Could the Rockaways Survive Another Sandy?

By  JULY 13, 2017

After Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Rockaways in 2012, the coastal neighborhood in Queens underwent a renaissance of sorts.

The federal government replenished more than 3.5 million cubic yards of beach sand, enough to fill the Empire State Building two times over, and the city planted six miles of sand dunes. A reinvigorated local food scene has sparked an economic revival.

And this spring, the final slab of concrete was laid on a new five-and-a-half-mile boardwalk, with Mayor Bill de Blasio proclaiming its completion a symbol of the area’s resiliency.

“This boardwalk is planted firmly, and it will withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at it,” Mayor de Blasio said on a windy Friday in May.

But the government’s most ambitious plan to shelter Rockaway from the elements is far from assured.

An Army Corps of Engineers project that includes flood walls and levees, and that would significantly enhance the peninsula’s lines of defense against rising sea levels and devastating storms, would cost $4 billion, a hefty price that many observers believe leaves the plan’s future in doubt.

An estimated $400 million has been secured so far, Army Corps engineers said. But that money cannot be used until the agency gives the project the final approval.

Construction would not begin until 2020.


In Belle Harbor, an affluent neighborhood of Rockaway, residents had hurricane-prevention measures in place. Credit Will Glaser/The New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the completion of the boardwalk was a symbol of the area’s resiliency. Credit Will Glaser/The New York Times

“With the Trump administration in place, people who don’t necessarily even believe in climate change, I’m really worried whether the money will even be there,” said Councilman Donovan Richards, a Democrat whose district includes parts of Rockaway.

Rockaway, like many coastal neighborhoods in New York, is extremely vulnerable to water. More than 120,000 people live on the Rockaway peninsula — a slender mass of land that stretches across 10 miles with the ocean to the south and Jamaica Bay to the north.

One recent report by the Waterfront Alliance estimated that 61 percent of Rockaway residents, or 74,800 people, had a one-in-two chance of a major flood in their homes by 2060.

“This is the story of our time,” said Robert Freudenberg, the vice president for energy and environment at the Regional Plan Association, an urban research organization. “Adaptation will require one of the biggest investments that we’ll need to make in the region.”

On the beachside of the peninsula, the Army Corps has proposed building 13 new jetties and extending five existing jetties — rock formations that jut out perpendicularly to trap sand and build up the beaches they protect.

Sand is widely regarded as an effective mitigator of storm damage: A wider beach can dissipate the energy of storm tides.

But a significant amount of the sand replenished in Rockaway by the Army Corps in 2014 after Sandy has already been washed away. In certain sections of Rockaway Beach, the water has eaten away at the shoreline, reaching the sand dunes and the boardwalk that shield the neighborhood.

Jetties are meant to slow this type of coastal erosion, a natural phenomenon exacerbated by climate change, experts say.

“We are working as fast as we can, and we understand the urgency of it,” said Daniel Falt, the project’s manager at the Army Corps. “We have a very significant and thorough review process that is required from us”

The plan also proposes additional sand replenishment to extend the beachfront and to build 18-foot-tall reinforced dunes.


A young woman sat in front of her building in the Rockaway section of Queens a week after Hurricane Sandy hit the coast in 2012. Credit Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

The old Rockaway boardwalk was washed away by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Credit Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“There’s no reason to leave Rockaway vulnerable when federal funds are available now for measures that can provide protection during future storms,’’ Mr. Schumer wrote in a letter to the Army Corps last month.

Indeed, agency officials acknowledge that the $400 million the agency already has in hand would pay for the work on the beachside.

The other $3.6 billion needed would pay for a proposed system of flood walls, levees and gates to control water levels in Jamaica Bay — a side of Rockaway mostly overshadowed by the beachside.

Though the vulnerability of the peninsula’s northern part became starkly clear when waters leapt over the bay and left houses four to 10 feet underwater during Hurricane Sandy, there have been virtually no improvements to the bayside since the storm.

“All of these neighborhoods, tens of thousands of people, will just get flooded again from the back in another Sandy event,” said Dan Mundy Jr., who lives on the bay and is the president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “All our hopes are on the gate.”

Funding for improvements on the bayside could be appropriated through the Democrats’ proposed infrastructure plan, which suggests allocating $25 billion to resiliency projects, Mr. Schumer’s office said.

But the specifics of a large-scale, national infrastructure bill would most likely be determined by Republicans, who control Congress. Neither the Trump administration nor the Republicans in Congress have presented such a plan.


