NY Rising issues ‘final’ deadlines

Agency says it will not reopen bulkhead program in Long Beach


Homeowners who enrolled in the NY Rising program after Hurricane Sandy — many of whom are still elevating their homes — will have more time to file permits and complete construction after the agency granted what it called a final extension last week.

The announcement came amid pressure from state and local officials and residents who said that the previous deadlines were unrealistic for those enrolled in NY Rising’s home repair, mandatory and optional elevation, interim mortgage assistance, optional bulkhead and reconstruction programs.

“Many South Shore residents are still in the rebuilding process at no fault of their own, and it would have been unfair to close the door on them prematurely,” State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, said in a statement. “The city and I worked together to ensure that that they will have the time they need to complete their arduous recovery projects.”

The deadlines vary for each program. Sandy victims who opted to raise their homes previously had until June 1, 2018, to complete the project — that deadline was an extension as well — or they would risk losing vital federal funding. Those in the optional elevation program now have until December 2018 to schedule a final inspection and until April 2019 to close out by signing off on the project.

Earlier this year, NY Rising said that a final deadline for completion of the mandatory home-raising process had not been set. Those homeowners now have until June 2019 to schedule a final inspection to confirm that the elevation project is completed, and until Dec. 31, 2019, to close out.

As of October, the city said, it had issued 356 permits for new homes and 628 permits for elevations since the storm, with 44 permits for new homes and 282 permits for elevations pending.

“We in the Building Department are working with all of our residents to do whatever we can to meet their obligations and deadlines,” said Building Commissioner Scott Kemins.

The elevation process typically takes at least six months, depending on the contractor and the available funding, and many residents and officials have called on NY Rising to loosen the deadlines and pushed for more time for residents to submit building permit applications and find temporary rentals.

Liz Treston, who has been living in rental homes in the West End for more than a year while her Wyoming Avenue home is being elevated, said that many residents are having difficulty finding qualified contractors or dealing with contractor fraud.

“There aren’t enough honest, reliable contractors to get the thousands of homes up in the air in the time frame that NY Rising has provided,” said Treston, who is also president of Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters, an organization that helps residents after natural disasters. “Long Beach COAD is pleased to see that NY Rising is beginning to understand the complexities of raising a home on the South Shore.”

Bulkhead program is extended, but not reopened

Kaminsky and the City Council sent a letter to NY Rising in August also calling for giving homeowners along Reynolds Channel more time to obtain permits to rebuild their bulkheads. They now have until Dec. 31 to file permits with the state Department of Environmental Protection, and those in "good standing" have until December 2018 to complete their bulkhead projects.

The city also asked the governor’s office that month to reopen a residential bulkhead program to homeowners. Homes on the bay suffered some of the worst damage in Sandy, and the weakened bulkheads potentially put them and their neighbors at risk for future flood damage. Last year, city officials said that a $12.4 million state-funded project to protect the bayfront with bulkheading, identified as a priority by Long Beach’s Community Reconstruction Program planning committee, was expected to begin this year.

But in September, the project was revised after the estimated cost of the work along Reynolds Channel more than doubled, forcing the city to include only public property. Officials said that a consulting firm hired by the state had underestimated the cost of the work. In order to help homeowners rebuild their bulkheads, the council passed a measure to issue bonds to fund those projects, requiring residents to pay the money back through a tax surcharge over 20 years.

Many residents said they were led to believe that CRP funding would cover their private bulkheads, and did not enroll in the bulkhead program. Of the 172 addresses the city sent to the governor’s office requesting an extension of the NY Rising plan earlier this year, only 19 opted into the bulkheading program before the deadline, state officials said. The state declined the city’s request in August, saying that it had provided ample time and notice for residents to participate.

“Despite attempts, [NY Rising’s recent] announcement did not include a re-opening of the optional bulkhead program to Long Beach homeowners that are not currently in the program,” the city said in a news release.

“The city will continue to do everything in its power to make these processes as seamless and stress-free as possible,” City Council President Len Torres said in a Nov. 27 news release. “Though we are grateful to NY Rising for extending the deadlines for homeowners in these programs, we still believe that the optional bulkhead program should be re-opened for Long Beach homeowners to rebuild their bulkhead along the bayside.”

Responding to the Herald's request for comment, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery said in an email, "The press release...is unrelated to the August correspondence asking us to reopen the optional bulkhead program to new applicants, and homeowners who did not comply with program requirements and previously publicized deadlines. We answered the city’s letter on Aug. 30."

"The revised deadlines the release refers to have to do with a letter we sent recently notifying homeowners who are in the optional bulkheading program — and who encountered difficulties in obtaining all necessary federal, state and local environmental permits — that they have extra time to complete their projects," the spokeswoman added.

Kirkwood Street residents Lew and Amy Dubow said that because they elevated their Sandy-damaged home through the NY Rising program, there wasn’t enough available funding to cover bulkhead repairs as well — which could cost $40,000 to $50,000 — and they were hoping the CRP plan would do so. The Dubows said they enrolled in the optional bulkhead program, but only recently began obtaining permits.

“As soon as the city said they weren’t doing it, we called the contractor,” Amy said. “I’m a little anxious about [the deadline] — if the permit application is in but we don’t have the permit in time, we might be screwed.”

“We didn’t get the permitting because we assumed the city was going to do it,” Lew Dubow said. “The amount we have left in our maximum award wouldn’t cover it, but at least it’s something.”