Tag Archives: Breezy Point Cooperative

SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Co-ops, condos still waiting for disaster aid


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A proposed federal law that would bring disaster aid to co-op and condo communities has not come any closer to being passed nearly one year after Sandy.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “It’s just prolonging the financial hardship on co-ops. Right now, we’re stuck footing the bill for cleanup and repair from the storm, and I don’t think this will be the last storm.”

Schreiber said his northeast Queens co-op expects to shell out up to $60,000 in repairs not covered by insurance.

More than $250,000 in infrastructure damage was sustained nearby in the Glen Oaks Village co-op, according to its president, Bob Friedrich.

The bill exceeds $1 million for some Rockaway co-ops in the most hard-hit areas of Queens.

The Breezy Point Cooperative, which saw about 350 homes in the beach community decimated by fire and flood, has spent $1.5 million out of the co-op’s reserves and contingency funds to get back on its feet, according to Arthur Lighthall, the co-op’s general manager.

“We had to do a good amount of repair and restoration to get things back in order,” including getting the water supply back and fixing sidewalks, Lighthall said. “The bottom line is it’s us, the shareholders, who have to pay for it.”

The pricey repair costs fall on the shoulders of co-op and condo communities due to a glitch in the law keeping them from getting FEMA storm recovery grants, local leaders said.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op,” according to Congressmember Steve Israel.

However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.

Israel introduced legislation this August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act, allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants, and call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

The bipartisan bill has at least 14 cosponsors so far but currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to Israel’s office.

An aide to the congressmember said any movement of the bill was delayed by the partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days in October.

“It’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy hit, and it’s time for co-op and condo associations to get the help they deserve,” Israel said. “Although I’ll continue to fight my hardest, it’s frustrating that this bill hasn’t been passed so these homeowners can receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution, which is only a formal position statement, last month calling for Congress to enact the law.

“It really shouldn’t be that difficult,” Schreiber said. “I just find it so disappointing that we have a Congress that can’t even get together on changing one line of text that will benefit constituents on the East Coast, West Coast and middle of the country.”

 

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Breezy Point continues to rebuild


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

Slowly but surely Breezy Point is coming back.

“We continue to push as hard as we can,” said Arthur Lighthall, General Manager of the Breezy Point Cooperative. “It’s a constant effort to get things expedited, processed, approved.”

The roar of bulldozers and banging of hammers can be heard around the once-silent streets of the sleepy beach town. After Sandy tore through the neighborhood, 350 homes were left uninhabitable, some due to fire.

Now, approaching the storm’s one year anniversary, Lighthall said the cooperative has received 85 sets of plans from various property owners and their architects, proposing a way to rebuild.

“These people spent the first several months after the storm just waiting to see what they could do,” Lighthall said, referring to new FEMA, insurance and city standards.

“This is not something that those 350 chose to do. These people are forced [to rebuild],” he continued.

The cooperative is the first to receive the architects’ plans to rebuild and restructure lost property, which are then sent to the borough’s Buildings Department. After the department approves the plan, the process to receive the appropriate city permits begins, and construction can start.

Lighthall estimates that roughly 20 applications have been approved in the city’s system.

During the storm, an electrical fire also decimated 135 homes. Of those, about six homes are beginning to rise from the sand.

However, nobody from the fire zone is back in their homes.

All new structures are set to be built higher to comply with FEMA standards in addition to the two feet the city added for flood elevation. Additionally, no house will have a basement, Lighthall said.

The majority of homeowners are still displaced, living in various places throughout the city. Some residents have taken a different approach to rebuilding; one family installed a two-story modular home on Reid Avenue to get back into Breezy.

Lighthall and the cooperative continue to work with city officials in such a way that he said will hopefully get plans approved as quickly as possible.

“It’s frustrating at times having to contend with the bureaucracy,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in getting these people back in, and city officials to smooth and quicken the process.”

 

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Attorney general investigating Sandy charity money


| mhayes@queenscourier.com


Sandy relief money is reportedly being kept under lock and key.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman released a preliminary report on Wednesday, July 17 detailing how charities have spent more than half a billion dollars of Sandy donations. At least $238 million of the more than $575 million had not been spent as of April of this year, according to the report.

“All one needs to do is look around Breezy Point to realize what a travesty [this] is,” said Arthur Lighthall, president of the Breezy Point Cooperative.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich echoed Lighthall, saying “sitting on this money while so many people are still in need is an insult.”

The report also asks whether some of the funds reportedly spent on Sandy were actually used for non-storm-related purposes.

“We have a responsibility to the people who donated their hard-earned money to help our community rebuild to make sure that the contributions they made were used as advertised,” Schneiderman said.

The Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, which regulates all state charities, reviewed the Sandy contributions and found that 58 percent of donations had gone to storm relief efforts; 17 organizations reported potentially using funds for non-Sandy purposes such as preventing future disasters; and responding organizations granted half of the $336 million they had received to other organizations.

“This funding is urgently needed and we cannot accept that charitable donations are not being spent as intended,” Ulrich said.

Schneiderman’s Charities Bureau is heightening its review of Sandy fundraising and seeking more detailed answers from the responding charities, including a clearer account of how money has been spent and plans for remaining funds.

“My constituents are not assisted by monies collected for victims of Sandy that are not distributed,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo. “These funds are useless unless given to those who [are] truly in need.”

 

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Agencies give Sandy testimony before City Council


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Nearly three months after the storm devastated the tri-state area, and with residents still trying to recover, the City Council has begun investigating how various agencies handled Sandy.

Testimony has been given by representatives of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the New York City Housing Authority, Con Edison and the Long Island Power Authority, among other agencies.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, when addressing OEM, inquired why the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department had been denied a request for a rescue boat, despite the anticipated flooding in the hamlet. Ulrich also asked why OEM had not looked at the Breezy Point Cooperative’s evacuation plan, or had better communication with the several volunteer fire departments of southern Queens.

OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno said commissioners had been on the ground working with volunteer fire departments on plans during the lead up to the storm and had always maintained communications between the volunteers and the FDNY. It was not the office’s policy to approve of other entities’ evacuation plans, he said, but OEM could give input for both cooperatives and volunteer fire departments in the future, he said.

Ulrich suggested to Bruno that once recovery is completely over, and some stability is back in the area, OEM officials begin to work with these waterside communities to better prepare for future storms.

“I think in the next year it might be a good time, when everything settles and the rebuilding starts and life gets somewhat back to normal, that OEM try to engage these communities and these fire departments.”

 

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