It’s been two years since Superstorm Sandy ravaged southern Queens and though the recovery process is slow, it is moving in the right direction, city officials said at a town hall meeting in Rockaway.
“We are approaching the two-year anniversary of Sandy and still people are struggling,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “We wanted to give the community a chance to hear about the recovery process and ask their questions directly to the city agencies.”
The meeting, which was hosted by Ulrich and Councilman Donavan Richards at Beach Channel High School in Rockaway on Oct. 27, provided updates on the state of the Rockaway boardwalk, ferry service, street and light repairs, Build It Back numbers, FEMA insurance and other programs presented by representatives of the DOT, EDC, DEP, Parks Department, Build It Back and the Mayor’s office.
“Sandy highlighted many of the vulnerabilities that we had in the city,” said Dan Zarrilli, director of Recovery and Resiliency in the Mayor’s Office.
He added that his agency is working on strengthening coastal defenses through sand replenishment and bulkhead expansion while also lobbying the federal government to keep FEMA insurance at an affordable price for residents.
Amy Peterson, director of Build It Back, said that even though the agency is not where it needs to be, much progress has been made. Since January, there have been 750 construction starts and 1,000 checks issued throughout the city.
When it came to the DEP, Emily Lloyd, director of the agency, said they inspected 51 miles of storm sewers on the Rockaway peninsula running from Arverne to Neponsit and added that there was minimal damage to the water mains in the area.
She also said that the agency is working on minimizing the crude smell of the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant, located on Beach 107th Street and Beach Channel Drive, via odor control and an upgraded filtration system but said there will never be absolutely no smell.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver gave a much-anticipated update on the Rockaway boardwalk. He said that the construction of the boardwalk, which was started in April, will be finished by Memorial Day of 2017. He added that when finished this boardwalk will “rival all others in the world.”
The DOT, represented by Queens Borough Commissioner Dalila Hall, has allotted $2 million for resurfacing work throughout southern Queens. Hall also said the agency is diligently repairing street lights and traffic signals, which were damaged from Sandy, and is working on getting Select Bus Service to the Rockaways as the need for transportation became so apparent in the wake of the storm.
Finally, Kyle Kimball, president of NYCEDC, gave news that met with much uproar from residents. The Rockaway ferry service, which was put in as a temporary transportation method after Superstorm Sandy, will be ending this month. He mentioned that the $5 million a year it would take to run the service was not in the city’s budget.
Councilman Richards said that even though the city still has a long way to go in the recovery process is still a long way to go, two years after the storm hit, progress has been made.
“Our communities still need repairs,” Richards noted. “But the stronger we remain together, the more likely the entire community will be rebuilt.”