Tag Archives: sandy

Cuomo announces $37M in projects to keep LaGuardia from flooding


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File photo

After Sandy forced LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to close last year for three days, Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced $37.5 million in storm mitigation and resiliency projects to protect important infrastructure from future flooding.

“Sandy forced us to reevaluate how we prepare for and respond to major natural disasters in New York,” said Cuomo. “The question is not if another storm will hit, but when, and the state is doing everything it can to ensure that New York’s infrastructure is strong and durable when the time comes.”

Last year during Sandy, LGA’s airfield was flooded by more than 100 million gallons of water from Flushing Bay, causing the airport to cease commercial flight operations for three days. The surge flooded the five high-capacity pump houses which the airport depended on to drain any water.

The five projects announced by the governor include the installation of flood barrier raised banks around the West Field Lighting Vault, which houses runway and taxiway lighting systems, and construction of a concrete flood wall around the West End Substation that is key to powering the airfield systems.

The other projects feature construction of two gravity drains that will release storm water into Flushing Bay, replacement of existing generators with bigger and more efficient emergency back-up generators, and restoration of LGA’s monitoring and control system, to allow the airport to quickly monitor and deal with any issues with its electrical distribution system.

“Projects like these will significantly improve flood protection and electrical resiliency at LaGuardia and throughout the state,” said Cuomo. “New York State government is working every day to build back better than before.”

Federal funds are expected to cover $28.1 million of the total project costs.

 

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Church destroyed by Sandy is rededicated to Howard Beach


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

After Sandy destroyed their church, St. Barnabas wasn’t sure they would ever get back on their feet.

“Whenever there was a disaster, we’re the ones people come to,” said Debra Pignatelli, St. Barnabas official. “We couldn’t help anyone, we were totally devastated ourselves.”

The church sustained roughly five feet of water and the majority of its infrastructure was damaged, as well as tables, chairs and other items used for the many meetings held at the site.

The Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, civic groups, Sunday school-goers and Alcoholics Anonymous were some of the groups that had to find alternative meeting places, as the church was holding a limited number of events.

But, after $150,000 in repairs, $75,000 of that in electrical work, Pignatelli said the church is back to operating at about 80 percent, barring a kitchen makeover. All of the money came from private donors.

After the tireless community effort, the church was rededicated earlier this month to the parish and to Howard Beach.

“If you had asked me two months after the storm if we would be here now, in this place, with what we have and what people have gifted us, I would have never believed it, honestly,” Pignatelli said. “It has been pretty miraculous how people have stepped up.”

 

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Record numbers, heightened security at NYC Marathon


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of New York Road Runners

The safest place in the country may have been the route of the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday.

NYPD officers trolled the race, guarding runners and spectators alike, because of terrorism concerns caused by the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year, in which three people died and hundreds were injured.

A record 50,740 runners from around the world competed in this year’s ING Marathon, which was cancelled last year due to tremendous damage by Superstorm Sandy.

“My point of view is you can’t live like that,” said Joseph Gordon, a Queens Village resident who ran the marathon for the first time. “Living in New York it’s dangerous just to step outside my house. The NYRR [New York Road Runners] did a good job being careful and improving security.”

The marathon, which travels 26.2 miles around the five boroughs, featured more police officers along the course than previous years, some with bomb-sniffing dogs. Officers also checked spectators’ bags at certain locations, among various other reported counter-terrorism tactics.

As a result the race proceeded safely and featured fierce competition, dominated by Kenyan runners.

In the men’s race, Geoffrey Mutai defended his NYC Marathon 2011 crown with another win. He finished with an official time of 2:08:24. Priscah Jeptoo won the women’s division with a time of 2:25:07.

Gordon said the return of the race brings the city a little bit closer to normalcy.

“I think it’s really important to New York, the fact that it’s in all the boroughs and a lot of people were affected [by Sandy],” he said. “It’s not something that New York needs, but that the people of New York needed. It’s like a morale booster.”

 

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Bill could delay flood insurance hikes for Sandy victims


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Flood zone residents can rest easy for now ‑ as impending increases in flood insurance have been put on the backburner.

Congressmembers Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries co-sponsored the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Care Act of 2013, legislation meant to address the flood insurance rate increase and “keep residents from being priced out of our community,” Meeks said.

In July 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which would require the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to raise flood rates to reflect “true flood risk” for a policyholder, according to FEMA.

