On Sunday, October 29 at the YMCA on Beach 73rd street, the Mayor came to announce that the Rockaway peninsula would be finally receiving funding for resiliency and recovery measures of $146 million for the installation of bulkheads and replacement of parks washed away by Sandy.
The Mayor said this funding is from "left over" funds to build the boardwalk, taking credit for bringing the boardwalk in under budget.
What a crock!
The extra $146 million was sent along by FEMA for Rockaway resiliency (bulkheads and raised shore lines on the bay) and recovery (rebuild what was destroyed by Sandy).
The second the Mayor opened his mouth, the spin cycle started to run.
Allow me to turn the spin cycle off for just a moment. The real fact is: the completion of the boardwalk actually came in ON budget! BRAVO!
So now you are wondering how can the Mayor and NYC Parks purport that this "extra" funding is available because of NYC Parks' and The Economic Development Corporation's (EDC) new found efficiency!? It's easy! They think we are stupid and have no memory!!
The facts are: NYC Parks and EDC estimated and requested $274 million from FEMA to rebuild the boardwalk and that is exactly what they received to rebuild the boardwalk. And there was always the additional $146 million on hand, for resiliency and rebuilding, while the boardwalk was rebuilt.
As reported in The Wave in 2014, Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver wrote in an internal memo to City Hall that the City was in line to receive $480 million which was well above the $274 million initially requested. “Above the $274 million, there are $60 million of additional expenses for the boardwalk to a) meet the publicly anticipated implementation schedule and b) include points of access to the beach, over the new sand dunes, from the boardwalk. Access points are strongly desired by the community.
"We continue to be concerned that it will be a political liability for the Administration in the Rockaways when the full $480 million FEMA reimbursement funding for the boardwalk becomes known, if the City is unable to announce funding for additional boardwalk elements and rebuilding the destroyed recreational zone."
If you notice the "$60 million" in that quote. It was quite evident that Parks anticipated needing extra funding to pay for additional access points and it was implemented, bravo!
Also, notice the acknowledgment in Commissioner Silver's quote for the need to "rebuild the recreation zone"! The recreation zone that the Commissioner is referring to is Shore Front Parkway from Beach 73rd to Beach 108th. It is still not done to this day, even though the funding did in fact come specifically for it!
It's quite evident that Parks requested additional funding to pay for new access points and to rebuild Shore Front Parkway.
So, the City then asked for and received $274 million for the boardwalk plus an extra $60 million for additional access points and the Shore Front Parkway recreational zone. That's $334 million.
So back to the spin cycle (the press conference). The Mayor announced that he has done such an incredible job of saving an extra $146 million to toss around the peninsula like cake to the poor.
During the spin cycle, the mayor also made reference to another very bold lie being perpetrated by himself and Commissioner Silver. They are purporting that the Boardwalk is a newfound resiliency for the 5.5 miles of neighborhood behind it. IT IS NOT! Not no way, not no how!!
The boardwalk is, in fact, resilient, in and of itself, and will more than likely be the only structure standing on the peninsula after the next Sandy. But the reality is the fact that it is just a sand retention wall. The wall you see under the boardwalk only goes one foot into the sand, nullifying it as a sea wall.
Again the reality:
The Rockaway community, during months of boardwalk scoping and planning meetings, asked for a sea wall to be incorporated into the boardwalk's construction and design. We were warned by then Lead Boardwalk project manager for EDC, Gregg Clancy, that any resiliency measure added into the boardwalk would nullify any future Army Corps of Engineers work on our beaches as it would be viewed by FEMA that protection has been completed.
Please don't say it! If anyone tries to tell me that a hill of sand along our boardwalk qualifies as "protection," I think I will really lose it!
So here we stand now with $146 million in funding to shore up the weakest links in the chain of perfection that surrounds our peninsula and replace that which was demolished by Sandy, and the mayor said we have to wait three to five years to begin the work!
WHY? The money is there! START TOMORROW.
All NYC Parks needs to do is send a Request for Proposal (RFP) out today. Start protection ASAP, not in three years. There is zero excuse for all resiliency measures to not start by May of 2018.
Perhaps Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James can answer some of our questions. Thoughts Tish and Scott?