Tag Archives: Hamilton Beach

Repairs begin on Hamilton Beach boardwalk after Sandy damage


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Roger Gendron

The city is finally repairing the boardwalk connecting Hamilton Beach and Howard Beach after Superstorm Sandy made it dangerous to use.

“No one from the city wanted to step up and take responsibility,” said Roger Gendron, the president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “But [Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office] kept going and going to get this done.”

While Ulrich’s office pushed for the repairs, which began on May 15, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) is ultimately responsible for doing the work since it owns the property, according to the councilman. But the department wasn’t quick to admit ownership and instead they told the community that the MTA owned the land. The two debated ownership, causing a delay in repairs.

“This is an issue we’ve been working on for more than a year,” Ulrich said. “We kept going back and forth with DCAS. We were relentless. The city has to accept responsibility for its property and we’re here to make sure that happens.”

When the flooding hit the area, Gendron explained, the boardwalk became uprooted, and now, the once-straight boardwalk curves and drops in many spots. The boardwalk also sustained damages to the individual planks. Construction workers were observed by Gendron on Tuesday, May 20, working on the site.

Hamilton Beach is a small sliver of Howard Beach and is separated from the rest of the neighborhood by canals and waterways. In an area with less than a handful of ways in and out, the boardwalk is used as a main walkway for people going to and from the Howard Beach A train station.

“Anytime we lose any way out of Hamilton Beach, it hurts,” Gendron said.

Gendron and Ulrich both said that this repair is just one among many things that needs to be fixed.

“It’s just one part of the community that needed repairs and we aim to fix them all,” Ulrich said.

DCAS did not respond to comment requests before press time, and no completion date has been set by the department. When the project is complete, according to Gendron, the department will replace the wooden planks with a concrete walkway and new railings.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Pol asks AG to investigate Sandy contractor fraud


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Sandy brought a wave of fraudulent fixes to south Queens, and one elected official wants them wiped out.

Following the superstorm, many affected residents fell victim to fraudulent contractors who “promised to rebuild their homes, but have either left before completing the job or disappeared with [their] deposit without performing the necessary repairs,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

Goldfeder wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, requesting he “immediately investigate” and hold all out-of-state and local fraudulent contractors accountable.

“Residents who have spent their hard-earned money and savings to rebuild deserve to have the work done as promoted by their contractor,” Goldfeder said in his letter.

He said this is a “community-wide concern” in Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel and Rockaway and many are “still struggling to finish repairs left from the storm damage.”

This October, Schneiderman prosecuted a Long Island based organization which “used deceptive practices in an attempt to obtain business from victims” of Sandy.

G.C. Environmental, Inc. of Bay Shore was fined $40,000 after mailing more than 2,000 letters resembling State Department of Environmental Conservation notices of violation to property owners who had suffered petroleum spills as a result of the storm, warning victims of an impending fine if they did not seek repairs.

Additionally, in July, Schneiderman filed lawsuits against four service stations in Kings, Nassau and Suffolk County Supreme Courts for gas price gouging following the storm. The attorney general’s office reached settlements with 25 stations, and additional investigations are pending.
Schneiderman’s office did not return a request for comment regarding Goldfeder’s letter.

“It is of paramount importance that we continue to help homeowners and revive our communities,” Goldfeder said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

 

City Council District 32 candidates Ulrich, Simon look ahead to Election Day


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photos

The heated race for City Council District 32 is coming to a close.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, the incumbent, has represented District 32 in the City Council since 2009. He stood with Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill and Woodhaven through natural disasters and hard-pressed community issues.

“I am proud of my campaign and my work in the City Council over the past four-and-a-half years. I am running on my record of accomplishments and my ability to deliver real results for my constituents,” Ulrich said.

However, Lew Simon has not been far behind. He said he worked tirelessly through Sandy to ensure the safety of the district.

“The support we’re getting on our calls and door to door campaigning is phenomenal – people want change and they don’t feel like they’re being represented in City Hall on issues from schools to street lights to Sandy rebuilding,” Simon said.