As a result of the act, residents said that over time, their rates could get as high as $30,000 a year. Rallies protesting the price hikes were held nationwide in September, including one at the Broad Channel American Legion Hall, which brought in hundreds of residents.

“We’d like to think we played a small role,” said Dan Mundy, Jr., president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “It’s a really important first step. We hope to maybe have some input on this.”

The insurance affordability act imposes a four-year delay for certain primary residences. It also mandates FEMA complete an affordability study, which will take two years.

The new bill also allows FEMA to reimburse policyholders who successfully appeal a map determination.
Meeks and Jeffries worked with over 80 other members of Congress to pass the act and “fix” the NFIP, he said.

He vows to work with colleagues “across the aisle” to ensure the bill is signed into law and successfully implemented.

“The painful devastation we experienced during Sandy brought us together to get this done, but it was the resilience and commitment to rebuilt from the people of Rockaway that served as inspiration to make it happen,” Meeks said.

 

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Political Roundup: De Blasio, Lhota face off in final debate


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

ROUNDUP

Mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota had their third and final debate Wednesday.

The debate was originally scheduled for Tuesday but was moved to last night in observance of the Sandy anniversary,

Questions about Sandy led off the debate, but the two once again battled over many of the same issues they did in the previous two debates, including education, crime and taxes.

A Quinnipiac University poll released the same day of the debate showed de Blasio still has as significant lead over Lhota in the race.

MORE HEADLINES

Former Mayor Dinkins hospitalized with ‘mild touch of pneumonia’: CBS New York

Adjusting the Moreland script, Cuomo goes to war with former Senate allies: Capital New York

City Council moving to take away speaker’s ‘pork’ power: New York Post

Senate blocks Obama picks for judge, housing posts: AP

Edward Snowden gets a job working in tech support for Russian website: lawyer: New York Daily News

 

Sandy firefighter heroes recognized on anniversary


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Maggie Hayes

One year ago they were in boats and swimming through floodwaters to rescue the residents of south Queens as it was battered by Sandy.

On the anniversary of the superstorm, Vetro by Russo’s on the Bay gathered the firefighter crews and recognized them for their bravery.

“Around 9:30 p.m. that night we got seven feet of water in the firehouse,” said Deputy Chief Andy Zych of the West Hamilton Beach Fire Department.

The department’s fire trucks, ambulances and equipment were ruined. So a neighbor lent the crew a fishing boat, and they got to paddling. Zych and a fellow firefighter rescued a woman, her mother and their two dogs from their flooding home and brought them to the firehouse.

“In a time like that, you don’t think. You just try and do the best you can,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Broad Channel, the local firehouse was also flooded with seven feet of water, but the crew set out into the night.

“On a regular, everyday basis, you don’t worry about anything else other than the task at hand,” said Deputy Chief Eddie Wilmarth. “But the majority of us live down here. You know as you’re grabbing people out of their houses, you know your own house is being destroyed.”

Before the storm, the Broad Channel Fire Department took a head count of everyone staying in town so they knew “who was where, and what they need,” Wilmarth said.

As the wind and rain pushed on, the floodwaters were too deep for trucks to drive through, so rescue swimmers were sent out to respond to a fire that broke out on a flood-prone street. The current was too strong for them to make it, so they swung ropes around poles to pull themselves across the intersection.

In the end, the flood put out the fire.

“We were on our own. We were the only ones operating,” Wilmarth said.

The Broad Channel department also lost all of its trucks and ambulances. But, as Wilmarth said, “the fire world is a big brotherhood,” and all of the storm-affected firehouses received equipment from all over the country.

West Hamilton Beach received a fire truck from a crew in Mississippi, who had been given that same truck after Hurricane Katrina.

Both fire crews and others in the area are back up and running, but say they’re still not back to 100 percent. Even still, they were back responding to calls just days after Sandy.

“If anything happens, we will be there,” Zych said.

 

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Sandy: Looking back on a year


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Top photo by Melissa Chan/Bottom photo by Alexa Altman

October 29, 2012—the day Sandy reared her ugly head and barreled through, leaving a swath of destruction in her wake.

In this week’s issue and online, The Courier has brought you tales of rebuilding, tales of resiliency – and stories of a borough that is bouncing back.

Here’s a recap of the stories:

 

PHOTOS: Sandy Then & Now


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Sandy Then and Now

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

THEN

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

NOW

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

 

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Chelsea Clinton helps with Sandy recovery during ‘Day of Action’ in the Rockaways


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of the Clinton Foundation

The Clintons joined the ongoing Sandy recovery in a “Day of Action” in the Rockaways.

