In less than a week, the Long Beach Ice Arena will once again be just an ice arena.
Thursday afternoon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that the disaster recovery centers in Long Beach and Freeport — which served as lifelines for victims in the days and weeks following Sandy — will be shut down at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Island Park site, located at Sacred Heart Parish, 127 Long Beach Road, will remain open for the foreseeable future, said FEMA spokesperson Ray Perez.
The Long Beach center was housed at the Recreation Center and Ice Arena at 700 Magnolia Boulevard, and served as a hub for the city’s relief efforts in the immediate aftermath of the storm. It was opened on Nov. 3, just a few days after Sandy hit, and almost immediately, donations poured in from across the country. Residents came for hot meals, clothing and information. In the almost four months it has been in operation, the center has had about 13,100 visitors.
Perez said that FEMA collaborates with local and state government to determine whether the needs of an affected area have been met. They also monitor traffic at recovery centers. FEMA said that traffic at the two centers has slowed, leading to the decision to shut them down.
“We feel that the traffic is down to the point that the people in that area who need assistance has dwindled down,” said Perez.
However, Perez stressed that just because these centers are closing, doesn’t mean that FEMA will disappear from Long Beach and other affected areas. He said FEMA will maintain a presence in the area, with community relations people remaining to help. And as always, he said, people can reach a FEMA representative by calling the helpline at 800-621-3362.
“This disaster is much bigger than a normal disaster, so it’s a long-term recovery,” Perez said. “We will still have a definite presence in Long Beach and the rest of Long Island.”
Perez said he was not sure if other agencies that had representatives stationed at the Ice Arena, like the U.S. Small Business Administration, would relocate after next Wednesday. City officials has no comment at press time.
FEMA reminds those affected by Sandy that they have until Feb. 27 to register for federal disaster assistance, which can include money for rent, essential home repairs, personal property losses and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance.