Long-suffering Long Islanders may soon see some additional Hurricane Sandy relief from the federal government. A new program funded by Federal Supplemental Disaster Aid promises to bring nearly $150 million to the area, and will also feature a unique, bottom-up structure that will give residents influence over how the money is spent.
South Valley Stream will be allotted $3 million through the program, which was announced at a press conference on July 18 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He said the federal money would feed a Community Reconstruction Zones program, formulated to allow communities to establish teams of officials, residents and community leaders who would dictate where funding would be allotted, the governor explained.
“What we are trying to do today is a totally different approach,” Cuomo said. “If we have been going top-down, then [we need] bottom-up. What does the community think it needs to rebuild, and what are the best ideas and the best vision that the community has to rebuild? And let’s fund the community’s vision rather than asking the community to fit into the template established up above.”
Marc Tenzer, president of the Mill Brook Civic Association, is co-chairman of the planning committee for the South Valley Stream Community Reconstruction Zone. Tenzer said that the purpose of the committee would be to make recommendations to the state about ways to minimize damage from future storms.
The committee will work with representatives from the New York State Division of Coastal Resources, a division of the Department of State. “I’m excited to get involved in it,” Tenzer said. “This is a step in the right direction for our area.”
State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, who represents the 22nd District, recommended several local residents for the committee, including Tenzer. She said that community input would weigh heavily in the decision-making process, because it is residents who best understand the problems that need to be addressed. “This is a great program,” Solages said. “We have the ability to produce a project that will really benefit our community.”
She said that community members would suggest projects that they believe should be undertaken, while the state would make sure that all guidelines and specifications were being met, while providing information and resources.
Tenzer said he already has some projects in mind for South Valley Stream. The bulkheads at Brook Road Park need to be replaced, he explained, and the stream that runs through the community should be cleaned out so it can hold more water. “Our biggest problem is the waterways,” he said. “Even when it rains, the water just keeps coming up into people’s backyards.”
Cuomo said that plans for each community may take up to eight months to complete. After they are sent in and approved, he said, funds will be granted. He added that communities would be able to compete for bonus money, which would be awarded to those who maximize community involvement or regional collaboration, or show the most promise in terms of technology or urban planning.
A meeting of the South Valley Stream committee is expected to take place later this month, according to Solages, who said that she hopes a plan of action is formulated by December. Work would likely begin next year, she said, though that depends on the scope of the project.
Two members of the local committee include South Valley Stream residents Tricia Vanderbeck, a deputy parks commissioner in the Bronx, and Tamika Nater, an assistant school principal in Queens. Tenzer said they both took part in a meeting in Albany about the Community Reconstruction Zone program.
“Climate change is happening,” Solages said. “We all know that we’re getting more storms. Now is the time to start rebuilding our infrastructure.”
Slightly more than $145 million will go to 12 Community Reconstruction Zones in Nassau County. Additional money will be allocated to areas in Suffolk County, New York City and upstate. The allotments, Cuomo said, were based on the damage each zone sustained in Hurricane Sandy, as well as the assistance already awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.