Tag Archives: FEMA grants

SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Houses spring up in Breezy Point ‘fire zone’


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Rebuilding photos by Melissa Chan/Fire photo by Alexa Altman

Nobody can keep Breezy Point down, not even Sandy.

A year after the storm wiped away longstanding houses and an electrical fire burned down 135 residences, the framework for dozens of homes have appeared, particularly in a once vacant, ash-filled lot, in what residents have called the “fire zone.”

“The level of activity is mind boggling. Houses are up all over. It’s a major construction scene,” said Arthur Lighthall, general manager of the Breezy Point Cooperative. “I’m just overwhelmed that we’ve seen so much activity, as I was overwhelmed the two weeks after the storm thinking we’d never see this community come back to the way it is.”

The co-op office sees building applications coming in daily. As of October 17, the management team had seen 117 from home and business owners looking to rebuild.

Lighthall estimates they see two to three applications a day and said they are doing their “best” to gauge whether the building-design submissions fit the co-op’s limits.

Those limits reflect the city’s, Lighthall said, which require a base height of two feet, plus an additional foot. Each home’s height requirement depends upon the flood zone as well as the current sidewalk or land height of the area.

The building of 30 to 40 houses is underway and an additional 12 to 15 plans are in the final stages of being approved and can soon start rebuilding, according to Lighthall.

Building design applications are typically “identical” to what was there before.

“People just want their houses back,” Lighthall said.

The majority of residents are paying for the construction costs with FEMA grants, insurance money, or help from family. Roughly 1,700 homeowners applied for the city Build-it-Back program, but are waiting to hear what, if any, funds they will be granted.

“The people are doing it themselves in the community,” Lighthall said.

 

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City Council passes condo, co-op resolution


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

The City Council has unanimously passed a resolution calling for Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

“Condo and co-op owners are homeowners too,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. who brought forth the measure. “Yet, right now, the federal government is denying them Sandy relief. That needs to change.”

The resolution, introduced September 12, comes after many citywide co-op and condo owners found they could not receive FEMA grants for Sandy-inflicted damages.

The measure sailed through the City Council less than two weeks later on September 24. The Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings moved the resolution forward earlier that morning.

It would push the passage of an already proposed federal law that aims to fix a glitch keeping co-op and condo owners from disaster aid.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, officials said.

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.

Congressmember Steve Israel introduced a law in 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 proposed legislation currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Warren Schreiber of the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council said the resolution would be used as a bully pulpit to boost federal efforts.

“They can send that on to the congressional delegation,” he said. “That would make a big difference.”

Some Queens co-ops, like Glen Oaks Village, sustained more than $250,000 in damage to infrastructure, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who represents some of the most Sandy-devastated areas, said co-op and condo communities in the Rockaways are facing “astronomical” renovation costs that exceed $250,000.

Ulrich was the sponsor of another resolution passed by the City Council this week that calls for Congress to amend a federal act to minimize the burden of flood insurance premium rate increases on homeowners.

Vallone will now urge Congress, in a letter, to enact the federal bill.

 

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Resolution calls for co-op, condo storm recovery grants


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A Queens lawmaker introduced a resolution in the City Council last week calling for Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

The measure, brought forth by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., comes after many citywide co-op and condo owners found they could not receive FEMA grants for Sandy-inflicted damages.

It would push the passage of an already proposed federal law that aims to fix a glitch keeping co-op and condo owners from disaster aid.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, officials said. 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.

“Co-ops and condos are not corporations — they are people’s homes,” Vallone said. “They deserve the same assistance as other homeowners.”

Congressmember Steve Israel introduced a law in August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act and allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants.

It would also call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

A spokesperson for Israel said the bipartisan bill has 14 cosponsors so far, including Republican Congressmember Peter King, who represents parts of Long Island.

The proposed legislation currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

While a resolution is only a formal position statement, Vallone said he hopes it will “show that the city speaks with one voice for fairness” for co-op and condo owners.

The disaster aid is needed in Queens, local leaders said, where co-op and condo communities are digging into reserves to fund fixes.

Some Queens co-ops, like Glen Oaks Village, sustained more than $250,000 in damage to infrastructure, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who represents some of the most Sandy-devastated areas, said co-op and condo communities in the Rockaways are facing “astronomical” renovation costs.

Repairs to buildings destroyed by the storm could easily exceed $250,000, he said.

“Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy, co-ops and condos are still struggling to rebuild,” Ulrich said. “Congress must act now and provide relief before it’s too late.”

The City Council resolution, introduced on September 12, sits in the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Committee Chair Erik Dilan said several Sandy-related bills that await the committee’s ruling are being “actively considered.”

“We as a committee and council are active in moving things that will help the city recover or prevent disaster from another hurricane, including the co-op resolution,” Dilan said.

If the measure moves out of committee and then passes the City Council, Vallone would then urge Congress, in a letter, to enact the federal bill.

Warren Schreiber of the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council said advocates could use the City Council’s support as a bully pulpit to boost federal efforts.

“Anything that can be done to put pressure on the federal government and educate other people is absolutely welcome,” Schreiber said. “Hopefully, it sails through the City Council.”