Simon suffered a setback earlier this month when he received a stent due to partial heart blockage. He now said he’s spending every day “making sure every voter turns out” on Election Day.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Op-Ed: Where are we one year later?


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR JOSEPH ADDABBO JR.

On any particular day, whether I’m working, getting a cup of coffee, shopping or having dinner in the district, people detail their experiences involving Superstorm Sandy in many different ways. A year later, many still get tears in their eyes, others remain frustrated about the lack of progress, while some see it as a chance to make improvements and some are optimistic about community improvements. One storm, a year later, still causes many emotions.

While we can’t control the weather, we can take steps to control the level of our preparedness and what direction our government takes in addressing the next storm. We’ve learned a lot from Sandy, and I would urge my constituents to think ahead and make sure they have detailed emergency plans in place: know how to contact one another in case of an emergency; have adequate supplies of canned goods, medicines, batteries, flashlights and water on hand; know what to do to help secure your homes and properties to minimize risks during a storm. Useful hurricane preparedness information may be found at this NYS Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/oem/event/hurricane-safety.cfm.

I, along with other elected officials, have been advocating for adequate funding and needed legislation to help the district address the many serious human, economic and other consequences resulting from Sandy. As a member of the New York State Senate Bipartisan Task Force on Hurricane Sandy, I look forward to continuing the effort of our state in responding to Sandy’s devastation and obtaining assistance for those in need.  Currently, our city’s and state’s portion of the federal funding of $61 billion to help Sandy victims is being distributed through NYC Build It Back program, and the state’s utilization of community leaders in its NY Rising Community Reconstruction program aimed at improving our infrastructure.

A range of bills aimed at addressing various aspects of Sandy’s impact were passed by the state legislature and have been recently signed into law by the governor. Some topics include rebates of real property taxes, assisting Breezy Point residents with street frontage issues unique to Breezy Point, exemptions to filing fees related to federal Small Business Administration Disaster Loans, and the implementation of improved tornado warning systems.

This year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season is not yet over. We have learned a lot from Sandy and a year later are still dealing with its aftermath. It’s OK to share our emotions, feelings and sentiments about Sandy, knowing also that by working together we can rebuild and be prepared better than ever.

Senator Joseph Addabbo represents the 15th Senatorial District encompassing the communities – in whole or in part – of Broad Channel, Elmhurst, Forest Hills, Glendale, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Kew Gardens, Kew Gardens Hills, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ozone Park, Rego Park, Richmond Hill, Ridgewood, South Ozone Park, Woodhaven, Woodside and the Rockaways.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Residents protest flood insurance hikes


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

Skyrocketing flood insurance rates could “do more to destroy the community than any storm has ever done,” say hundreds of residents who came out to protest the looming costs.

In July 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which called on agencies such as FEMA to change the way the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is run.

Through the act, the NFIP will be required to raise flood rates to reflect “true flood risk” for a policyholder, according to FEMA.

“They say it’s going to be $400 this year, and $12,000 next year,” said Dorothy McClusky, a 33-year Howard Beach resident. “If the insurance rates go up that high, we’ll have to move.”

Residents said that over time, their rates could get as high as $30,000 a year.

Rallies protesting the price hikes were held nationwide on September 28. In the borough, people from Breezy Point, Rockaway Beach, Belle Harbor, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach and Broad Channel packed tightly into Broad Channel’s American Legion to participate.

“We’re brought together by a common thread of this outrageous legislation,” said Dan Mundy, Jr., president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “[This act] basically will decimate your biggest savings.”

“FEMA is the agency that is going to enact this. FEMA also couldn’t find this island for two weeks [after Sandy],” Mundy said, met by resounding cheers.

The act will over time eliminate all subsidized flood insurance rates for those in participating areas and can increase those rates by two to 10 times their current cost over a five-year period, according to Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office.

New FEMA flood maps additionally place many more residents into Zone A and Zone AE – Biggert-Waters designated areas.

“Areas that have never flooded will now be required to carry flood insurance,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “Homes would become virtually unsellable.”

