Brooklyn Recovery Fund Plans for Borough's Future at Pre-Anniversary Forum at Borough Hall

Today, the Brooklyn Recovery Fund, a joint effort between the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, the Brooklyn Community Foundation and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, held a pre-anniversary forum on Superstorm Sandy for elected officials and city, state and federal agencies to hear current recovery progress and challenges from the borough’s Sandy-impacted communities. At a press conference following the event, civic leaders and affected community members joined to share initial findings from the gathering, which the Fund will release in a report on Tuesday, October 29th, the one year anniversary of the storm. In addition, they reminded Brooklynites of the urgent upcoming registration deadline for the Build It Back program; the cut-off date for signing up for the City’s federal-funded program to assist homeowners, landlords, and tenants in the five boroughs whose homes and properties were damaged by Superstorm Sandy is Thursday, October 31st, one week away.

“One year ago, Hurricane Sandy swept through our borough, leaving a trail of destruction unlike anything we’ve ever seen – causing billions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses, washing away cars and treasured memories, and sadly many New Yorkers, including several Brooklynites, lost their lives,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “But, as Brooklynites, when we get knocked down, we get right back up – and we promised that we would rebuild, rebound, and recover better and stronger than ever. I was thrilled to see that so many generous individuals donated to the Brooklyn Recovery Fund, which raised more than $3.5 million – all of which will have gone to local non-profits in the areas hit hardest by the end of the year. Here in Brooklyn, no one gets left behind – and we will work to ensure that every family, homeowner, business, and community has all the resources, assistance, and support they need.”
 
“Through the Brooklyn Recovery Fund, established by the Brooklyn Community Foundation in partnership with the Office of the Borough President and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklynites far and wide have been able to support the efforts of their neighbors working to ensure that our treasured coastal communities rebound and thrive after Superstorm Sandy,” said Cecilia Clarke, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Community Foundation. “We’ve raised over $3.5 million, which has addressed both emergency needs and fostered comprehensive, coordinated neighborhood-based recovery. This is a forward-thinking approach, and an investment in the long-term resiliency of our communities. All along Brooklyn’s coastline, new coalitions of nonprofits, residents, and small businesses are leading the way. They now need the support of their elected officials, and city, state, and federal agencies to access much-needed resources to advance the pace of recovery. There’s still much work ahead, but Brooklyn is in this together.” 
 
“It was almost a year ago that Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of coastal Brooklyn. Since then, many businesses have rebuilt and reopened over the past 12 months,” said Carlo A. Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Despite the progress made, there is still much work that needs to be done. We are proud to have partnered with Borough President Marty Markowitz and the Brooklyn Community Foundation last year to raise money for the affected areas in the borough, ensuring that help go directly to the areas that need it most. Brooklynites are tough. We showed it in the days and weeks after the storm and we will continue to show it as the borough continues to rebuild bigger and better than before.” 
 
With over 700,000 residents living in Superstorm Sandy’s path, Brooklyn faced a series of unique challenges in its recovery. In the first months following the storms, The Brooklyn Recovery Fund provided $450,000 in “Fast Track” grants to 35 human services organizations, business support networks, churches, and other locally-based nonprofits to provide 800,000 meals, two tons of clothing, emergency repairs to over 70 homes, apartments, churches and residential facilities and assistance to 180 small businesses, with over 10,000 volunteers coordinated for the effort. Overall, over $3 million has supported the rigorous efforts of six community collaboratives, which have become the nexus for neighborhood-wide convening around all civic and physical infrastructure issues related to recovery and resiliency; the coalitions are based in Brooklyn neighborhoods demonstrating the most significant needs, including Brighton Beach, Canarsie, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook and Sheepshead Bay.
 
“Thousands of low income immigrants have been displaced from their apartments due to Superstorm Sandy and now, nearly a year later, the housing crisis continues,” said Sue Fox, representative of the Brighton Beach Affordable Housing Coalition. “For many in Brighton Beach, the basement and first floor apartments in local multi-story homes and bungalows were the only available and affordable housing option before the storm.  Now many of those units are gone and apartment rents have risen dramatically.  Tenants are struggling to find safe apartments that they can afford and landlords are struggling to repair houses and apartments that were devastated by floodwaters that ravaged the neighborhood.  The abrupt and dramatic loss of affordable housing in our community has created a true humanitarian crisis for documented families, families with mixed documentation, the undocumented as well as lifelong residents.”
 