Rockaway Beach during high tide. Erosion is already taking place on the beach, which could cause problems when another hurricane hits. Credit Will Glaser/The New York Times

Rockaway residents acknowledge the post-Sandy improvements in their neighborhoods, but are bracing for the worst, wondering whether measures taken so far are enough to protect the community.

One of the most significant improvements was the city’s $341 million project that replaced the obliterated wooden boardwalk with a concrete promenade, which also serves as a storm barrier. The new boardwalk has a steel-reinforced concrete deck, a higher elevation and a retaining wall underneath it to prevent sand from spilling into the community.

Yet, some noted that the reinforced boardwalk does not extend to the western half of the peninsula.

“That concrete boardwalk will be there for a long time,” said John Cori, a 54-year-old Rockaway resident who is the president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“Our homes will be gone, but we’ll be able to come back and walk the boardwalk,” he added, half-joking.

As the federal government slowly unfurls its long-awaited construction in Rockaway, the city points to other federally funded initiatives. A $120 million project would finance the construction of recreational parks designed to be more resilient than those destroyed in Rockaway during Sandy.

But, ultimately, city officials are looking at the federal government to do the heavy lifting.

“The short answer, I think on this, is that we really need our federal partners to step in here,” said Michael Shaikh, the deputy director for external affairs for climate policy and programs at the mayor’s office. “This is a huge, gigantic project.”


Scala’s Youth Basketball Team Plays Team Ulrich

Broad Channel, NY — New York City Council candidate Mike Scala rooted on the youth basketball team he sponsors against the team of his general election opponent early Tuesday night. The squads consist of 4 and 5 year old upstarts in the Tykes Division of the Broad Channel Athletic Club (BCAC) Shamrock Summer Shootout.

“Whoever wins this game takes the election in November,” Scala quipped.

Team Scala wore blue. Team Ulrich dressed in pink. The players’ jerseys often covered their knees.

The players and fans toughed it out in spite of rain showers.

Neither side could claim victory. Nobody kept score. But Scala noted how enthusiastic the kids were to learn the fundamentals of the sport.

“It’s all in good fun,” he admitted. “They’re getting better at the game.”

After the game, Scala treated the entire league to Italian ices.


NEW YORK— On Tuesday, July 18, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz will host a City Resource Fair during City Hall in Your Borough week. Commissioners and other top representatives from City agencies will be available to answer Queens residents’ questions.

Queens residents are encouraged to sign up at or call (212) 748-0281.

WHAT: City Hall in Your Borough: City Resource Fair

WHEN: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
9:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.

WHERE: Queens Borough Hall
Helen Marshall Cultural Center
120-55 Queens Boulevard
Kew Gardens, NY 11424

The Great Black Fight! With Doctor Omar Johnson

By Michael Harriot

We Fact-Checked Umar Johnson’s Hotep Tantrum With Roland Martin Because Someone Had To




While everyone is grabbing the popcorn for the Blac Chyna-Rob Kardashian beef, the real donnybrook was happening Monday on TV One’s News One Now, when host Roland Martin had ankh-right leader Umar Abdullah-Johnson on his morning show.

Everything seemed cool in the Great Ascot vs. Daishiki War, and then everything exploded. Johnson called a panelist on the show a “coon,” and the segment erupted into a shouting match whose volume is rarely heard outside of Baptist church deacon board meetings. Even though Johnson went into his belligerent “this-motherfucker-is-lying” voice in record time, he made a number of claims about himself about which many have asked for years. Instead of wild speculation, we decided to look into these claims and settle them once and for all.

To be clear, The Root does not have a vendetta against Umar Johnson, but we believe anyone who has collected almost three-quarters of a million dollars from black people should be vetted. You think Newsweek would do this? Do you think the Washington Post even knows who Umar Johnson is?

While we didn’t look into some of the more defamatory accusations that have emerged in the last weeks—the “conscious stripper” fiasco or that weird screaming video against another Hotepticon during which he answered the phone while it was still ringing—we decided to focus on the claims that have emerged from Johnson’s own un-mustachioed mouth.

Read more-


A, B, C and D Trains To Shut Down Temporarily on Weeknights for Repairs

By Teddy Grant

FASTRACK repairs begin on the A, B, C and D subway lines on Monday.
FASTRACK repairs begin on the A, B, C and D subway lines on Monday.
View Full CaptionFlickr/dorkysramos
MANHATTAN — Late night commuters looking to travel on the A, B, C and D lines will have to find another way, as the MTA will temporarily shut down service for overnight maintenance repairs for two weeks this month.

