Wednesday, October 01, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: An Alarming Parks Department Memo for the Rockaways

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An internal City Hall memo about rebuilding in the Rockaways is loudly ringing some alarm bells in the beachfront community that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The Sept. 12th memo from Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver – which was obtained by the local newspaper the Wave and shared with NY1’s Courtney Gross – shows that the city is keeping residents in the dark about delays in keeping the area safer from future storms as well as the sluggish rebuilding of its boardwalk,

In the memo to First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, Silver notes that an Army Corps of Engineers project to fortify the beach on the ocean side of the peninsula is being delayed because the Corps in now conducting a study on the community’s bay side.

"Community is not aware of impending delay," Silver admits, adding that: "Ocean-side (Atlantic) project delay puts City at risk."

The Army Corps’ study on the bay side, he warns, "is likely to recommend very costly measures for implementation."

But money is a different matter when it comes to rebuilding the five-and-a-half mile boardwalk, when the city could actually be getting more funding for the project from the federal government than was actually allocated by the city.

The city was planning on giving the Parks Department $274 million for rebuilding the boardwalk. But FEMA is set to write a check for $480 million for the project.

"We continue to be concerned that it will be a political liability for the Administration in the Rockaways when the full $480M FEMA reimbursement becomes known, if the City is unable to announce funding for additional boardwalk elements and rebuilding the destroyed recreational zone," Silver says.

Basically: What’s to be done with the extra cash?

Silver does note that FEMA has only allocated about $6 million for a $47 million project for rebuilding amenities along the boardwalk – but that’s still an extra $185 million that could be spent on other projects along the peninsula, including keeping a ferry running that’s set to be mothballed later this month. Perhaps the money could also be used to fast-track boardwalk construction – which isn’t set to be completed until 2017 – close to five years after the hurricane struck.

The memo validates the worst fears of residents – that a paternalistic and secretive City Hall isn't letting people really know what’s really going on. It’s time for the de Blasio administration to come clean with the residents of a community that’s still storm-struck and rebuilding. A Community Board meeting on the peninsula tonight would be a good place to start.

Bob Hardt

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