Coastal protection, evacuation plans and wind mills were the bones of contention that fired up attendees at a Superstorm Sandy commemoration hosted by Rockaway United this past Monday, October 30 at Queens Public Library-Seaside branch.
Rockaway United, spearheaded by William Schacht, an urban designer and architect, is a coalition of urban designers and community advocates, committed to improving resiliency on the Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel.
Schacht kicked off the event by proclaiming that the coalition wants to bridge the gap between the City’s resiliency measures being speedily propelled in Manhattan and the lackluster efforts in Rockaway.
“Rockaway United wants to see real progress being done for the people here that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. We feel that the City is not getting the message. The community needs a well-thought out and communicated evacuation plan, power and light alternatives, solid coastal protection, its own resiliency center and with the proposed installation of an offshore wind farm — a community benefits agreement,” Schacht said.
One project the coalition wants to move forward with is a solid evacuation route where roads would be color coded, indicating where residents can safely navigate if they have to leave in case of a major disaster. Also, a sound system coordinated with the local fire departments to immediately alert residents about a storm surge or even a terrorist attack. Schacht said, “We’ve talked to the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) dating back to when Sandy occurred, and to this day, they have not provided the community with an evacuation plan. With 21 agencies involved, all they have provided are handouts, but five years later, folks still don’t know. When faced with a disaster, the community needs reliable sound, light and communications, and I don’t mean just giving out pamphlets.”
However, the mood in the room switched from hopeful to exasperated. Lifelong Rockaway Park resident, Bob Zimmer, a member of the Rockaway Civic Association, said, “For all these years, I’ve listened to conversations and attended meetings with wonderful people like you with great ideas, but I have not seen any meaningful change. I’m not discrediting your good intentions, but I’m tired of hearing plans. I want to see action.”
Schacht responded, “Our organization is moving from reactive to proactive, but we need your support, and are working on getting grants to make our projects come to fruition.”
Next up was Kim Fraczek, director of Sane Energy Project (saneenergyproject.org) an advocacy group fighting against installation of natural gas pipelines such as the Rockaway Lateral, built by Williams-Transco. Fraczek said that the pipeline is not only unnecessary, but dangerous. “Construction of these pipelines harm both human and marine life, and are incompatible with fighting climate change. Not to mention that Williams has a poor safety record. We are fighting for a commitment from the Mayor to commit to purchasing offshore wind power from Statoil, the Norwegian company that won the lease to develop offshore wind farms dubbed, Empire Wind, in NYC. Offshore wind can power thousands of homes on the peninsula and BC and provide jobs for locals,” Franczek said.
Belle Harbor resident, Joe “The Ferry Guy” Hartigan, is all for offshore wind — with one caveat, the jobs must be reserved for locals. “They better hire kids in Rockaway, and they better be from both ends of the peninsula. There must be a community benefits agreement with a contract that gets signed strictly ensuring that jobs stay here,” Hartigan said.
For information about offshore wind, visit: www.nyserda.ny.gov.
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