Tag Archives: Senator Charles Schumer

FEMA to pay for Sandy-damaged boilers in Rockaway NYCHA buildings


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Rob Bennett for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) residents in the Rockaways and other parts of the city will receive a much needed fix to their buildings following Superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday that 60 boilers in 110 separate NYCHA residential buildings in the Rockaways, Coney Island and the Lower East Side that were damaged in the storm will be replaced.

FEMA will provide approximately $100 million in funding for the “new state-of-the-art-boilers.” Since Sandy, NYCHA has been spending $3 million per month for temporary boilers in the buildings.

Officials said that instead of repairing the boilers, as is normal, FEMA had agreed to replace them, speeding up the process of restoring regular service to the affected buildings.

“For more than 16 months, bureaucratic infighting and red tape have denied NYCHA residents the most basic of necessities—reliable heat and hot water,” Schumer said. “Today we’re firmly on the path to righting a wrong that has too often left NYCHA residents in the cold during the winter and in the dark at night.”

The final funding agreement is expected to be in place in time so boiler replacement can start later this year, according to Schumer.

 

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Bill proposed in State Assembly to cover GPS tracking devices for kids with autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

Staten Island Assemblymember Matthew Titone introduced a bill in the State Assembly that would require insurance companies to offer GPS device tracking coverage for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The bill comes after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4, when he ran out of the school, located just across from the East River. His body was found on January 16, washed up in College Point.

“The tracking devices are crucial in finding lost children quickly and safely,” said Titone. “Unfortunately, such devices can be expensive and difficult to maintain.”

Titone also added that insurance companies would be responsible for covering the costs of the equipment and monitoring services.

In January, Senator Charles Schumer introduced a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program to provide voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with ASD or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common.

Later that same month, the Department of Justice agreed to take existing funding which already helps track seniors with Alzheimer’s and expand it to children with ASD.

The funding will become available to police departments or other local law enforcement groups that would be able to provide tracking devices to parents, schools and legal guardians interested in the program.

 

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DOJ to fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Handout

The Department of Justice agreed Wednesday morning to take existing funding which already helps track seniors with Alzheimer’s and expand it to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) just a day after a new video of Avonte Oquendo leaving school was released.

The existing DOJ funding will become available to police departments or other local law enforcement groups that would be able to provide tracking devices to parents, schools and legal guardians interested in the program.  

“Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “DOJ already funds these devices for individuals with Alzheimer’s and they have done the right thing in deciding to do the same for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

The agreement, made by Attorney General Eric Holder, comes just days after Schumer introduced a new legislation called “Avonte’s Law.”  The new bill looks to create and fund a new grant program within the DOJ that would help provide the funding for voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families and children with ASD or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common.

Autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City school on October 4 and his remains were found washed up early this month in College Point.

New surveillance video released to the media on Tuesday shows Avonte bolting out of the doors of his school minutes after an adult is seen leaving the door opened.

 

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Senator Charles Schumer introduces ‘Avonte’s Law’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Charles Schumer's Office

A day after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest, one politician announced legislation that could help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4 when he ran out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday he will be introducing a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices.

“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrated that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s.”

The bill would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice allowing the agency to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations wanting to provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The funds would also help provide training and other resources to schools allowing them to be prepared to react to a situation like Avonte’s.

The new program would be modeled from the federal program already being used to help track seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“Avonte’s Law” will authorize $10 million in federal money to purchase the voluntary tracking devices and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement. The program would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement and would provide training on how to use and maintain the devices. 

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

“The tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo hit home with parents in New York and across the country,” said Liz Feld, president of autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “We need to raise awareness and increase education so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

 

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Kaufman Astoria Studios opens NYC’s first outdoor film set


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Queens is on its way to becoming the next Hollywood.

Kaufman Astoria representatives, local and state elected officials, community leaders and the beloved Grover from Sesame Street gathered on Tuesday to cut the ribbon on New York City’s first outdoor film set at the Kaufman Astoria Studios on 36th Street between 34th and 35th Avenue.

