Nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy devastated portions of Oceanside, Island Park, Harbor Isle and Barnum Island, a committee of residents from those communities hosted a public forum on at St. Anthony’s Church in Oceanside. The Oct. 9 meeting, at which community members were asked for their ideas about ongoing recovery efforts, drew nearly 100 residents.
According to a fact sheet handed out at the meeting, officials in the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program, the open house workshop was designed to “focus on gathering the knowledge, experience and recommendations” of community members that “are essential in the development of the community’s reconstruction plan.”
Participants were invited to visit four “sections,” tables scattered throughout the church’s community room and manned by state experts and members of the four-community CRP committee. At the first station, residents were asked to write what is best about their communities, and their vision for stronger, more resilient communities going forward.
At the second table, they were asked about the needs of their communities — what they believe are the key assets in the community that have to be protected and which of those assets should be top priorities. At the third, they were asked to list the most pressing needs of the communities in their reconstruction efforts.
Finally, they were asked for ideas about what needs to be done to ensure that their communities’ assets match their combined vision, and how to prioritize strategies for recovery.
One attendee was Jack Vobis, a member of the Island Park Board of Education, the president of the local Little League and an attorney who lost three vehicles in Sandy and whose house was badly damaged. “I’ve been interested in the process ever since it was first announced, and I wanted to see what the planning stages were like,” Vobis said. “This is a good community, and the committee needs to get its input, and this is a way to do it.”
Oceanside resident Jill Weber, a manager for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation who manages the parks and beaches on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, knows all about recovery and sustainability. Her house was devastated by Sandy, but she has spent a great deal of time ensuring that the rebuilding and recovery process in Rockaway will allow for sustainability.
Weber was supportive of the discussions at the community meeting. “This is what we’re doing in New York City,” she said. “You’re on the right track as long as you’re looking at sustainability as well as recovery and repair. You have to look at what surrounding communities are doing, because the entire South Shore is interconnected, and what happens in one community will impact all the others.”
Many of the comments and priorities that were listed at the four stations mentioned storm drains, bulkheads and water treatment plants. One, however, drew a bit more attention. “Buy out 7 houses on the west side of Royal Avenue,” it read. “Everyone there is interested.”
While a schedule of future public meeting has not yet been set, it will be made available at stormrecovery.ny.gov.