Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), conducted a fact-finding tour of hard-hit communities last Thursday, Jan. 31.
The task force members spoke with local officials, business leaders, and residents about the progress and challenges of the ongoing recovery efforts.
The itinerary included stops in Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, and Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn and Staten Island. The task force, which was formed in December, had previously visited the Rockaways, Nassau County and Suffolk County.
State senators Andrew Lanza (R-C-Staten Island) and Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) are the co-chairs of the task force.
“We are still feeling the devastation of Sandy in Staten Island and Brooklyn, and I think it is extremely important that we review how this happened in order to prevent destruction and damage of this magnitude from happening again,” Savino said.
“Our goals should be to help and comfort people who have suffered tremendous losses in the storm, and to rebuild in such a way that it is unlikely this occurs again,” Savino said.
Following the tour, the task force held a roundtable discussion at the Senate Majority Coalition’s New York City office. The participants included representatives from the worlds of business and finance, as well as construction company owners.
The number of homes destroyed or damaged by Sandy is approximately 305,000, according to the findings of the task force. More than 40,000 residents have been displaced in New York City alone. Approximately 265,300 businesses were damaged or destroyed, resulting in significant losses of revenue and increasing unemployment.
The task force is working to identify areas most in need of recovery assistance. The bi-partisan panel is also reviewing the rebuilding and storm planning policies to remove roadblocks and ensure better storm preparedness, officials said.
Each task force member represents one of New York State’s hardest hit areas, officials said.
“Communities in my district have faced serious life altering hardships since Superstorm Sandy,” said Golden, who added that neighborhoods like Gerritsen Beach and Manhattan Beach suffered massive damage in the hurricane.
“We must do more to ensure that these communities are not left out in the cold, as the biggest issues many face are insurance settlements. Victims have thousands of dollars in rebuilding expenses with no relief in sight. I stand committed to ensuring that people who pay for insurance should receive benefits when they need them,” Golden said.
“Now that we’ve seen first-hand the hardest hit areas across New York and heard about the obstacles that residents have had to overcome, we will work to develop short-term and long-term plans to help our communities get back on their feet as quickly as possible,” Lanza said.
“I’m pleased that federal money is finally on its way to our state. But now it’s up to us, as legislators, to listen to our constituents so we can determine how to best spend those dollars,” Smith said.