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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paul.d.spellman December 06, 2012 at 08:51 AM
I may be mistaken, but does anyone remember that in the 2006 fiasco, Mona Goodman was vociferously cackling about the noise the beach replenishment project would cause her neighbors and herself?
Gerald Cymbalsky December 06, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Reinforced concrete seawall protected my building and other buildings. The 600 block of Shore Road lost all it sand dunes with vegetation. Had these dunes incorporated a concrete sea wall hidden inside there would be less damage. The bay side has to ruin some views with a higher walls for less flooding.
Leonard Bauman December 07, 2012 at 10:02 AM
The first flooding from the Bay started with water overflowing out of the storm drains onto East Bay Drive, State Street, then onto East Harrison St., then onto E. Pine Street. The City has to put one way flow valves onto the storm drain outlets on the Bay sea wall so when the Bay exceeds its normal height, the Bay won't backup through the storm drains and flood nearby streets and homes as it did before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy.
Eddie December 07, 2012 at 10:50 AM
The City has these valves but they have not been maintained, Leonard. Unfortunately they fired the City Engineer and replaced him with an unqualified political hack who doesn't know what they are.
Publius December 07, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Eddie -- The management of this City, of who I am vocally critical of on certain matters (hello cost structure), surely performed very well through this storm and its immediate aftermath. That is empirically evident. Can folks do a better job? Always. But to the point, if you are criticizing Laccarruba, I would like to see specific criticisms, because from everything I've heard -- from non-political folks, the guy has been a beast (in the positive sense) throughout the Sandy ordeal. As for pre-Sandy, I assume you've attended many CC meetings. I have, probably 50% of them in any event. And this guy has always been on the ball and responsive. So, again, specifics please.
Eddie December 07, 2012 at 01:35 PM
The gentleman is not a licensed Professional Engineer, as the position requires. Every predecessor had this qualification. Without it, every decision this guy makes has to be approved by a paid, licensed consultant.
jimmy walsh December 07, 2012 at 01:38 PM
why hasnt anyone reported about the 3 shootings and not arrests over the past week
Trying to Make Sense December 07, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Read a letter to the editor in this week's LB Herald by Gerry Ottavino. He pretty much hits the nail on the head on this issue. The City has a fiduciary responsibility to protect its residents. Surfrider Foundation and other surfing advocacy groups have a different primary focus to their advocacy. Many of us love waves, wooden boardwalks, things the way they have been, but things are changing, sea levels rising, climate warming, so that the so called 100 year storms are being viewed by most expects a 25 year events. Government decision making reflects appropriate priorities. To quote Mr. Ottavio, "Long Beach needs to start listening to the experts, not ocean evangelists espousing their own agenda". Not that the input from these ocean evangelists is not valuable, it is. However government must commit to scientific and engineering expertise and the lessons of this disaster , and remember its primary responsibility to protect. This "ocean evangelist" regrets my previous position on this issue in 2006. May 20/20 hindsight become insight.
Eddie December 07, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I believe the same goes for "sky-is-falling" environmentalists who say 100 year storms are now 25 year storms. The City and those with fiduciary responsibility must sort the special interest "scientists" from the facts. Then they must act in a financially prudent and efficient manner. Contrary to Governor Cuomo's "three times a year" forecast for 500-year-storms, there's no reason to believe that a repeat of this storm is any more likely than it was on any single day since 1905, when records of Long Island's tides were first kept.
Longbeacher December 07, 2012 at 06:23 PM
this was not a Long Beach storm ,it hit the entire east coast ,build your big dunes and beach grass .you cant fight mother nature and there is nothing that could have been done to change it ,pt lookout is 13 ft higher than long beach and parts of Lido are about 8 ft ,thats why they were spared more the us period , next storm put your stuff up higher or move it out as for the sheet rock u are replacing it with ,theres a reason they used 1/2 in pine with no insulation in basements in LB years ago ,u hose ,bleach it ,dry it
Trying to Make Sense December 08, 2012 at 11:10 AM
Eddie "special interest scientist" is an oxymoron, they can't be scientists. And "sky-is-falling enviromentalists" are evangelists who must be heard but not listened to. Yes, government needs to respond to our future concerns in a " financially prudent and efficient manner". That's what Mayor Bloomberg is doing as he acknowledges the realities that are measureable. He is commiting significant resources to the goal of future mitigation of sea level rise . He is a smart guy.
David Prophet December 09, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Conflict Theory suggests that in today's America, nothing gets done as it should because there are too many "groups" seeking to further their own interests. Special interest scientists most certainly do exist. They are paid to provide data and theory that supports an underlying interest. The key to reconciling these competing groups is to have government which operates completely detached from these groups so their underlying interests don't factor into the decision making. For this, one must have honest, ethical government. Good luck on that one.
Trying to Make Sense December 09, 2012 at 11:21 AM
I agree David. The are many special issue "scientists" employed to support advocacy. I merely point out the contradiction between advocacy and pure science/method. Your point re the real challenge is well taken. My sense is that Mr. Bloomberg is the exception to the rule.
Outsider December 09, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Listening to some of those speaking at city hall is a better reason to leave than the fear of the next storm. I'm embarrassed by the whole thing.
Trying to Make Sense December 09, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Outsider, what are some examples of what you are referring to?
Lori December 09, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Publius/Eddie. Jim L. is not a PE or professional engineer - in fact he is a high school graduate. However - that position no longer requires a PE. The City 'dumbed down' the job specification so they could hire the former ditch digger who is politically connected. So now - there is no one internally who is even capable of looking at any of the City structures that have been compromised. The City is now forced to pay consultants thousands of dollars because they excluded the PE requirement when this administration took over. Jim L. has been a 'beast' through the storm because he is charging double time to FEMA - he is going to Hawaii on the FEDS - just ask him - he will tell anyone who asks...As far as specifics Publius - please submit FOIA requests and look at the contracts he has signed since the storm - are they valid, whom do they benefit? I think you will be very interested to know. And while you are at it - ask for a copy of the letters where he allowed an apartment on Shore Road to take down their retaining wall and homeowners in the canals to cut down their City-funded bulk head. Both parties wanted a better view...Maybe an engineer would have questioned this? The view is irrelevant and now I am paying for my neighbors idiocy as their weakened bulkhead gave way to a barrage of water in my home.
Eddie December 10, 2012 at 08:44 AM
Lori, my concerns about the City's not having an engineer have fallen of deaf ears. I'm told they will simply hire consultants, and that it's more important that they pay the $ 87.90/hour to "someone they can work with". It'd disgraceful, irresponsible and should be illegal. The taxpayers deserve better.
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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