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Wednesday, April 23, 2014
City loosens purse strings on relief money
Rec Center repairs and local grants get first slice of funding
By Alexandra Spychalsky
Courtesy City of Long Beach
City officials accepted a check in June from Billy Crystal and his wife, Janice, that was donated to the city’s Relief Fund. Officials say Crystal is involved in determining how the money is spent.

Many residents gathered at the beach two months ago to see actor Billy Crystal present a giant check to the city for its Long Beach Relief Fund. Since then, many have wondered how that money would be used.

The City Council approved the use of the first chunk of money from the fund at last week’s meeting: $200,000 for Recreation Center repairs that aren’t covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Additionally, the city will set aside $100,000 for grants for community organizations as they continue their recovery efforts.

The city established the relief fund shortly after Hurricane Sandy, as a way to accept donations. In June, Crystal donated $1 million to the fund — $888,000 he raised with celebrity friends plus $112,000 from Crystal and his wife, Janice. The fund’s balance is now $1.4 million.

From the beginning, it was decided that before any of the money was used, proposals would be voted on by the City Council.

At the meeting, City Manager Jack Schnirman explained that the city sought to use the funds to help rebuild the Recreation Center, since the cost of many items needed to restore the facility is not reimbursable by FEMA. The money will fund the replacement of lockers and benches, a new liner for the pool and new tile for the pool deck, among other upgrades.

“If our residents had to endure having their facilities closed for quite a substantial period of time, the least we could do is use a little bit of our relief funds in order to make them better than they were before,” said Schnirman.

The city decided to direct aside some of the funds to community organizations to help them “resiliently repair, restore and rebuild.” The city posted the application for such grants on its website earlier this week. The deadline for applications in Oct. 4, and an organization may submit only one application.

There were chuckles among the audience when Councilman John McLaughlin asked whether the funding process would be easier than NY Rising, the state’s Sandy grant program, which many residents have denounced as too slow and complicated.

Schnirman assured McLaughlin that the application was easily accessible, simple and short. It asks only for basic information about an organization, whether it has received any other grants in the past two years and what it plans to use the grant for.

To apply for the City Relief Fund grant, go to www.long

beachny.gov.

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