Tag Archives: FEMA

Howard Beach school without fire alarm system since Sandy


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The Howard Beach community and concerned parents are tired of dealing with a hot issue at local school P.S. 207.

When Sandy swept through the region, it took the school’s fire alarm system with it. Since reopening on January 2, the school has operated without any fire alarm.

“First their homes are destroyed, now they don’t even have a safe place to go to school,” said Alison Jasiak, whose six-year-old son attends P.S. 207.

The fire alarm system was located in the basement, unlike surrounding schools that have theirs on the first floor. During the storm, the basement filled with oil and water, destroying P.S. 207’s system.

Moreover, P.S. 207’s fire alarm system used parts that are now obsolete. Other neighborhood schools had newer systems for which replacement parts are available.

Since the school reopened, it has had 12 Fire Watch guards provided by the Department of Education (DOE) to monitor the building for any signs of smoke. A spokesperson said relying on the guards is “an acceptable practice, and the school is safe.”

However, parents such as Jasiak remain unconvinced.

“Who says the fire guards are sufficient?” she said. “Is your child in the school?”

In the event a watchman smells or sees any sort of fire, procedure calls for him or her to go to the main office, which then calls the fire department.

“You’ve just wasted three or four minutes when the kids could have already been on their way out,” Jasiak said.

The School Construction Authority (SCA) and the DOE are waiting for FEMA funds to install a fire system, but there is no timetable for the money.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich sent a letter on Friday, July 19 to Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and SCA President Lorraine Grillo describing the issue in detail and requesting that the organizations expedite the installation of a new fire alarm system. He has not yet received a response.

“With all that my constituents have going on while they try to rebuild from Sandy, they should at least have the peace of mind that the school their child attends has a functional fire alarm system,” Ulrich said.

His office has received numerous complaints on the matter from parents.

Once installation begins, completion could take up to a year, Ulrich said. The DOE said FEMA is reviewing the cost of reimbursing a replacement alarm system at P.S. 207 and that more information will be available once the review is complete. The Fire Watch costs roughly $13,000 per week.

Without a fire alarm system, the school has shut down afterschool and night programs.

“There are so many more issues that this one issue has created,” Jasiak said. “The only ones who are suffering are the children and us.”

“You throw your hands up in the air because you don’t know what else to do,” she said.

 

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South Queens residents seek help at post-Sandy town hall


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

Carl Teresa drained his retirement savings to pay for Sandy home damages and is tired of getting the runaround from city and state agencies, he said.

Eight months after the storm, south Queens is still not whole, and Teresa said he is just one of many still struggling. Homeowners gathered at a town hall forum in Howard Beach, hosted by Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder and Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, to ask pressing questions that still exist months later.

“You can’t get a straight answer from anybody,” Teresa said. “You talk to one person who has answer A, then another who gives you answer B. Nobody has the same answer.”

Teresa had his Rockaway Park home was inspected three times by FEMA agents before he received money for his damages. The first inspector, he said, left the state without relaying information. The second did not do an accurate inspection, he said, and the third was finally able to get Teresa a $31,900 FEMA assistance grant.

The basement apartment of his two-floor home was destroyed — inundated with over 30 inches of water — he said. The apartment is home to his mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s disease. She relocated to the first floor with Teresa and his wife until the repairs were complete.

Teresa estimated the damages cost him at least $70,000. He is on Social Security disability, and cannot return to work to replace the money lost.

“How do I support myself the rest of my life,” he asked.

Jeffries and Goldfeder advised people in predicaments similar to Teresa’s to register for the city’s Build-it-Back program, which is geared towards assisting homeowners, landlords and tenants whose properties were damaged by Sandy. It offers several pathways to relief, including reimbursement for out-of-pocket payments.

“People shouldn’t be forced to drain their bank accounts and decimate their savings in order to repair a home,” Jeffries said.

The two also discussed updates to FEMA’s flood and evacuation maps. Evacuation zones will be changing from letters to numbers, Zone 1 being the highest priority. Most of Howard Beach will be located in Zone 1, Jeffries said.

A rep from Neighborhood Revitalization NYC was also in attendance to speak about mold treatment. The program, which got cheers from the town hall audience, coordinates mold inspection and fixes free of charge. Members of the city’s Department of Financial Services as well as FEMA were also present to answer individualized questions.