Starting Monday night, service will be suspended on the A train between 59th Street-Columbus Circle and Inwood-207th Street and on the D line between 59th Street- Columbus Circle and 161 Street-Yankee Stadium, as part of the MTA’s FASTRACK program, which shuts down sections of the subway line overnight to allow workers to fix maintenance issues.

B and C train service will also be impacted and will be shut down early, as repairs take place, according to the MTA.

The shutdown will take place for four consecutive nights from July 10 to July 14 and July 17 to July 22 between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Alternative routes will be available during the planned two-week shutdown.


Lew Simon says James Sanders JR. Took Money from LA Quinta Developer

By Jeffrey Williams-Maisonet

District Leader Lew Simon column “Simon Says” states allegedly that Senator James Sanders J.r. of the 10th Senate District took money from the developer of the LA Quinta Inn.

“As many of you remember I was the first to take my bullhorn and march with the local homeowners at the site of a suspected hotel under construction on Beach 44 Street. We went to the home of the developer and owner of the construction site on Washington Avenue in Cedarhurst. He owns two homeless shelter hotels in Ozone Park. We worked closely with Steve Cooper, President of the Frank Avenue Civic Association who led the angry and frightened homeowners. We had a meeting with a La Quinta Corp. V.P. who said that the hotel would have to meet La Quinta standards and it could not become a homeless shelter for the next 5 to 10 years or they would remove their name from the hotel. Another lie.”

In Simon’s column, he also explains that it was a deal made by the Senator after the developer decided to break the community benefits agreement (CBA).

“Then-Councilman James Sanders Jr., who then represented the district, cut a deal after a community benefits agreement was cut by the developer. Rockaway residents would be hired at the hotel and a community room was to be made available for community use. At this time Sanders was running in a primary campaign for the nomination to the State Senate. He took a large contribution from the developer for his campaign. After the primary election, I called Mr. Sanders to congratulate him on his victory and thank him for allowing the welfare hotel to be built. He said he was fooled. Sanders campaign finance records show contributions from unscrupulous hotel owners.”

Simon concluded by stating the following.

” We have had many phone calls from the Coalition of Rockaway headed by Bruce Jacobs thanking me for being the only local elected official who stood up for these homeowners. We are not against homeless but want them to have permanent housing. Although Beach 44th Street is not in my current district, Rockaway is one community. United we stand, divided we fall.”

We will reach out to Senator Sanders Jr. for comment. Stay tuned!




St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Announced Plans to Renovate and Expand Emergency Department

FAR ROCKAWAY, 2017—Friday , July 7th, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital hosted a press conference to announce renovation and expansion scope of work regarding their recently approved NYSDOH Capital Restructuring Financing Program (CRFP) Grant for 10.15M. The hospital’s executive staff, as well as local community members and elected officials, have been working with the New York State Department of Health for over a year, awaiting final approval of the contract to begin construction. The renovation and expansion of the emergency department will double to 22,000 square feet and allow for more space to provide care to patients in the emergency room.

St. John’s CEO, Mr. Gerard M. Walsh, announced that the construction will last for approximately 24 months, which includes 12-months for the ED renovation/expansion and 12-months for the primary care co-location facility which will be housed at the current BOCES building. The new Emergency Department will provide adult and pediatric care, as well as psychiatric emergency care. By the end of construction, the department will include 19 private treatment rooms, 21 results waiting positions, six rapid evaluation beds, and 14 private areas in a separate psychiatric emergency department.

Chris Parker, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CHCQM , Executive Vice President/Chief Operation Officer, stated “the primary strategic goals of the renovation and expansion are to strengthen access to primary care on the peninsula by the addition of two medical home sites on the hospital campus, one of which is co-located with outpatient behavioral health services, allow patients who come to the ED that do not need emergency services to be treated in an appropriate primary care setting, reduce potentially avoidable hospital use because of a lack of access to primary care services and poorly managed chronic diseases, help St. John’s develop a stronger integrated delivery system that provides strengthened outpatient behavioral and mental health services to the community, and improve the crisis stabilization process and physical plan in the ED to better care for the behavioral health needs of the community”. These goals are conducive to the DSRIP goals set forth by the state department of health.

