Sunday, December 21, 2014

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

NY1 ItCH: City Hall Cuts a Lifeline to the Rockaways

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As time passes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, talk about rebuilding and recovery is sometimes so cheap that it would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

Following the storm's assault on the city, benefit concerts were held, speeches were delivered, hands were held – and we repeatedly reassured each other that we are all stronger than the storm.

But getting things done requires a nose-to-the-grindstone approach that's not always fun; it doesn't get you headlines or noticed and it requires patience that would make Job look like he had Attention Deficit Disorder.

It also requires elected officials to follow through -- a trait many of them seem to be congenitally lacking.

While my neighborhood of the Rockaways is certainly on the road to recovery, thousands of homeowners are still waiting for help from the city in the forms of its dreadfully-run "Build It Back" program. Although about 20,000 families have applied for help, a small fraction of them are actually getting financial assistance -- while a massive pot of federal money that's been allocated to the program sits largely untouched.

The same holds true for the boardwalk along the peninsula. About two-thirds of the structure was ripped from its pilings 20 months ago -- and none of it has been permanently rebuilt. There is a construction timeline for it being complete -- in 2017 -- almost five years after the hurricane hit.
Meanwhile, all of the New Jersey and Long Island communities that lost their boardwalks have seen them entirely replaced.

Want to read all about it? Good luck. There seems to be little progress in reopening the Peninsula branch of the Queens Public Library which was closed following the hurricane. A large trailer sits outside the building, serving as its replacement.

The latest back of the hand from City Hall comes in the form of the quiet death of the Rockaway ferry -- conveniently killed this week while Mayor de Blasio is on vacation in Italy.

The ferry has been providing a relatively-cheap link for hundreds of residents each day -- much like thousands of Staten Island commuters enjoy on their free commuter boat service paid for by City Hall. The Rockaway ferry is now set to sail away for good after October.

There is power in numbers -- and because only about 115,000 people live in the Rockwaways, it's not a voting bloc that City hall needs to worry about. Because of its lack of power, the peninsula for decades has served as a place to put thousands of public housing units, drug treatment centers, and homes for the elderly. While every community needs to do its fair share, Rockaway more than carried a heavy load before the hurricane struck.

That load is about to get bigger – with the city announcing that it’s placing 155 homeless families in a facility in the Arverne community. I’m curious about what kind of employment opportunities, health services, and support a family will be offered in in a neighborhood that was recently gutted by a hurricane. This isn’t about helping dispossessed New Yorkers; it’s about shoving people under an already-tattered rug.

At least one thing’s for certain: they won’t have a ferry to take them to their new home.

Bob Hardt

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