FEMA Dollars for Rockaway: More Than Budgeted by City?

Far Rockaway boardwalk, six weeks after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. (Photo by cgc76, Creative Commons license)

Far Rockaway boardwalk, six weeks after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. (Photo by cgc76, Creative Commons license)

The Wave, Rockaway’s community publication, reported online on September 25 that it had learned that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was set to award $480 million for the rebuilding of the Rockaway boardwalk and infrastructure, with the announcement due in a few days.

However, as Mark C. Healey wrote in the article, entitled “City Hall Secrets and Lies,” NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver wrote in a memo to the mayor’s office that the number far exceeds the amount budgeted for the project: $274 million.

The Wave article states that the paper learned that Mayor Bill de Blasio and his staff were informed of the situation on Sept. 12, 2014. The article goes on to write about a briefing memo from Silver addressed to Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and Alicia Glen, the Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development and titled “Memorandum for the Mayor” which The Wave says states:

After months of negotiation, the anticipated FEMA reimbursement for the Rockaway Boardwalk is $480 million dollars and will likely be made public when FEMA winds its way through Congressional notification. This could be as early as next week. However, NYC Parks’ approval from OMB is for $274 million. Above the $274 million, there are $60 million of additional expenses for the boardwalk to a) meet the publicly anticipated implementation schedule and b) include points of access to the beach, over the new sand dunes, from the boardwalk. Access points are strongly desired by the community.

The Wave goes on to quote from the Silver memo:

We continue to be concerned that it will be a political liability for the Administration in the Rockaways when the full $480 million FEMA reimbursement funding for the boardwalk becomes known, if the City is unable to announce funding for additional boardwalk elements and rebuilding the destroyed recreational zone.

The leaked document, Healey writes, “raises an alarming amount of questions,” and he concludes:

Why weren’t Rockaway elected officials given this information as soon as it became known? Why are the city and its agencies discussing plans for hundreds of millions of dollars without community input and oversight?

Finally, why would there be any discussion of political liability when people have been waiting for nearly two years for their lives to be restored?

The questions are just beginning.

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