CEO, Gerard M. Walsh “We are excited about this milestone and look forward to its completion, thank you to our friends in government for creating a resource for safety net hospitals, thank you Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Department of Health and Former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder for your support”.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, “This is a great day, an important day for the hospital, and a really important day for all of the residents of the Rockaway Peninsula…When we’re all on the same page to make something happen, it happens”.

Senator James Sanders Jr., “As a resident of the Rockaways who has used the emergency room… I know that we have to do better and now, by the grace of God and through hard work, we have done better.”

Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., “There is so much more work to do, the days of taking people from the peninsula to Brooklyn or the mainland for better care have to end. We have to treat our people right here on the peninsula.”

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, “I was born in this hospital… What we’ve always had in this community is St, John’s Hospital and it’s stood through good times and bad times… I can’t wait to see the rest of the plans for this hospital.”

Assemblywoman Michele Titus, “Finally seeing this vision come through… and seeing that emergency room improvement that we need is so important… For our loved ones, friends, and neighbors, this is life or death, making sure they have access to quality care right here on the peninsula is so important.”

Council Member Donovan Richards Jr., “A change is coming to the Rockaways, but without improved healthcare access, the peninsula will still struggle, this grant is a tremendous victory that will ensure that residents can finally receive more equitable emergency healthcare without the hassle of having to cross any bridges.”

President and Chair of the Episcopal Health Services Board of Trustees, The Right Reverend Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, “What we’re doing here today is a milestone… Bringing together people who have a common goal, a common purpose and recognizing that we put all kinds of differences aside in order to accomplish what is necessary for the care of God’s people… is a shining moment for me personally and for what is happening in this community.”

1199 Union Coalition Representative, District Leader Lew Simon, “Four years ago, the coalition was formed… And when we formed this coalition… it was an exciting time, it was something that I dreamed about, and making sure that this hospital becomes state of the art.”

Chair of the St. John’s Community Advisory Committee, Dr. Edward Williams, “In my 25 years living in the Rockaways today’s announcement for the renovation was the first time, I witnessed a collaborative effort of the community and our elected officials and it came at the tutelage of CEO, Walsh and his team, I am proud to be a part of this day”.

At the conclusion of the press conference, attendees were offered a tour of the construction area by the hospital’s Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Support Services, Thomas Farzetta.

About St. John’s
St. John’s Episcopal Hospital is the only hospital providing emergency and ambulatory care to the densely populated, culturally and economically diverse, and medically underserved populations of the Rockaways and Five Towns in southern Queens County and southwestern Nassau County, New York. St. John’s is a New York State Designated Stroke Center, a recipient of the Gold-Plus Get with the Guidelines®-Stroke Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association, and is a certified emergency heart care station. It is also designated as a 911/Level II trauma receiving hospital by the New York City Department of Health.

Scala Supports Striking Electrical Workers


Mike Scala stands with striking Spectrum/IBEW Local 3 workers on Wednesday.

Richmond Hill, NY — New York City Council candidate Mike Scala paid a visit to striking Spectrum Cable/IBEW Local 3 electrical workers on Wednesday.

“I’m proud to stand strong behind them and see that they get the fair treatment they deserve,” Scala said.

The workers have been on strike since March 28, citing lost benefits and substandard working conditions, after reportedly working without contracts since 2013. Several of them expressed their frustrations personally to Scala.

“I left my corporate job for the security of a union gig,” one worker said. “You can imagine my shock when the protections my family depended on were stripped.”

There were additionally complaints the news media has not given much attention to the strike, raising suspicions of undue influence by the cable company. Scala is calling on local media outlets to cover the story.

“These workers have the right to be treated with dignity, and the public should know their struggle so that we can collectively demand ending this injustice,” he insisted.

Time Warner Cable was acquired by Charter Communications and rebranded as Spectrum this year.


Announcement of Renovations to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital Emergency Department

Senator James Sanders Jr. (D-Rochdale Village, Far Rockaway) will join other elected officials, hospital staff, and community leaders for a press confernce on July 6, 2017 to announce and celebrate that St. John’s Episcopal Hospital has received the funding necessary to begin renovations to its Emergency Department.

Senator Sanders has long been a proponent for the funding and worked hard along with other elected officials – Assembly Members Michele Titus, Stacey Pheffer Amato, then-Assembly Member Phil Goldfeder, Senator Joe Addabbo, Council Member Donovan Richards and members of 1199 SEIU United Health Care Workers, forming a coalition, to ensure that the money finally arrived.

St. John’s serves more than 130,000 people on the peninsula annually. It has 240 beds, more than 400 physicians and 1,500 employees.