Goldfeder, a notable advocate for Sandy victims since the storm, asked the Department of Environmental Protection to clean out catch basins in the hope to better preparing the area’s sewer system for any future storm.

“It has been a daily, daily struggle,” he said. “Almost every day is a new challenge.”

“Now, we need to make sure we are prepared for the future,” he added.

Those interested in the Build-it-Back program can visit www.nyc.gov/recovery for more information. To see the preliminary flood and evacuation maps, estimated to be released at the end of the summer, go to www.region2coastal.com. For those seeking flood insurance information and agents, visit www.floodsmart.gov.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. High of 79. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50% with rainfall amounts near 0.4 in. possible. Monday night: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain. Low of 72. Winds from the SSW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Puppets in the Park: “Little Red’s Hood

Come see this production by the City Parks Foundation of “Little Red’s Hood” at Beach 17th Street at 7:00 p.m. Little Red is a smart, young city slicker who is too focused on her smart phone to notice her surroundings. Wulfric is a misunderstood wolf with a sweet tooth. When Red travels from the city to the country to deliver some cupcakes to her Grandma, she meets a colorful cast of characters while Wulfric the Wolf tries to head her off at the pass. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Bloomberg won’t apologize for remarks on stop-and-frisk 

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Congressman calls for a federal monitor to oversee NYPD

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Gillibrand wants FEMA to review flood insurance rules

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Miracle on the Hudson: Helicopter makes emergency landing in river

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Op-Ed: Allow houses of worship to receive Sandy aid


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY U.S. CONGRESSMEMBER GRACE MENG

When Sandy slammed into our region late last year, homes, businesses and mass transit systems were not the only things devastated by the storm.

More than 200 houses of worship throughout the tri-state area – including many here in Queens – were damaged or destroyed as well.

But when these churches, synagogues, mosques and temples applied for disaster aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), their requests were denied because houses of worship are barred from receiving such assistance.

This is wrong and unconscionable. It discriminates against houses of worship – many of which fed, comforted and provided shelter to thousands of people who were adversely impacted by Sandy – and it unfairly treats these institutions differently from other nonprofit entities.

That is why I have spearheaded an effort to change this misguided policy.

After an unsuccessful attempt to attach an amendment onto the Sandy aid package, I joined forces with Congressmembers Chris Smith and Peter King to sponsor legislation that would add houses of worship to the government’s list of private nonprofit organizations that qualify for FEMA assistance.

Working with my two colleagues – and other Republicans and Democrats – in a concerted bipartisan manner, we were able to pass our bill by an overwhelming margin of 354-72.

Although there are some who oppose this legislation due to concerns over the separation of church and state, their worries are without merit. There are precedents for federal aid to disaster-damaged houses of worship. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Congress overruled FEMA’s refusal to provide assistance to the area’s damaged churches. In 2002, after an earthquake in Seattle, the Justice Department intervened to order FEMA to assist religious organizations that were impacted by the disaster.

The measure is supported by numerous local and national organizations including: the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, American Jewish Committee, New York City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn, Jewish Federations of North America, the Most Rev. William Murphy – Bishop of Rockville Centre, the N.J. State Association of Jewish Federations, National Association of Evangelicals, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, United Jewish Appeal (UJA) of N.Y. and numerous newspapers and editorial boards.

Now that the legislation has passed the House, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has agreed to take it up in the Senate. I call on all my colleagues there to support it, and I’ve sent a letter to key senators urging them to schedule a vote on the measure.

Sandy was one of the nation’s worst natural disasters. Many houses of worship remain in desperate need of repair, and are still struggling to reopen. It is vital that these facilities be allowed to collect disaster funds from FEMA so that they can rebuild their properties and once again offer critical services to the individuals and communities that need them.

Synagogues, churches and temples cannot wait any longer. The time is now to make this legislation the law of the land. For the facilities that continue to wait, it cannot come soon enough.

U.S. Congressmember Grace Meng is a freshman Democrat representing Queens.

 

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Community voices post-Sandy frustrations at FEMA meeting


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Gina Borrello used to live in a one-story home in Hamilton Beach.