“The community of Canarsie continues to struggle with recovery from Superstorm Sandy,” said Noël Kepler, director of the Canarsie Coalition. “In an effort to be better prepared for the next storm and more resilient as a community, the Canarsie Coalition is working to address some of the bigger issues around reconstruction, association development, foreclosure, infrastructure and support for our undocumented and fragile population. The community has had some great wins in the past year as we rebuild and think toward the future, not the least of which is the development of a new merchant association. However, if Canarsie is truly going to succeed we will require the attention of our City partners and the continued support of our local elected officials.”
 
“In Coney Island, Superstorm Sandy impacted over 50,000 residents and 1,000 businesses,” said Johanna Zaki, representative of #ConeyRecovers. “The #ConeyRecovers initiative was created in the immediate aftermath to support the community’s short-term needs and long-term recovery. Although Coney Island has taken leaps and bounds toward recovery, there are still issues that must be addressed, including housing repairs, closed playgrounds and community centers, the restoration of still-closed community clinic, damaged streets and sidewalks, and retail vacancy along Mermaid Avenue. Going forward the community must address strategies for better communications, more planning by individuals and businesses, and better understanding of contingency plans.”
 
“The bottom line in every community that is still recovering from Sandy is that anyone who is still in need of repairs has run out of resources,” said Jameson Wells, executive director of the Gerritsen Beach Long Term Recovery Project. “What we all need is more capitol to purchase rebuilding supplies and skilled volunteer labor to help install. We are continuing to work on coordinating our long term resiliency plans on a community wide basis; working with every organization from NY Rising to HUD Rebuilding by Design to FEMA, ARC and OEM to make sure that we are in a better position as a community to weather future storms.”
 
“On the morning of October 30th, Red Hook learned for the first time what the term resilience meant,” said Ian Marvy, representative of the Red Hook Coalition. “To us and all those who supported the immediate recovery we experienced the strength of social bonds, saw remarkable adaptability to our changed environment, and nimbly began the process of rebuilding. Today, almost a year later we continue to weave together new social networks that will support our efforts, we are exploring, interrogating and planning new ways of building, relating to the environment, and generating power. The Red Hook Coalition looks forward to continuing our collaboration with elected officials, our social service partners, the business community and the myriad of volunteers to create a stronger, more equitable, vibrant and resilient Red Hook.”
 
“Sheepshead Bay suffers from fragmentation within the community,” said Vadim Shiglik, project director of the Empower Sheepshead Recovery Coalition. “This exacerbates the relief efforts made by local and macro organizations. Channels of communication need to be developed in order to have a unified and efficient community wide disaster response.”
 
Community collaboratives have shared several lessons with city agencies and local elected officials in the effort to prepare for future natural disasters, including the need for large-scale relief agencies to partner with local groups for expertise in their communities, the importance of civic institutions acting as intermediaries between government, relief organizations and community groups, and the need to rethink everyday vulnerabilities through thoughtful and inclusive resiliency planning, including key infrastructure and resource networks.  
 
“Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy devastated our region, it is critical that we learn the lessons of the storm and develop a storm-resilient strategy to ensure that Brooklyn communities are armed with innovative practices to plan for and survive future disasters,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Today’s meeting is an important step forward towards that goal and I commend the Borough President and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s leadership and engagement in providing relief for Sandy-impacted families and businesses. I stand united in their efforts to build a smarter and stronger city and will continue to push for the federal resources needed to help New Yorkers recover and rebuild.”
 
“Homeowners and businesses in Brooklyn are still getting back on their feet, despite having been a year since Sandy hit, and today’s forum will highlight the needs of those individuals as well as the steps we can take to move forward in the future,” said Senator Charles Schumer. “After the storm, I crafted and steered to passage the Sandy Relief Bill so that New Yorkers would have the federal funds they need to rebuild and repair; now all Sandy victims in Brooklyn should sign up immediately for this much-needed assistance. I am confident that the federal funds will begin to flow swiftly and I pledge to continue working with local officials and residents in Brooklyn to make sure New York has the mitigation measures necessary to be protected in the future.”
 
"We have come a long way in rebuilding our communities nearly one year after Superstorm Sandy left us in disarray,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. “Although we have worked tirelessly to secure relief funding and augment resources for struggling home and business owners, there is still much more work to be done. I thank the Brooklyn Recovery Fund for organizing the Pre-Anniversary Forum as a means to evaluate current progress and how we can move forward more effectively.”
 
