Red Hook

Shore Patrol: Pols warn mayor not to shortchange Red Hook on flood protection funding

City’s plan to shift federal Hurricane Sandy relief money has local elected officials concerned

October 4, 2016 By James Harney Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In this November 2012 photo, taken two weeks after Superstorm Sandy, Amber Whichard, 3, walks next to a line of people waiting to receive supplies donated to storm victims at the Red Hook Houses, where some of the buildings in the complex were still without power and heat.  AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File
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They want to be sure about Red Hook’s shore.

A pair of elected officials who represent the waterfront neighborhood are warning the de Blasio administration not to cut federal funding intended to protect it from flooding in future storms.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan-Queens) and Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D-Red Hook-Sunset Park-Windsor Terrace) both expressed frustration last week following a report that the city told the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that it wants to change its plan for spending $4.2 billion in Superstorm Sandy relief aid.

The Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency reportedly informed HUD it plans to take some $152 million that had been earmarked for the “Raised Shorelines” program — which includes a project to ward off flooding in low-lying waterfront communities like Red Hook — and move it to the controversial “Build It Back” program that was created to rebuild homes ravaged by Superstorm Sandy, but has been riddled with cost overruns.

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According to documents submitted by the city to HUD, the shift would leave a scant $7 million in federal funds available for Raised Shorelines. However, the Mayor’s Office insisted it plans to fund that program with money from the city’s Capital Commitment Plan.

The city was reportedly compelled to shift the Sandy relief funds because public money, like what it receives from the feds, can’t be used for private programs, such as Build It Back.

“The money allocated will help us move homeowners into more resilient housing without sacrificing any of our current resiliency or non-resiliency projects,” said mayoral spokesman Raul Contreras.

But Velazquez and Menchaca said the city’s track record is dubious when it comes to funding flood protection plans for Red Hook, which was inundated by Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath in 2012.

The congresswoman has previously blasted the de Blasio administration for reducing the Red Hook Integrated Flood Plan from $200 million to $100 million, and said news of the city’s latest application to HUD was “disturbing.”

“Given that there were inadequate resources allocated initially, it is disturbing that funds are being diverted from Red Hook resiliency projects to a largely unproven program,” Velazquez said. “I will be carefully monitoring to ensure the city administration lives up to its promise to replace these federal dollars with city capital funds.”

Menchaca was even sharper in his criticism, saying, “It’s time for the federal, state and city government agencies to stop playing around with Integrated Flood Protection funding levels. Community resilience planning meetings and design forums ring hollow when funding is threatened.

“Homes, businesses and lives are at stake,” he added. “Why aren’t we designing the best possible flood protection for New York City and then funding it properly? I cannot accept promising communities robust solutions then cutting and rearranging funding [in] ways that throw the whole process into question.”

The city has scheduled three public hearings on its latest funding proposal: Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at Beach Channel Educational Campus Auditorium, 100-00 Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Park, Queens; Thursday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Regina McGinn Education and Conference Center on the Staten Island University Hospital North Campus, 475 Seaview Ave., Staten Island; and Monday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Coney Island Hospital Auditorium, 2601 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn.

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