But since Sandy hit almost six months ago and submerged her house underwater, it has been infested with toxic mold, leaving her and her six children displaced.

“I need help,” she said.

Her daughter, Donna Sirota spoke about how they have been getting by.

“First we were staying at family friends’ houses but their landlords would complain because they don’t want people in their house. The electric bill goes up, the water bill goes up. Now we’re getting an apartment. We have to pay for the apartment and we have to pay for the mortgage, still. It’s really crazy.”

At a town hall meeting hosted by FEMA and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, members of the community voiced frustration and anger at the agency’s recently-released flood maps, which would require home owners to purchase flood insurance that would cost each household anywhere from $10,000 to $31,000 in addition to their existing mortgages and home insurance premiums, depending on their zoning.

“The problem is that you’re changing the rules in the middle of the game,” said Dan Mundy, president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “Middle class people were encouraged to settle here and I don’t think any objective person no matter where you live would agree with the idea that someone who’s on a structured budget trying to cover all their bases could ever handle somewhere close to $1,000-$2,000 a month or more.”

In a packed auditorium in P.S. 146, the atmosphere quickly revealed the continuing devastation felt by the neighborhood’s residents even after almost half a year has passed since the storm.

When asked if he felt the meeting addressed the community’s concerns, resident Peter Passalacqua said much wasn’t relayed.

“I think there is a lot more information that is buried that is just not coming out on flood elevations and zones and stuff,” he said. “We’re not hearing the big picture.”

His story, one including uphill battles with insurance companies who are offering only a fraction of the cost to repair damages, is hardly unique in this middle-class neighborhood that saw unprecedented devastation from the superstorm.

Residents urged each other to “keep showing up” and “push for more action.”

One stood up to say that this is about rebuilding more than just their homes.

“[We’re fighting] to stay in a neighborhood that we love and where we raise our kids. We need to fight in an educated manner.”

Mundy said affected residents all across the east coast are mobilizing through the “Stop FEMA Now” movement to get the aid they need to rebuild and push back against a proposal they believe is unjust.

“What we’re looking to do is to seek relief legislation because there is no way we could accept it the way it is.”

-BY ROSA KIM

 

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Howard Beach discusses plans for Sandy funds, rebuilding


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

They met for rebuilding — and for prevention.

Howard Beach community leaders sat down with representatives of New York City’s Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR) last week to discuss how funds would be appropriated to recover from Sandy, as well as plans to improve the community’s defense against future natural disasters.

Representatives from the mayor’s office said coastal protection, uncertainty over resources to rebuild, concern over future flood rates, lack of transit options and a need for small business support are some of the most pressing issues in Sandy-affected areas.

Many of those present disagreed with the city’s priorities when it came to distributing funds.

Dan Mundy, president of the Broad Channel Civic Association, suggested the city’s plan should closely mirror that of the state, most importantly in having reimbursements for homeowners who had to rebuild.

One participant noted there was a lack of coordination between FEMA and other city agencies, such as ConEd, in the case of people who had both a home and a small business that needed reconstruction following the storm.

Mundy also said he disagreed with many of the findings the city presented, most especially the flood zoning maps, calling them inaccurate.

“The maps seemed flawed,” he said. “They didn’t match up to what Sandy did.”

Mundy also said the maps did not explain how people in certain flood areas would be affected by the changes in zoning.

“It’s a complicated discussion,” he said. “It’s a big discussion but it’s worth getting into the details. Hopefully we see some changes”

Representatives from SIRR plan to continue meeting with residents of those strongly hit by Sandy over the next few weeks.

-BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Mostly cloudy with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain in the afternoon. High of 77. Winds from the West at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Wednesday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers, then a chance of rain after midnight. Fog overnight. Low of 52. Winds from the SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.

EVENT OF THE DAY: The Big Thing

At the Laughing Devil Comedy Club , get the New York area’s  freshest jokes by comedians vying to be the next big thing and become a club regular. The show also features some special guest headliners. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

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FEMA: Building a sea wall would change home elevation requirements

The community board in the Rockaways announced Tuesday that the city will spend $4 million on each of the five new lifeguard stands planned for this summer and $2 million on each of two public bathrooms to be built on Rockaway Beach. Read more: NY1

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Flood-resistant buildings to be installed on Rockaway Beach


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of NYC Parks & Recreation

This summer it will be safe to go back in the water.

