The Five Towns are eligible for $27.6 million of the more than $750 million in federal funds being allocated to communities throughout New York state as part of the post-Hurricane Sandy New York Rising Community Reconstruction program announced on July 18 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Residents and civic leaders will have a voice in determining how the money will be spent, as regional planning committees will help draft development plans. The committees’ co-chairs will not be elected officials, though their members can include county, town and village representatives and directors of community organizations and businesses, according to Eunice Huang, deputy press secretary of the New York State Executive Chamber.
Bob Block, executive director of the Five Towns Community Chest in Woodmere, volunteered to be a co-chair of the committee for the Five Towns, along with longtime Inwood resident Pete Sobol and Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzsky of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. They will oversee development plans for villages and hamlets such as Hewlett, Hewlett Harbor, Hewlett Neck, Meadowmere Park and Inwood, which are slated to receive $3 million each, and Woodmere, which is eligible for $6.6 million.
Five Towns priorities
On the day of Cuomo’s announcement, the three community leaders attended a conference at the state Capitol to find out what their positions as co-chairs entailed. “We learned a lot, and we have eight months to draft our plan, based on how we feel the funds would be best used in the Five Towns, and provide it to the state government,” Block said. “Repairing infrastructure is the main priority, so we’ll be better prepared if and when a storm materializes again.”
Sobol, the vice president of the Inwood Civic Association, said it is vital to focus on how the Five Towns can be better prepared next time. “We need to have a designated storm shelter,” he said, “and though it was natural for the Five Towns Community Center to fill that role, we need to have resources people need, like food, water and baby formula. We learned the first time and the second time we have to be ready to roll.”