Chelsea Clinton and hundreds of volunteers visited Brookville Park, Rockaway Park, P.S. 197 and homes in Far Rockaway on Saturday to revitalize the damaged communities. This is the fifth Day of Action, which has brought in volunteers from all over the country to give back to their own communities.

Clinton also participated in the St. Bernard Project to break ground on the future site of the first “Resilient House.”

The former first daughter joined the home’s future owners, the Lyons family, at the event.

The Resilient House will be designed by Sustainable TO Architecture + Building and is modeled to be energy efficient, cost effective and able to withstand future disasters.

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Cross Bay businesses make a comeback


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre

After opening her two-floor hair salon and spa on Cross Bay Boulevard in July last year, Kimberly Langona was devastated when months later, it was partially destroyed.

Superstorm Sandy wiped out the entire first floor of Explosion Hair Styling, destroying equipment including hair dryers, electrical wiring, furniture and computers.

“Everything was lost,” said Langona, who rebuilt the entire salon and replaced all the equipment, which cost an estimated $150,000. “I couldn’t even tell you how hard it was to turn people away.”

Photo courtesy Kimberly Langona

Explosions Hair Styling was completely reconstructed after receiving massive damage from Sandy. (THE COURIER/ Photo by Liam La Guerre)

Full power was not restored to the building until December of last year, but Langona kept the salon and spa partially open by utilizing generators on the second floor, which is called Serenity Day Spa.

Now, a year later, business is buzzing at full capacity in the salon, much like other businesses on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The Howard Beach commercial strip was under water after Sandy struck on October 29, and many businesses were forced to close. Some never reopened and others endured months of rebuilding before making a comeback.

“It was a mess,” said Joe De Candia, owner of Lenny’s Clam Bar. “You couldn’t fathom that much water.”

About four feet of water rushed into the restaurant, a 40-year staple in the community which is famous for serving numerous celebrities. The force of the flooding tossed tables and chairs outside the eatery and the garbage compactor was moved four blocks away. All the electrical equipment and wiring on the first floor was destroyed and the walls were soaked with water.

The restaurant lost power for about three weeks, but De Candia said they immediately started making repairs, which were paid for out-of-pocket. After the power returned it took another two weeks before they had a partial reopening.

“We were limping but we were able to reopen,” De Candia said.

But because of Sandy, Lenny’s was able to come back bigger and better. The gym next door, Better Bodies Fitness for Women, wasn’t able to rebuild so De Candia bought the property and expanded the restaurant and added a party room. He also shifted the bar to make it bigger.

Lenny’s wasn’t the only business that improved following the storm.
Scott Baron & Associates PC completely rebuilt the first floor, making it more functional and adding state of-the-art-technology.

The law office, which has been known as a community champion for nearly 20 years, finally held its grand reopening in June. Before the Howard Beach office reopened though, Scott Baron, the owner, said they moved operations to their office in Yonkers.

Baron is happy that the commercial strip is back again and said it’s a testament to the community sticking together.

“I saw a lot of store owners helping store owners and neighbors helping neighbors, because everyone was in the same boat,” Baron said. “The community really came together.”

 

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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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Street Talk: What are your memories of Sandy?


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Street Talk Sandy

What I remember most is all of the houses destroyed, all of the people who suffered.

Ronald Kenchon

The slow reaction of the mayor and the insufficient plan for the disaster that was coming.

The mayor didn’t come to the aid of the outer boroughs quickly enough.

Robert Garner

It destroyed a lot of New Jersey and New York. Many people got hurt.

Daniel Ketz

I remember being really scared because nothing like that had ever happened to me before. Luckily our house wasn’t destroyed or anything, but a few friends of mine in Rockaway wound up with no power for a few days.

Gabby Hinton

I didn’t think it was going to be as big as deal as it turned out to be. Our house didn’t lose power but my parents kept us inside for a few days because they were afraid there would be looting.

Nathalie Blackmon

Our house didn’t have power for a couple of days, but my mom bought enough emergency food to last us in the meantime. I was pretty scared for my friends in other areas who I couldn’t get in touch with though.

Sharia Stevens

We sat by our front door and at about 9 p.m. the water started to rise above our entrance. We were helpless in our efforts to prevent the water from coming in. We waited it out. The water level was at a car door. It was very eerie because the power was off.