Improved beachfront structures that adhere to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) new flood elevation standards will be installed at Rockaway Beach by Memorial Day weekend, according to the New York City Parks Department.

These modern-looking lifeguard stands, comfort stations and offices will also be placed at Brooklyn’s Coney Island and Staten Island’s Midland, Cedar Grove and Wolfe’s Pond Beaches.

“We simply don’t know how high sea levels will rise in future years. Building higher will help these new public amenities stand the test of time,” said the Parks Department in a January newsletter.

Sitting on top of concrete piles, the structures will be seven to 14 feet above ground level and four feet above boardwalk height at seven of the Rockaway sites and eight feet at another Rockaway location. They can withstand another storm surge similar to Sandy.

The structures, designed by Brooklyn-based Garrison Architects, will be installed at 15 different beach locations. Each of the 17 buildings will consist of two modular units that will be connected by a bridge.

 

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NY extends deadline for FEMA disaster assistance programs


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

An additional extension has been granted for two government programs that financially help Sandy survivors in New York State, announced Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Anyone living in New York City and Long Island, or the counties of Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Ulster and Sullivan who suffered losses from the storm, including rent, essential home repairs and personal property losses may be eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have until April 13 to register for FEMA assistance.

The previous deadline was March 29.

Survivors also have until April 13 to register with the Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest disaster loans.

Homeowners that apply may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace damages to their primary residence, and renters can receive up to $40,000 for replacement of personal property. Additionally, businesses and private nonprofits may be able to borrow up to $2 million for repairs and replacement of property.

To register with FEMA, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, seven days a week.

To apply for a SBA loan, visit DisasterLoan.SBA.

 

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FEMA extends housing program for Sandy victims


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a 21-day extension of the Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program for Sandy victims, Governor Cuomo announced Wednesday.

“The Transitional Sheltering Assistance program continues to be an essential resource for the New Yorkers who were hit hardest by Sandy,” said Cuomo. “This extension allows them to have a temporary place to stay and more time to get their lives back to normal.”

Through the program, storm survivors who cannot return to their homes can stay in participating hotels or motels while they try to find long-term shelter.

FEMA will call those eligible for the extension to notify them of the new April 14 checkout date.

To qualify for TSA, survivors must first apply through FEMA by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, via smartphone or tablet by using the FEMA app or going to m.fema.gov, or by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362).

 

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HUD grants not enough say co-op, condo owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Co-ops and condos damaged by Sandy are now eligible for federal housing grants.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery grants to help with repairs.

“We have finally cleared a bureaucratic hurdle that prevented thousands of homeowners in New York City and Long Island from getting the help they needed,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “We have always said that condos and co-ops should be eligible for the same assistance as single family homes, and now they are.”

But leaders and local co-op presidents said the fix is just a temporary one. The root of the problem, they said, is still not addressed.

“This is a good first step. There’s no question about it. But it’s a band-aid fix,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners. “This still discriminates against families of co-op apartments.”

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations.” The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, according to Congressmember Steve Israel. But there is no statute that purposefully bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

“What we need is a permanent fix to how FEMA classifies co-ops and condos,” Israel said. “This is an interim solution that allows co-ops to access certain federal grants. But until FEMA changes the definition of co-ops, disaster assistance won’t be a sure thing.”

Co-op and condo owners will now have to battle it out with other retail developments, towns, villages and cities for the competitive grant, leaders said.

HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program last month. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total. The funds can be used to repair common areas in the building like lobbies, boilers and elevators.

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its pier.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” Friedrich said. The co-op will have to shell out close to $300,000 for infrastructural damage.

 

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MTA receives nearly $200M in Sandy aid


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

MTA New York City Transit / Photo by Leonard Wiggins

After Sandy wreaked havoc on the MTA’s infrastructure, the transit agency is finally receiving the millions it will take to repair the damage.

The Federal Transit Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency is giving the MTA $193.1 million in total funding to reimburse storm preparation costs and to help rebuild public transit, bridges and tunnels, announced U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Wednesday.