“Today is the celebration of a vision coming true, it is why I’m smiling,” said Hal Rosenbluth, president of Kaufman Astoria Studios. “The backlot is an exciting new development for the film and television industry in New York as well as for this area of Astoria.”

The grand opening also revealed a brand new gated entrance, designed by David Rockwell and the Rockwell Group, located at 35th Avenue.

The 40-foot high steel gate, which can be used as a catwalk for productions, serves as an identifiable iconic symbol in the community and also welcomes visitors into the block-long 34,800-square-foot outdoor lot.

“As the first dedicated backlot in the five boroughs, film and television productions are now more likely to yell ‘action’ and choose Kaufman Astoria Studios and New York City as a location for filming,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “It’s great to say that Kaufman Astoria Studios is now ready for its close up. We’re rolling out the red carpet for the studio’s brand new lot. It’s a game changer for New York. I like to see New York be number one in everything and we are getting there. Hollywood watch out.”

The brand new outdoor lot is expected to bring in more movie and TV producers because it would allow them to shoot outdoors, special effects shots, and leave up sets for extended periods of time. It is located adjacent to the sound stages, allowing access to dressing rooms, production office and set building workshops.

“The addition of New York City’s first-ever outdoor sound stage puts Astoria on the map when it comes to producing blockbuster movies in the United States,” said Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. “From a dormant industrial building, Kaufman Astoria Studios has built a world-class institution that has helped Western Queens become ‘Hollywood East.’”

Together with this new expansion, Kaufman Astoria Studios hopes to continue working on the vision George Kaufman, real estate developer and studio chairman, of growing the arts and culture in Astoria and bringing the neighborhood together.

“When I first came here in the early 1980s, I know that we had the potential to turn this neighborhood into a thriving production, arts and cultural district for the City and I am proud to see that vision is a reality today.”

Current productions at Kaufman Astoria Studios include television shows such as Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and Amazon’s “Alpha House.”

 

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Autism expert says there’s still hope Avonte Oquendo will be found


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Close to six weeks have passed and although Avonte Oquendo’s whereabouts are still unknown, the search continues as hope in finding the autistic teen remains strong.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

The NYPD and volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, whose family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls.

The command center for volunteers and family searching for the boy is now operating out of an RV located on the side of The Riverview School on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard.

According to Andrew Baumann, president and CEO of New York Families for Autistic Children (NYFAC), this is not an isolated case. Children with autism are prone to running and throughout the country there have been many cases of children disappearing, he said.

“I don’t believe that anyone should give up hope on finding Avonte alive and in good condition,” Baumann said. “I don’t believe in giving up, these kids are really resilient.”

Baumann also said the teen’s family had no control over what happened because they trusted the school to take responsibility. He believes school security agents should hold back any child attempting to leave and report the incident to the principal.

“I don’t care how old the child is, no child should ever be allowed to walk out of the school during the school day,” Baumann said.

Last week Senator Charles Schumer called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both create and fund a program which would provide voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other developmental disorders.

According to Baumann, these devices would and do work great, but there should be ways to make sure they are 100 percent effective and cannot be removed if the child were to take off their clothes.

“Now we need people to take action, if they see him they should stay with him until the police come,” said Baumann. “The reward is nothing. It shouldn’t be about the money and the reward, it should be about doing the right thing.”

If anyone sees Avonte, they should follow him and keep him within eye contact and call 9-1-1, said Baumann.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website or can text their tips to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Schumer calls for program providing voluntary tracking devices for autistic kids


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com


It’s been a month since Avonte Oquendo was last seen leaving his Long Island City school. Now, one politician is proposing a program that could help prevent another child from going missing.

Senator Charles Schumer has called for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to both create and fund a program which would provide voluntary tracking devices for children with autism or other development disorders. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices and would be designed for children with disorders in which bolting, running or wandering is common.

