Group Developed Innovative Solutions, Template for Future Recovery Efforts
QUEENS, NY – As her tenure in Queens Borough Hall draws to a close, Borough President Katz today reported on the work of her Hurricane Relief Task Force, a group of government agencies, elected officials and community leaders who collectively developed and implemented solutions to problems that had previously hindered and plagued the borough’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy.
Borough President Katz prioritized the recovery efforts by forming her Hurricane Relief Task Force within weeks after taking office in 2014 as Queens Borough President. The Task Force first met on February 24, 2014, nearly 16 months after Superstorm Sandy. The objective was to regularly and correctly address what many found to be an excruciatingly slow process for repairing the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy and for getting thousands of displaced Queens residents back into their homes.
The Task Force connected communities most impacted by the storm directly and regularly with city, state and federal agencies and elected officials on the multi-year recovery effort. This helped to ensure a reliable channel of communication between officials and the community residents who had “on-the ground” knowledge of recovery-related problems.
The Task Force also facilitated interagency cooperation by empowering community leaders to create innovative ways with elected officials to enhance the efficacy of recovery and resiliency efforts.
“The community-driven Task Force model should be used as a guide for how we respond to future major disasters, especially in this time of climate change,” said Borough President KATZ. “A natural disaster of Sandy’s unprecedented scope requires a coordinated response that minimizes bureaucratic red tape and empowers impacted communities to work directly with government to launch and complete the Herculean task of recovery. Our deepest thanks go to all of the members of the Hurricane Relief Task Force who did such a great job of delivering much needed help to those impacted by Superstorm Sandy.”
Since February 2014, the Queens Hurricane Relief Task Force has:
- Inspired a citywide zoning amendment to facilitate reconstruction of Sandy-damaged homes
Rebuilding had been hindered by a burdensome process that made it difficult for homeowners to obtain the permits necessary to begin recovery. In response, the Task Force supported the June 2015 adoption of a zoning amendment that encourages flood-resistant construction and removes barriers that hindered the reconstruction of storm-damaged properties.
- Streamlined issuance of necessary permits
In June 2014, at the urging of the Task Force, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a “blanket” permit to speed up Sandy-related construction in areas adjacent to wetlands. Also, in the fall of 2016, the Task Force prompted the City to facilitate zoning relief for Sandy-damaged properties.
- Cleared roadblocks regarding Small Business Administration disaster loan applications
The Task Force worked with the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) to fix a bureaucratic problem with its disaster loan program that had led to some loan applicants to be improperly excluded from the City’s Build It Back home rebuilding program.
- Spearheaded outreach to Build it Back applicants
In June 2015, at the request of the Task Force, staffers from the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO) joined elected officials in reaching out to those who had become disaffected with the Build It Back program to try to convince them to stay with the program.
- Improved coordination between the Broad Channel street raising initiative and the Build It Back Program
The Task Force found that a capital project to raise streets above flood level in Broad Channel was impeding the reconstruction of homes enrolled in the Build It Back program. This finding led to a temporary pause in the street raising project to allow Build It Back work to continue.
- Helped to reduce delays in elevating homes
In April 2016, the Task Force worked to shorten the time between when a Build It Back home was elevated and when it was returned to its foundation. The Task Force also coordinated with utilities to expedite the return of utility services to elevated homes.
- Supported legislation to speed up the Buildings Department’s permitting process
The Task Force expressed concerns about problems with the New York City Department of Buildings’ permitting process that were hampering Build It Back construction. It ultimately supported the City Council’s October 2016 passage of two measures that addressed those problems by streamlining the issuance of required paperwork.
- Prompted the aggressive investigation and resolution of construction delays
In December 2016, the Task Force successfully sought the creation of a “Red-Tagging” process for Build It Back construction jobs where work has stopped for more than 48 hours. Under this process, HRO aggressively investigates why such work has stopped and quickly moves to have work resume.
- Led to the creation of an HRO “War Room”
In December 2016, the Task Force convinced HRO to create a “war room” with dedicated staff to handle intergovernmental coordination and assist with sign-offs, inspections and other issues. Also, in April 2017 the Task Force began meeting with Build It Back applicants to address unresolved issues involving otherwise completed homes.
- Successfully achieved the creation of a yard expansion program
At the urging of the Broad Channel Civic Association, which is represented on the Task Force, HRO created a yard expansion program in 2017. The program allows neighbors of property purchased through the Build It Back buyout program to buy the property for a nominal fee so they can expand their yards.
The Task Force’s membership is made up of the following:
Palmer Doyle – Rockaway community advocate
Roger Gendron – President, New Hamilton Beach Civic Association
Hank Iori – President, Belle Harbor Property Owners Association
Dan Mundy Jr.- President, Broad Channel Civic Association
Dan Mundy Sr.- Broad Channel community advocate
Denise Lopresti Neibel – Assistant General Manager, Breezy Point Cooperative, Inc.
Christopher Norton – General Manager, Breezy Point Cooperative, Inc.
Additional community leaders from Rockaway, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, and Howard Beach
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz
Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO)
U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.
State Senator James Sanders
Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato
Assemblymember Michele Titus
Councilmember Donovan Richards
Councilmember Eric Ulrich
Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency
New York City Department of Buildings
New York City Department of City Planning
New York City Department of Design and Construction
NYC Emergency Management
New York City Department of Environment Protection
New York City Department of Finance
New York City Department of Transportation
New York State Department of Environment Conservation
U.S. Small Business Administration
Queens Community Board 10
Queens Community Board 14
Follow Borough President Katz via @QueensBPKatz on Twitter and Facebook