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Residents Voice Post-Sandy Concerns to City Council

Talk of storm reduction plans monopolized Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Talk of storm reduction plans monopolized Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Plans to move forward with a storm damage reduction project were one of several issues discussed at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, when Long Beach residents got to collectively voice their concerns to city officials for the first time after Hurricane Sandy.

The council voted to approve a resolution to re-engage the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on its $100 million project for Long Beach that a prior council unanimously rejected in 2006. Jim LaCarrubba, the city’s public works commissioner, said the corps requested the resolution, which the city characterized as a first toward renewed discussions, planning and public input.

“The purpose of this resolution is to let both the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of New York know that the city is serious about moving forward,” LaCarrubba said.

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Several residents spoke on this issue, with some saying they thought the city should have approved the 2006 proposal, despite that it failed to address potential flooding from Reynolds Channel. But others suggested that the corps’ plan should have incorporated all areas of the barrier island.

“It’s imperative that the Army Corps of Engineers address the entire City of Long Beach, ocean and bayside,” said Crystal Lake, a North Park resident.

Other residents talked about the quality of the sand proposed to build the dunes, which they regard as a major issue, while others believe it is more important that the beach and jetties are expanded further outward.

Immediate Action Requested 

After Sandy wiped away the dunes and boardwalk walls, and swept as much as 4 million cubic yards of sand off the beach, some residents said they felt vulnerable. Mona Goodman, a former council member who lives on West Broadway, urged city officials to expedite residents' immediate safety needs. “There’s nothing to protect us at all from the smallest storm that may arise over this coming season,” she said. 

Earlier, LaCarrubba said the Environmental Protection Agency still must approve the cleaned sand that is piled on the Superblock before it can be returned to the beach, and that the city needs to import more sand.

Resident Scott Bochner, an East Pine resident, urged the city to work with other local government entities to address the excess sewage that was released into Reynolds Channel after the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway was decimated during the storm. “This is a health hazard,” said Bochner, who urged the city call in the Board of Health.

Two residents, Eileen Lilly and James Hodge, both informed the council of several high-rise buildings throughout the city where elderly tenants are isolated in their apartments because the elevators are inoperable. Among these buildings are 175 W. Broadway, 225 W. Park Ave., and 415 National Blvd. “There are people that have been in that building since before the storm,” Lilly said about the latter.

Still Other Concerns

One resident, Steven Kelly, expressed concern that the city, as of Wednesday, will be without an emergency care unit, since inpatient services at Long Beach Medical Center were temporarily closed due to flooding from Sandy. Another resident, Eileen Hession, inquired about government regulations and work stop orders that homeowners like her face as they clean and rebuild their storm-damaged homes.

Scott Kemins, the building commissioner, said FEMA and city inspectors would soon join forces to inspect Long Beach homes, as part of National Flood Insurance Program. “If we don’t comply with this, or the residents don’t comply with FEMA, the city could possibly be suspended or be removed from the program, and nobody in Long Beach would be eligible for flood insurance,” Kemins warned.

Meanwhile, resident Lucy Centeno and other residents asked the city not to discontinue the post-Sandy distribution center at the Martin Luther King Center. “Don’t close the MLK because everybody else is going back to normalcy,” said Centeno, who noted that there are still many displaced residents. “... Please continue to help our community.”

Before, During and After The Storm

City Manager Jack Schnirman opened the meeting with a report on the city’s operations before, during and after the storm. He also reiterated the city’s pledge to seek 100 percent reimbursement from FEMA for the $250 million in costs the city is estimated to incur from the storm.

Several residents praised the city employees, from the city manager to sanitation workers, for their around-the-clock work during and especially after the storm, after City Council President Len Torres handed out several proclamations to city department heads. 

“You really hit the ball out of the park,” said resident Linda King about the city’s recovery efforts.

But some have questions about how the administration will govern going forward. Among them was West End resident Karen McInnis, who stated that after the news cameras left the city, Long Beach is still left with problems it had prior to the storm, including a $10 million deficit.

“I’d like a pledge from this administration for zero raises from non-union employees in the next year in order to fund the hire of four certified engineers and planners to help us going forward,” said McInnis, who added that she had little faith in the city’s fiscal oversight before and after the storm.

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Hamburger December 10, 2012 at 05:00 PM
and when the ACE comes to the table with 90 mil, take the money
Publius December 11, 2012 at 08:50 AM
Lori -- it easy for folks to hurl insults and allegations on the Patch without specifics. It is done all the time. You are mentioning some specifics, which is appreciated. Now, as I'm not an investigatory or enforcement body, I would ask that you raise these very same issues with specificity at a City Council meeting, perhaps more than a single meeting. There is ample opportunity to do so at every meeting. Thank you.
Eddie December 11, 2012 at 09:08 AM
This has been raised dozens of times. In fact, one person raising the issue was threatened with arrest.
Hamburger December 11, 2012 at 01:12 PM
on what charges?
Publius December 11, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Eddie, if this its true, all the more reason that specific allegations and questions should be raised at city council meetings. I go to lots of mtgs, albeit not all, and i don't recall such specific allegations about laccaruba improperly approving structural changes. I have certainly suffered through lots of vague assertions about patronage, incompetence, but at this point i largely tune that out as it does not advance the ball, let alone understanding.

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