“The sights and sounds of cities, schools and other busy places can be over-stimulating and distracting for children and teens with autism, often leading to wandering as a way to escape,” said Schumer. “Voluntary tracking devices will help our teachers and parents in the event that the child runs away and, God forbid, goes missing.”

The tracking devices could be used as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets, or can be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces.

When the child or teen goes missing, either the caregiver, parent or school notifies the device company, and then a trained emergency team responds to the location. A tracking device program like this already exists in Massachusetts. One kind of device, made by Project Lifesaver, averages a recovery time of 30 minutes.

Schumer also said the devices would be used together with educational and behavior supports.

Schumer called on the DOJ to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations that would provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The DOJ has already awarded competitive grants to such organization that aide in finding missing people with Alzheimer’s.

“Funding this program will help put school systems and parents of children and teens with autism at ease knowing where their children are,” said Schumer.

 

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Pols: Fast track Rockaway boardwalk study


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation unveiled its plans to rebuild the boardwalk after it was destroyed by Sandy almost a year ago. The plans, however, do not include a seawall along Rockaway Beach – something the coastline community has been requesting for years.

“The first priority must be the safety and security of our families and homes,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “Our community has been demanding protective ocean barriers, including dunes and rock jetties for too long.”

Currently, the Army Corps of Engineers is performing a Rockaway Protection Study, including long-term protection measures, using a cost/benefit analysis to determine how to rebuild the devastated area. Now, Goldfeder and Senator Charles Schumer are calling on the group to expedite the study so these measures, such as a seawall and jetties, can be put in place as soon as possible.

Schumer said there is a “real concern” about coordinating long-term storm protection between Parks and the Army Corps and that a new, federally-funded boardwalk is able to accommodate these protection measures.

Additionally, if the Parks Department does include a seawall in its recovery plans, the Army Corps cost/benefit analysis will conclude that jetties and dunes are not needed for protection, said Schumer.

“Rockaway and its residents must not be left vulnerable in the event of a future storm,” Schumer said. “Now that New York City’s plans for the Rockaway boardwalk are underway, the Army Corps should fast-track their study so that New York City is aware of what protections will be put in place.”

The Army Corps’ study is underway along the shoreline from Beach 149th Street to Beach 19th Street, with the objective to find a long-term, cost-effective solution, potentially including dunes, stone-groins and other protective measures. The study is funded by federal money.

Currently, over 600,000 cubic yards of sand are being added to provide flood control between Beach 89th Street and Beach 149th Street.

Reconstruction of the boardwalk could start as early as later this year or early 2014, said the Parks Department.

 

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New York to receive $34 million increase in anti-terrorism funds


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


New York is getting $240 million to help with its anti-terrorism efforts, a $34 million increase over last year, Senator Charles Schumer announced today.

“New York is the nation’s top terrorist target and is now being treated as such by the federal government,” said Schumer.  “These significant increases in counter-terrorism funding over last year’s allocations means that NYPD and State law enforcement can continue to do the superior job they do keeping us safe.”

The money will go towards two programs, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and State Homeland Security Program (SHSGP). The New York metropolitan area is set to receive $174.2 million in UASI funds, and New York State’s government will get $11.1 million from the SHSGP.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Monday: Overcast with rain showers, then thunderstorms and rain showers in the afternoon. Fog early. High of 79. Winds from the SW at 5 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 40%. Monday night: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. Fog overnight. Low of 68. Winds from the SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Big Apple Circus 

The Big Apple Circus comes to Queens at Cunningham Park  in Fresh Meadows from Sunday, May 19 – Sunday, June 16. Experience the nostalgic thrills of bygone big tops and get a first-hand view of beauties, daredevils and clowns from another era. Performers from around the world create joyful memories under the artistic direction of Guillaume Dufresnoy. More than 40 performances will take place. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly rejects calls for more oversight after successful lawsuits against NYPD

