U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged top officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to quickly approve approximately $4 million in federal funding for the City of New Rochelle to rebuild the Municipal Marina and Hudson Park beach, which were ravaged during Hurricane Sandy.
Sandy did a lot of damage in New Rochelle as in other Sound Shore communities.
But though FEMA first told New Rochelle officials that this rebuilding project was eligible for 90 percent federal reimbursement, FEMA later declared that the damage was not all caused by the storm and was therefore ineligible, officials said.
The abrupt change forced New Rochelle to re-submit its application for funding, with new forms of evidence, at multiple points over the past year, which city officials said has added to the cost and delayed the work. In particular, New Rochelle has already put $1 million toward the rebuilding process with the understanding that it would eventually be reimbursed, a process that Schumer says has been delayed for too long.
Beyond those expenses, New Rochelle simply cannot move forward and spend any additional money without FEMA’s full assurance that the project will be eligible, and without the reimbursement for work already owed, Schumer said during a visit to Hudson Park March 20. It's been 18 months and repairs are less than 10 percent complete.
Working with New York State’s Emergency Management Office (SEMO), New Rochelle are about to ask for funding approval again.
“These repairs, totaling almost $4 million, are essential to bring back New Rochelle’s shoreline to pre-storm conditions and curtail any further damage,” said New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson. “With today marking the beginning of spring and warmer weather just around the corner, we can no longer wait to act. Our residents and park patrons appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to expedite FEMA funding.”
“New Rochelle has been caught in a game of bureaucratic ping pong since Sandy, and have waited long enough for the federal assurance and reimbursements it needs to move forward with the rebuilding of Municipal Marina and Hudson Park,” said Schumer. “These two New Rochelle treasures suffered serious damage during Hurricane Sandy and are clearly eligible for the disaster relief funding that FEMA approved for Westchester County after the storm, and provides for projects just like these all across the country. I am urging FEMA not to wait any longer or put New Rochelle through any unnecessary hoops. FEMA needs to work with the State’s Emergency Management Office and the City of New Rochelle to approve the project once and for all. It’s time to clear the bureaucratic red tape and get this project moving so that the beach and marina can be restored."
“People cannot put their lives on hold as they wait for relief. The fact that this aid is still in question – well over a year after Hurricane Sandy – is shameful. My colleagues and I fought for a vote on this aid, and it is outrageous that bureaucracy now stands in its way. I have reached out to FEMA and demanded that the money needed be released in the most timely manner possible,” said Congressman Eliott Engel who has also been a key advocate on behalf of New Rochelle.
A press release from Schumer's office provided more background:
During Superstorm Sandy, sustained winds of roughly 75 miles per hour, as well as a storm surge as high as 10 feet caused significant damage to New Rochelle’s Hudson Park Beach and Municipal Marina. At Hudson Park Beach, the storm damaged sea walls, swimming area access ramps, and various structural elements of the beach’s pavilions. At the Municipal Marina, the storm caused docks, slips and gangways to twist, break and crack; and sent floodwater rushing into the Marina Office, causing severe damage. The storm also knocked boats that were stored for the winter off of their supports and left them strewn about the parking lot once the water receded.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, FEMA initially deemed the project eligible for reimbursement, but pivoted shortly thereafter and declared that the damage at Hudson Park Beach and Municipal Marina was not caused by Sandy. With this new declaration, New Rochelle was no longer eligible for federal funding and was forced to hire additional engineers to prove the impact of Sandy and re-apply for this federal aid. After submitting its second application, FEMA once again denied New Rochelle the funding that it was seeking.
Now, a year and a half since Superstorm Sandy, New Rochelle is working with SEMO to finalize its application for funding and is ready to submit it for a third time. Schumer is urging FEMA to work with SEMO and New Rochelle to approve the application so that the rebuilding process can finally begin.
In total, New Rochelle estimates that the rebuilding will cost $3.96 million, and is seeking Public Assistance funding from FEMA through its Disaster Relief Fund. Of that total, the City of New Rochelle has committed approximately $1 million dollars throughout the process, at points when the City expected to be considered eligible by FEMA. This includes an estimated $80,000 on Hudson Park, $177,000 at the Municipal Marina and a recent approval by the City Council to spend an additional $745,000 in the immediate future. However, City of New Rochelle officials note that they cannot afford to spend any additional funding until it receives both reimbursement for the money it has already spent and assurance that it will be reimbursed for 90% of the cost of the entire rebuilding project. Projects in approved disaster counties like Westchester Country are eligible for Public Assistance funding and should be reimbursed by FEMA for 90% of their costs.
Schumer continued, “The Superstorm Sandy damage in New Rochelle was real and the documentation is available, and there is simply no excuse for FEMA to withhold needed certainty from the City for these justifiable project costs.”
Schumer was joined in urging FEMA to approve New Rochelle’s application by Noam Bramson, Mayor, City of New Rochelle; Omar Small, Acting City Manager, City of New Rochelle; William Zimmermann, Parks & Recreation Commissioner, City of New Rochelle; and Kathy Gilwit, Communications and Marketing Manager, City of New Rochelle.