Herb Listopad

We had no electricity for 27 or 28 days. Fortunately, we live on the second floor. It was really windy, the trees were blowing and then the water came in. I would say about seven feet high outside. Boats were coming down my street. People were paddling boats to rescue people that were on their roofs or on the second floor.

Eric Hill

I live in Ozone Park so nothing much was going on over there. It was windy and looking out the window you could see the rain.

Ivan Wylie

I was standing in front my house and I actually saw the water when it was first coming. The water started to come from around the corner and flood the whole street. We were stunned we had never seen anything like that before so we came back in the house. It was such a frightening thing. We started to go up the steps because the water started to come in higher and higher.

Elliot Jacks

I think my block was the only one that still had power after the storm. We took a stroll to [Cross Bay Boulevard]. It was pretty bad. The trees were knocked down everywhere.

Yvan Pangilinan

The water had no place to go, it flooded the streets and it went up the streets and into everyone’s homes and it flooded the entire first level of the house. The upstairs was not touched. Everything downstairs had to be replaced: the heating, the air conditioning, every piece of furniture, the floor, the walls…

Dorris Brown

BY LIAM LA GUERRE, JOHANN HAMILTON & RACHEL LANDAU

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Army man’s family remains resilient after displacement from Breezy Point home


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Thomas Sullivan

Count on an Army man to barrel through devastation and come up optimistic.

Ocean waves, turned violent by Sandy, pushed a house onto Thomas Sullivan’s home last year, causing it to “twist and buckle” off its foundation until it was eventually torn down.

“It was my summer house and my winter, spring and fall house,” he said. “It was our home.”

Sullivan and his family are still displaced after losing their Beach 219th Street home of 12 years. But the man who has served more than 20 years in the reserves is marching them forward.

“Life has to go on. We have to go to work. We have to get the kids to school,” Sullivan said. “Life got a little more stressful, a little more challenging. But if we could be in a home after two years, I think it’s not the worst thing in the world.”

Before the storm hit, Sullivan, 42, sent his wife and three kids away from the coast to Levittown, Long Island. He chose to brave Sandy in his parents’ house in Breezy, which is farther from the ocean.

“I stayed for Irene, and I got a false sense that it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “Seeing the house next to my parents come down and seeing the damage throughout the night as it was happening, and the fires, I was expecting the worst.”

Sullivan was able to recover some photographs and jewelry from his house but had to deliver the dreaded news to his family: “There is no coming back to Breezy Point.”

“The kids had a big sleepover at their cousins’. They were having fun,” he said. “It was very sobering news to my wife to hear.”

Sullivan’s three kids — a pair of 11-year-old twin boys and an 8-year-old girl — “lost everything” and had to temporarily enroll in a new school in Levittown.

The youngsters proved as resilient as their hero dad, who served 13 months in Iraq and escaped from the 96th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Sullivan said they made friends and had a “positive impact on their classrooms” as one of the few displaced students there.

Now the family is back in Breezy, living with Sullivan’s parents and submitting rebuilding plans to the city.

“I didn’t know if we would be able to come back,” he said. “I thought we were going to have to sell our plot.”

Sullivan said “the beautiful environment” he loves about seaside Breezy Point was the same one that turned on him. Still, he said he could not see his family growing up anywhere else.

“It’s spotless, it’s pristine. There are pretty dunes, and it’s extremely safe here,” he said. “Life is simple in Breezy — or it was.”

 

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SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Storm victims navigate difficulties of insurance claims


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Sandy victims not only felt the wrath of the storm, but experienced the scramble to recover funds washed away with the floodwater.

Residents report having difficulty dealing with insurance companies and getting back what they believe to be theirs.

“The insurance companies have dominated this process because people really don’t know where to turn,” said lawyer John Houghtaling, who specializes in claim insurance litigation and disaster recovery law.

Local officials in south Queens have received complaints about insurance companies and inquiries as to where to turn.

City Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office has fielded numerous complaints to the Department of Financial Services (DFS), which handles insurance issues.

“Do we receive complaints? Absolutely,” said John Capuano of the DFS. “People have gotten checks, they say it’s not enough or they think something was missed.”

The DFS has seen a significant spike in claims since the storm hit, Capuano said, and has been working to contact individual insurance companies.

They have additionally done field visits, where the DFS arranges for an adjuster from an insurance company to visit the problem site to “give it a second look” with a DFS staff member, according to Capuano.

 

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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.

 

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