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly blasted critics calling for the NYPD to monitor successful lawsuits against cops in the wake of a Daily News investigation. Read more: New York Daily News

Sen Schumer calls on airlines to reverse flight change fee increases

Senator Charles Schumer doesn’t want to see airline fees go sky-high. Read more: CBS New York

Gillibrand announces legislation to ease student loan burdens

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has proposed new legislation to ease the burden for students who have taken out loans to pay for their education. Read more: AP/CBS New York

Amtrak service remains suspended between NYC and New Haven

Amtrak announced Sunday night that service remains suspended between New York and New Haven, with limited Amtrak service available between Boston and New Haven. Read more: Fox New York

FDA could make tanning beds have labels discouraging teen use

The Food and Drug Administration is looking to deter young people from using tanning beds, with new rules that would reclassify sunlamp products from low risk devices to moderate risk. Read more: NY1

Senate committee moves toward vote on immigration

The Senate Judiciary Committee is aiming this week to pass a landmark immigration bill to secure the border and offer citizenship to millions, setting up a high-stakes debate on the Senate floor. Read more: AP

Amendment would delay flood insurance premium increases


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A new amendment will help Sandy victims avoid drowning in flood insurance premium increases—at least for several years to come.

Senator Charles Schumer announced his support for an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act that delays increases for those with National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coverage in communities affected by updated FEMA flood maps for five years.

“I will strongly support this amendment that staves off massive, looming flood insurance hikes for homeowners, many of whom are dedicating every available penny to rebuilding,” he said.

Following Sandy, FEMA decided to update the city’s flood maps. The changes, which are still under revision, will classify more neighborhoods as flood zones and bring about increases to insurance premiums there.

In January, shortly after FEMA published the first of two phases of updated Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed an emergency executive order suspending height and other restrictions. The idea was to let buildings meet the new elevation standards and to mitigate costs of future flood insurance premium increases.

As of press time, the amendment was awaiting a vote.

 

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Flyers feel delays from furloughs


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Weather is not the only thing delaying travelers this week.

U.S. government spending cuts forced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ax $637 million from its budget this year and to furlough it staff, the FAA confirmed.

Air traffic controllers are now required to take one day off without pay for every 10 days of work. That will come to 11 days of furlough per employee by the end of the year.

With fewer eyes on the skies, the FAA estimates the furlough could delay as many as 6,700 flights per day at 13 of the country’s largest hubs, including John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport.

On Monday, the first weekday of the furloughs, JFK already experienced delays.

“I didn’t know about [the furlough], but I’ve been waiting for my flight for over an hour now. I’m flying to Tampa and it’s been delayed,” said Matt Frankel.

“My flight has been delayed for almost two hours. This is ridiculous,” said one traveler.

But Joan Lamercka said she had no issues with her flight.

“My flight actually went pretty smoothly—no delays. But I can see how this would cause problems,” she said.

The FAA said there were 1,200 delays throughout the counrty as a result of the furlough on Monday. The body attributed an additional 1,400 delays to the weather and other factors.

Senator Charles Schumer said the FAA estimates there could be delays of up to 80 minutes out of LaGuardia and 50 minutes at JFK. He called on the Senate to repeal the cuts and is pushing to make up the revenue by closing tax loopholes.

“These furloughs will turn every day into a blizzard as far as flying is concerned,” said Schumer. “These delays can and must be avoided by passing a balanced budget to repeal the sequester through both closing tax loopholes and by making smart cuts.”

