Brooklyn Recovery Fund Releases Summary of Initial Findings from Post-Sandy Forum

Today, the Brooklyn Recovery Fund and its six Community Collaboratives are releasing the initial findings of an extensive report on the state of recovery after Superstorm Sandy in Brooklyn. A final report will be released by the end of the year, with a focus on informing new government officials as they take office in January 2014. In each of these areas--housing, physical and mental health, immigrant and undocumented residents, small businesses, and community-wide infrastructure--Brooklyn's coastal neighborhoods need extensive resources and government assistance as they continue to work to overcome the damage wrought by Sandy and the vulnerabilities the storm exposed.

“Exactly one year ago, Superstorm Sandy tore through Brooklyn's coastline, sending powerful flood waters into homes and businesses, and leaving broad devastation in its wake,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Community Foundation President and CEO Cecelia Clarke and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo Scissura in a joint statement. “But Sandy was no match for the people of Brooklyn, who came together that day and the weeks and months since, to care for one another and begin to rebuild with an eye toward becoming stronger for the future.”

The Brooklyn Recovery Fund, established by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President, and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, swiftly became the nexus for the borough's unified response. Generous Brooklynites from far and wide contributed more than $3.5 million to the fund, all of which has been deployed to aid the hardest hit communities in Brooklyn (See the Fund’s One Year Report here). Through two strategic funding streams, the fund has addressed immediate needs such as emergency food, supplies, and shelter, while fostering new Community Collaboratives: coalitions of nonprofits, residents, small businesses, volunteers, and civic associations coordinating recovery activities and designing and implementing forward-thinking rebuilding plans.

The Brooklyn Recovery Fund team has provided dedicated assistance to six new Community Collaboratives in Red Hook, Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, Gerritsen Beach and Canarsie, to help them access the most up-to-date recovery information and resources. But it is clear that the recovery has been a slow, overwhelming process, and Brooklyn's communities continue to struggle with many daunting challenges.

On Thursday, October 24th at Brooklyn Borough Hall, elected officials, city, state, and federal agency representatives, organizations and utility company executives gathered to listen to the current state of recovery in Brooklyn’s most impacted communities and recommendations from community leaders driving long-term recovery efforts. The Brooklyn Recovery Fund's partners call on city, state and federal agencies to review the findings that emerged from this forum below, to sharpen and advance their response in partnership with Brooklyn's communities.


Housing

• Since Sandy, foreclosure rates have risen in impacted neighborhoods borough-wide. In Canarsie, that rate has more than doubled to 3,000+ foreclosures today.

• Due to overwhelming repair needs, homeowners have run out of money. In Gerritsen Beach, where nearly all basements and first floors were flooded, many families continue to live on their second floor.

• In impacted New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings, persistent mold, debris, and the continued use of back-up boilers installed immediately after the storm remain major issues. NYCHA residents in Coney Island are intermittently without heat, battling ongoing health problems resulting from mold and debris.

Health

• Following Sandy, local clinics and health professionals were unprepared to recognize and treat the many manifestations of mold in residents. As a result, mold-related illnesses remain a leading health concern in impacted communities across the board.

• The psychological impact of Hurricane Sandy – both for survivors as well as first responders – was unprecedented. In Gerritsen Beach, residents continually struggle to function on the day-to-day, simultaneously coping with the loss of possessions and stress of rebuilding without adequate resources.

• In the weeks following the storm, many local pharmacies remained closed, leaving residents without their needed prescriptions. In Coney Island and Sheepshead Bay, this proved a particular threat to elderly populations whose access to alternative pharmacies and transportation was severely limited.

Immigrant and Undocumented Communities

• The intersecting issues of language/cultural access and housing repair-needs present an ongoing threat to the livelihood of immigrant and undocumented residents. In Brighton Beach, members of this community face restrictions to many assistance programs, and are either living in unsafe conditions or displaced altogether.

• Prior to Sandy, many immigrant and undocumented community members resided in illegal basement apartments – contributing significantly to the income of homeowners. In Canarsie, FEMA’s refusal to cover the cost of damage to illegal units led directly to the displacement of immigrant tenants, and foreclosure on homeowners.

• The displacement of undocumented and immigrant residents due to non-inclusive assistance programs, culturally incompetent materials and outreach, and federal policy has devastated business corridors in Brooklyn. In Sheepshead Bay, 40% of businesses – majority immigrant-owned – will not return, jeopardizing economic vitality in the neighborhood.

Businesses

• Six months after the storm, 85% of Brooklyn businesses had been denied Small Business Administration (SBA) assistance. In Sheepshead Bay, where many local businesses are ethnically-owned, cash-heavy establishments, rejection by federal assistance programs was widespread.

• Before Sandy, many small business communities lacked formal structure, such as Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) or merchants associations. In Red Hook, loss of infrastructure coupled with the disorganization of businesses created economic disparities within neighborhood recovery.

• In some communities, the loss of businesses due to Sandy has exacerbated pre-storm unemployment rates. In Coney Island, where 20% of the businesses on Mermaid Avenue remain closed, unemployed residents – both skilled and unskilled – standby as rebuild and construction job opportunities go to outsiders of the community.

Infrastructure

• Outdated and inadequate infrastructure in coastal Brooklyn communities contributed to a range of ongoing storm-related issues. In Gerritsen Beach, a faulty sewage system, exposed power lines, and active waste plant during the storm were among the most problematic infrastructure failures.

• During the storm, some communities were cut off from power for long stretches of time, and with limited means of communication. In Red Hook, the overwhelming majority of residents were without power for over two weeks, including those living in high-rise NYCHA buildings.

• Transportation proved another leading infrastructure issue in Brooklyn, with seven East River subway tunnels flooded during the storm. In Canarsie, where only buses remained in effect, many elderly residents were stranded.

Attendees at the forum included: Alliance for Coney Island, Office of Assemblymember Joan Millman, Atlantic Plaza Towers, Brooklyn Long Term Recovery Group, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn Community Board 14, Con Edison, Office of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, CORO New York, Department of City Planning, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, FCRC/Barclays/Nets, Office of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Mayor’s Office, My Time Inc., Neighborhood Housing Services of East Flatbush, State Senator Eric Adams, NYC Service (recovery office), NYCEDC/ Coney Island, Office of Emergency Management, Office of the Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Parks Department – Brooklyn Borough Office, American Red Cross, Red Hook Volunteers, Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Office of Speaker Christine Quinn.

These initial findings are a view into the complex challenges currently facing Brooklyn residents and small businesses as they recover from Superstorm Sandy. The Brooklyn Recovery Fund partners continue to work with coalitions in these communities to navigate these issues. A fuller picture of the state of recovery post-Sandy will be presented by the partners in a report to be released by the end of the year. For ongoing updates, visit http://www.brooklyncommunityfoundation.org/brooklyn-recovery-fund/recove....

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.