Last week, the City Council passed a resolution calling upon Congress to amend the legislation.

“Sandy was a 700-year storm event,” Mundy said. “Nature took its best shot at us, but we were able to stay here.”

“We didn’t survive the 700-year storm to be destroyed by FEMA,” he said.

FEMA did not wish to comment.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Primary guide: City Council District 32


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SIMON

As the clock ticks closer to city primaries on Tuesday, September 10, The Courier would like to provide you, the reader and the voter, with a fair, detailed guide of who is running. Here is a list of the City Council District 32 primary candidates (Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Neponsit, Ozone Park, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill and Woodhaven), who they are, what they stand for and what they want to continue to do if they go on to the general election in November.

Name: Lew M. Simon

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Private school teacher, Assembly District Leader

Personal Info: Simon was born and raised in Rockaway. He has been a community and civic leader for over 30 years. He works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, helping all who need help.

Platform/Issues: To secure funding and build much-needed schools. Make school safety and stopping bullying a priority. Reduce busing and keep siblings together in neighborhood schools. Establish an HOV lane on Woodhaven and Cross Bay Boulevards during peak hours. See that every community has a good community hospital with a well-equipped emergency room. Will continue to fund all senior centers, Meals-on-Wheels and Access-A-Ride. Will increase funding for volunteer fire and ambulance departments. Increase the staffing levels so that each community board will have a building inspector. Will continue to fund the fight for additional firefighters and police officers. Support direct mass transit service to midtown Manhattan in less than 30 minutes (Rockaway Beach rail line). Clean up graffiti in Woodhaven and Ozone Park.

Name: William Ruiz

Party: Democrat

*The campaign for this candidate did not submit a profile as of press time

 

MORE PRIMARY GUIDES

Program may bring $100 million to help rebuild Sandy-damaged southern Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program could bring roughly $100 million to help southern Queens rebuild bigger and better after Sandy.

Rockaway is set to receive $60 million, $13 million for Broad Channel and $20 million for Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach for “protection funding,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

However, through this unique program, community leaders, experts and officials in each neighborhood will form committees to determine just how the rebuilding will pan out.

“New York’s effort to build back better must be a two-pronged approach,” Cuomo said, “with the state not only leading critical infrastructure and broad investment strategies but also providing localities the resources they need to invest in their own future.”

Goldfeder said community members know their community better than anybody else and there is “no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to storm mitigation.”

“If you allow the community to have a voice, you can get things done but ensure that it’s in line with what the community desires,” he said.

Committees are still being finalized in each individual area, but the state would like to receive rebuilding proposals within eight months.

“Arguably you could see shovels in the ground within a year,” Goldfeder said.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Sandy’s heroes celebrate 85 years of service


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

While the night marked 85 years of serving its community, the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department dedicated its annual dinner/dance to all of those who pitched in during Sandy — particularly the men and women who were on duty that night.

Volunteers, friends, family and local leaders celebrated another year of community service on Thursday, January 31 at Russo’s on the Bay. State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilmember Eric Ulrich were special honorees, along with former Assemblymember Audrey Pfeffer and former State Senator Serphin Maltese. “Our own firehouse took more than five feet of water, destroying every piece of apparatus we own, and caused extensive damage to the building and equipment,” said treasurer and former chief Mitch Udewitch. “Even during our nightmare, we continued to serve our community, as the new Howard Beach Civic Association began using the department building as a food pantry, a soup kitchen [and a] clothing drop off for area residents. As the devastation became clear, members of the community began stepping forward and helping.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, the night’s presiding officer, swore in new and returning members of the fire department, including Chief Jonah Cohen, who has served a number of terms in the position.

The Howard Beach Kiwanis Club gave a $1,000 contribution to the firehouse. Several donations have been made to the department in the months after the storm. A slew of fire companies from around the country gave equipment, fire trucks and ambulances to the West Hamilton Beach department after its entire arsenal was damaged by flood waters. In December, Duane Reade/Walgreens donated $25,000, which Cohen said would probably go toward a new ambulance.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Courier Persons of the Year honoree: West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

With 2012 behind us, The Queens Courier is paying tribute to the first responders — those men and women who put their lives on the line every day, and who braved Sandy’s wrath to save, and help rebuild, lives.