“As the victims of Superstorm Sandy continue to recover from that terrible disaster, it is important that we never stop exploring how the recovery efforts are serving the victims and our communities. Superstorm Sandy was a horrific event with devastating consequences to local families and the economy throughout Brooklyn, from Coney Island to Red Hook,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “This Pre-Anniversary Forum on Superstorm Sandy will be an important event for local leaders and organizations to make sure that we are providing the best services in the best ways possible to all Brooklynites.”
 
“Next week, it will be one year since Sandy touched down in Brooklyn--and we continue to recover,” said State Senator Eric Adams. “The Recovery Fund is a crucial part of ensuring all communities bounce all the way back from that devastating storm, and our borough is once again moving ahead at full steam. I commend Borough President Markowitz, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and all involved on a tremendous effort. Through the coordination of the Fund, we will get help to those who need it better and faster, so that Brooklyn can complete its recovery and spend all of its time and resources on its bright future.”
 
“A year ago, Brooklynites came together in the face of Superstorm Sandy to help each other with their selfless heroism and compassion. But more is needed,” said State Senator Velmanette Montgomery. “Superstorm Sandy was a wicked wake-up call about what we can expect in the future as sea rise continues and weather events are expected to become steadily more severe. I thank Borough President Markowitz for calling this Forum where we can continue to plan for our changing future.
 
“Luckily not too many homeowners in my district were affected by Hurricane Sandy, yet many businesses along the waterfront were severely impacted,” said Assembly Member Joseph R. Lentol. “The Brooklyn Navy Yard and Time Warner Cable are just two of the businesses that were forced to deal with tens of millions of dollars in damage. We, as government, certainly need to take the necessary steps to not only repair our infrastructure, but harden and strengthen it. This responsibility should spread to all levels of government – federal, state and city. I hope that this forum will positively contribute to the recovery strategies that are developed and implemented, so that we may improve the response in the aftermath of any future natural disasters.” 
 
"Nearly a year has passed since Superstorm Sandy, yet the images of destruction remain indelibly etched in our memories,” said Assembly Member N. Nick Perry. “I can vividly recall surveying the damage in Canarsie the following morning, seeing homes flooded, cars washed away and my hard-working constituents desperately in need of help.  That morning, I promised Canarsie residents that they would not be forgotten.  Along with the Borough President’s office, I continue to appeal for relief funding for the people of Canarsie and all neighborhoods in Brooklyn damaged by the storm.  One year later, we continue to work tirelessly to ensure that those families affected by Sandy receive the relief they are entitled to.”
 
“Whether you were alone when the hurricane came or not, you are not alone now. Neighbors have come together, communities have come together and Brooklyn is working together,” said Council Member Lewis A. Fidler. “Today, our challenges are not the same as the ones from a year ago, but our commitment to helping each other is even stronger. I want to thank the Borough President for organizing not only this Pre-Anniversary Forum, but the countless other meetings and briefings on Sandy recovery he has held in the past year as well.”
 
“It is so important that we learn from our response to Hurricane Sandy in order to prepare for the next storm,” said Council Member Vincent J. Gentile. “We are continuing our efforts – and our promise – to find ways to strengthen our city’s infrastructure following the storm. Whether it’s taking important measures to mitigate climate change or increasing building resilience, together – by sharing information – we can ensure that our City is even better prepared to meet Mother Nature’s next challenge.”
 
“One year later, life for many Brooklynites has returned to normal – but we cannot neglect to work that still needs to be done to rebuild a more sustainable and resilient borough,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “Thank you to Borough President Markowitz for organizing this forum and to everyone who participated in this conversation about the work we have ahead of us.”
 
“As we move forward, it is crucial that we learn from the many lessons of Hurricane Sandy,” said Council Member Stephen T. Levin. “We must be able to respond during future disaster scenarios so that every person gets the resources they need and we must recover in a way that is as smooth and quick as possible. This forum is an important step in developing new response and recovery strategies and I want to thank Borough President Markowitz, the Brooklyn Community Foundation, and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce for their leadership on this issue.”
 
The Brooklyn Recovery Fund has raised more than $3.5 million, with support from a broad spectrum of donors—including founding contributions from the American Red Cross, Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets, and Forest City Ratner—as well as hundreds of individual contributions via online and mobile giving. Grants from the Brooklyn Recovery Fund are responding to large-scale community-wide coordination work as well as more narrowly focused rebuilding and service provision efforts. For more information on how you can help, visit www.brooklynrecoveryfund.org.