“Prior to the onset of Sandy, our goal was to restore service as quickly and safely as possible, and we were able to do that. These federal funds will go a long way to help the MTA pay for the initial costs associated with that effort,” said MTA Interim Executive Director Thomas F. Prendergast. “But much work remains and we will continue working on the next series of improvements, entering into contracts for projects that are essential to our customers including the full restoration of service to the Rockaways and to South Ferry station.”

Broken down, $141.6 million will be for New York City Transit, and of that money, $17.9 million will go towards restoring the A subway line in the Rockaways.  Th MTA will also set aside $17.9 million for the Long Island Rail Road, $14.9 million for the Metro-North and $3 million for its bridges and tunnels.

 

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Sanitation workers not told about Sandy-related payment errors


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

FEMA/Photo by Andre R. Aragon

Last week, some of the city’s sanitation workers got a surprise in their paycheck — a deduction. In the chaos of Sandy’s aftermath, downed computers and closed garages caused payment errors for the Department of Sanitation (DSNY), according to Harry Nespoli, president of Local 831 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association.

Some workers were overpaid, while others received less than they earned, he said.

After realizing the error and the involvement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — which is reportedly giving the DSNY $26.3 million to cover Sandy-related overtime work — a review of payment records began. But before the audit was complete, the city started to make the adjustments in workers’ paychecks.

They didn’t inform the union until the day those checks were given to some of the affected workers, Nespoli said. “When you are expecting $500, $600 and have $130 in this economy, there are bills that are not going to be paid,” he said. Nespoli said it was wrong to not inform workers of the pay changes, adding the union should have been involved in the audit from the beginning. The city told me “we always wait until [the review] is over with and then we contact the union,” said Nespoli.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Once the union found out about the review, it made sure that no more money would be taken out or added to pay checks until the investigation was completed, and that it would be involved with the audit going forward.

“The DSNY is continuing to discuss the results of the audit with the Sanitation Workers’ union in order to reconcile any differences,” said DSNY spokesperson Kathy Dawkins.

Nespoli said he expects the audit to continue through the summer.

 

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Sandy aid deadlines extended for FEMA grants, SBA loans


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

The deadlines for two government programs to financially help Sandy survivors in New York State have been extended until March 29.

Anyone living in New York City and Long Island, or the counties of Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Sullivan who suffered losses from the storm, including rent, essential home repairs and personal property losses may be eligible for grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Even if a person has insurance, they should register with FEMA by the deadline in case they later find out their losses are not fully covered.

Survivors can also register with the Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest disaster loans.

Homeowners that apply may be eligible for up to $200,000 to repair or replace damages to their primary residence, and renters can receive up to $40,000 for replacement of personal property. Additionally, businesses and private nonprofits may be able to borrow up to $2 million for repairs and replacement of property.

To register with FEMA, visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST, seven days a week.

To apply for a SBA loan, visit DisasterLoan.SBA.gov/ELA.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Overcast with rain showers. High of 46. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Thursday night: Overcast with a chance of rain. Low of 36. Winds from the WNW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Comedy Show Featuring Lisa Corrao

Middle-school-teacher-turned-comedian Lisa Corrao, who has recently participated in the Women in Comedy Festival, the Boston Comedy Festival, the She-Devil Comedy Competition and Comedy Central’s South Beach Comedy Festival, will headline a show at the Laughing Devil Comedy Club with NYC comics Gabe Pacheco, Lucas Connolly, Miguel Dalmau, Scott Sharp and special guest Gene Harding. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

MLS commissioner Don Garber sets time limit for deal to build soccer stadium in Queens, says league will explore other cities if necessary

Don Garber, commissioner of MLS, warned the city on Wednesday that his soccer league will look elsewhere to expand if it can’t cut a deal with officials for a new Corona Park stadium in a relatively short period. Read more: New York Daily News

Hurricane Sandy aid registration deadline extended

New Yorkers who were affected by Superstorm Sandy now have another 30 days to sign up to get help from FEMA. Read more: ABC New York

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Benedict says goodbye to cardinals, promises obedience to successor 

Pope Benedict XVI promised his “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor in his final words to his cardinals Thursday, a poignant farewell before he becomes the first pope in 600 years to resign. Read more: CBS New York

U.S. Army says it faces “dire” financial situation as cuts loom

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