They have earned our respect and admiration, and a debt of gratitude. Here is one of their stories…

The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department station house is on a strip of land that isn’t far from the water.

So when the storm surge from Sandy started to rise up in the hamlet on Jamaica Bay, it brought seven feet of water into the firehouse where eight volunteers — five firefighters and three EMTs — were on duty.

The residents of Hamilton Beach, which is in Zone A, had evacuated for the most part, according to Jonah Cohen, the chief. But those who stayed needed to be rescued. With their trucks damaged by the flooding and no way to walk through, the fire department had to improvise to save lives.

“We used a boat that was donated to us last year [for Hurricane Irene],” Cohen said. The boat rescued two people who remained at the firestation until the waters receded.

Though that was the sole mission that October night, according to Cohen, the fire department waited for the water to recede around 11 p.m. The next day, they assessed the damage: Three fire trucks, a chief’s car, two personal cars and one ambulance were damaged by Sandy. Lines on the windshields of the fire trucks marked how high the water rose.

Five members of the fire department live in the neighborhood and had to cope with the storm on two fronts. Once they were off-call or done assessing the damage, Cohen said they were relieved by others to focus on the destruction done to their own homes.

“Anybody who lives in the area had damage to their homes,” he said. “They dealt with it that night, and then when they found out what damage was done to their own homes, they basically needed to take care of business.”

Without any life-saving equipment, the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department did what it could as first responders. They took in and distributed cleaning supplies, clothing and food.

“The day after, and for over a month, that’s what we were doing was handing out different products for the people who were here that were trying to clean up their homes and of course to feed them,” said Cohen.

Reconstruction is well underway. To the east of the firehouse, the rail tracks of the A line are being repaired. To the west, just down Davenport Court Road, there’s the wooden frame of a house that will soon be built.

The firehouse parking lot, underwater during Sandy, is once again filled with fire trucks and ambulances. While some bear the old “West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department” emblem, others, bear such names as “Berlin” from Pennsylvania, a testament to the fact that fire departments across the country stepped in to donate equipment.

In one corner, there is a colossal truck with both “FDNY” logos and emblems bearing the shape of Louisiana. Cohen, pointing out how remarkable the truck is in size and condition, explained it had gone back and forth between the two states after Hurricane Katrina and was donated to help after Sandy.

Today, calls are back to normal at the fire department, with some days busy and others quiet.

“The emergency calls are still normal,” he said. “Some days we have a lot; some days are very light. It’s like everything else.”

More Queens Courier Persons of the Year:

Sandy first responders honored as Queens Courier Persons of the Year


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Persons of the Year

With 2012  behind us, The Queens Courier is paying tribute to the first responders — those men and women who put their lives on the line every day, and who braved Sandy’s wrath to save, and help rebuild, lives.

They have earned our respect and admiration, and a debt of gratitude. Here is are some of their stories…

Dylan Smith

Dylan Smith saved the lives of six people during Sandy using just his surfboard, but tragically lost his own life just months later while on the water. On the night of Monday, October 29, Smith, 23, heroically paddled through the floodwaters into his neighbors’ homes in Belle Harbor, and, using a homemade rope bridge along with his surfboard, moved people to safety. Read more

Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department

By now, everyone knows the story. More than 120 houses burned to the ground in Breezy Point the night Sandy struck. It was one of the most destructive residential fires in New York City history. Houses were lost, but lives were saved. Read more

Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department

It began as a glow to the west, a speck of twinkling amber light in the darkness. From the loft above the Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department’s station, the crew watched as the flicker became a blaze, carrying a once charming beachfront neighborhood into the night sky in embers and smoke. “Oh my God,” they said. “Breezy’s burning.” Read more

West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department

The West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department station house is on a strip of land that isn’t far from the water. So when the storm surge from Sandy started to rise up in the hamlet on Jamaica Bay, it brought seven feet of water into the firehouse where eight volunteers — five firefighters and three EMTs — were on duty. Read more

Op-Ed: Where to turn for help


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

BY STATE SENATOR JOSEPH ADDABBO

As if a sluggish economy wasn’t enough for our local businesses to deal with, they now have to deal with the aftermath of Sandy. But as business owners start to pick up the pieces, many of whom also experienced personal losses at their own home, it is imperative that our city, state and federal government have programs that would assist getting these businesses open as soon as possible.