 -Additional reporting  by Luke Tabet

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


 TODAY’S FORECAST 

Monday: Overcast in the morning, then mostly cloudy. High of 55. Winds from the ESE at 10 to 15 mph. Monday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 41. Winds from the SE at 5 to 10 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Marking Spaces: New York City’s Landmark Historic Districts 

The NYC Landmarks Preservation Law, enacted by then Mayor Robert Wagner on April 19, 1965, protects the city’s architecturally, historically and culturally significant buildings and sites. One of the best manifestations of the New York City landscape and the impact of landmarks is the Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art. The new exhibition “Marking Spaces: New York City’s Landmark Historic Districts,” will have yellow flags placed on the model to identify the 109 historic districts throughout the five boroughs. On view through June 2. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own 

 7 Injured in  fire in Astoria, Queens

Seven people were injured late Sunday afternoon when a fire broke out in an Astoria, Queens apartment building. Read more: CBS New York

Man caught riding Long Island Rail Road train through Queens

Talk about a crazy commute. A reckless rider was spotted on top of a Long Island Rail Road train in Queens Sunday morning. Read more: New York Daily News 

Schumer opposes possible concealed weapon addition to gun control bill

As Washington lawmakers prepare to vote on expanded background checks for gun purchases, Senator Charles Schumer warned Sunday that a possible Republican amendment to a federal gun safety bill could force all states, including New York, to recognize all other states’ concealed-carry laws. Read more: NY1

9/11 memorial charging reservation fee

Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum must now pay a $2 service fee to reserve passes online or by phone. Read more: Fox New York/AP

New York’s ‘assault weapon’ registration to begin

Key measures of New York’s tough new gun law are set to kick in, with owners of guns now reclassified as assault weapons required to register the firearms and new limits on the number of bullets allowed in magazines. Read more: AP

Tight win for Chavez’s heir spells uncertainty for Venezuela

Late socialist leader Hugo Chavez’s chosen successor Nicolas Maduro won Venezuela’s presidential election by a whisker but now faces opposition protests plus a host of economic and political challenges in the OPEC nation. Read more: Reuters 

Statue of Liberty, closed since Sandy, to reopen by July 4


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NPS

One of America’s most iconic symbols of freedom, the Statue of Liberty will be open in time to celebrate the country’s birthday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer announced today.

The monument has been closed since Sandy.

“[The storm] inflicted major damage on facilities that support the Statue of Liberty – destroying the docks, crippling the energy infrastructure on Ellis Island and wiping out the security screening system – but we are fully committed to reopening this crown jewel as soon as it’s safe for visitors and not a second later,” said Salazar . “Based on the tremendous progress we have made, Lady Liberty will be open to the public in time for the July 4th celebration.”

The Statue of Liberty is an important part of the city’s economy during the holiday and the rest of the year. According to Salazar, a report released last month by the National Park Service found that 3.7 million people visited Statue of Liberty national park in 2011, bringing in $174 million in economic activity and supporting 2,218 jobs.

“Lady Liberty was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, but just like New York, she will be back – and stronger than ever, said Schumer. “Being open for the summer tourism season isn’t just important symbolically, it’s a boon to the city’s economy and businesses, as the statue attracts millions of tourists from all over the world to our shores.”

Work to remove the damaged Liberty Island Shuttle Dock. (Photo by Kevin Daley, NPS Photographer)

 

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Schumer pushes for co-op, condo Sandy relief


| mchan@queenscourier.com


New York’s senior senator has joined the ranks of leaders pushing for relief to storm-damaged co-ops and condos.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last Wednesday asking the agency to establish Sandy relief program guidelines for co-ops and condos.

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,” according to elected federal officials. The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.

“After Sandy, FEMA was able to help many communities. However, due to inflexible bureaucratic rules, co-op and condo homeowners were left in the wake,” Schumer said.

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.

Schumer called on HUD officials to use Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery funds to help co-op and condo owners repair and rebuild.

HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program early last week. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total.

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

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” according to Bob Friedrich, the co-op’s president. The co-op will have to shell out $250,000 for infrastructural damage.

And nearly 3,000 Mitchell-Lama co-ops in the Rockaways are forced to shoulder repair costs, said Dolores Orr, co-op owner and president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“It is astonishing to me that residential co-op buildings are not being afforded any financial assistance in the recovery from Sandy,” she said. “We are homeowners just like those who live in … family houses.”

 

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