It has been weeks since Sandy hit our city and still the southern one third of my district is trying to recuperate. At this time, over 13,000 residents and businesses are without power in Rockaway. The areas of Broad Channel, Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach are suffering economically. By working together with our business owners, community groups, chambers of commerce and other governmental entities, over time we can revive the now dormant store fronts into active businesses once again. It is important for our businesses to know that they are not in this rebuilding period alone. I reassure store owners throughout my district that they can use my office as a resource for information and programs that have been established in the wake of Sandy.

The New York City Small Business Services and Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) have set up a number of programs to aid businesses who are seeking to reopen. These programs range from offering temporary work space to providing supplies and services. There are programs that deal with employee retention and alternatives to laying off workers. There is also financial assistance through an emergency loan program that offers up to $25,000 with no payments for six months and a 1% interest rate for months seven through 30. A tax exemption program through the NYC Industrial Developmental Agency exists for purchases of construction materials and equipment up to $100,000. The New York City assistance for businesses can be found at www.nyc.gov and www.nycedc.com.

New York State is offering aid through the Empire State Development (ESD) and Small Business Development Centers. For their services and recovery planning contact www.esd.ny.gov and www.nyssbdc.org . ESD is supporting several organizations that have made loans available to businesses affected by Sandy. Some of these loans have early no interest payments and go up to $150,000. Those interested can get detailed information at www.accionusa.org/sandy or by calling 718-205-3773 and 718-961-0888.

On the federal level, both the Small Business Administration (SBA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are offering loans for businesses at www.sba.gov. Information on tax relief can be found at www.irs.gov. Business owners seeking additional information as to other programs that exist, also for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) information, can complete an application at www.disasterassistance.gov.

I encourage owners to reach out to their elected officials for additional information on governmental assistance and other programs which exist to assist such businesses.

While my Howard Beach district office gets reconstructed after being wrecked by Sandy, I drive around the affected areas of my district and weeks later cannot believe the devastation. I know I will eventually get to attend another function at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach, but can never eat lunch again at Harbor Light Pub in Belle Harbor, Rockaway, which was sadly destroyed from fires caused by the storm. For the sake of our communities, for the sake of our neighbors, for the sake of our business owners, we must work together to get our local businesses back on their feet and running again.

Residents not worried about utility poles


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by David Beltran

While leaning utility poles continue to loom over a pedestrian pathway in Hamilton Beach, local residents and city officials alike said there’s no need for concern.

Three poles are currently resting on a fence overlooking the walkway by the “A” train’s rail tracks near 104th Street and Russell Street. While heavy storms once toppled multiple poles around the area back in March 2010 — knocking out power in the surrounding neighborhoods — residents said they were not bothered by the sloping poles’ presence.

“I’m not too worried,” said resident Mike Riley, who said he walks under them every day. “If they were going to fall, they would have already.”

MTA officials said they are aware of the problem and are currently working with the LIRR to gather materials and replace the poles.

“The utility poles do not represent any imminent danger,” said Deirdre Parker, a spokesperson for the MTA. “Work will resume later this week.”

Some residents said city workers were in the neighborhood recently, putting up wooden supports that now prop up the leaning poles. However, the MTA did not verify if the initiative was led by their agency.

“I think they are braced down pretty good,” said passerby John Ray.

Local resident Melissa Serrano said she passes the poles every day, but did not ever notice their slanting nature.

“They should fix them, but I’m not too worried about it,” she said.

With additional reporting by David Beltran