Howard Beach has largely recovered from Superstorm Sandy in 2012 but the neighborhood is part of a recovery effort called the NY Rising Community Reconstruction Program, funded by Governor Andrew Cuomo, which aims to make the waterfront area more resilient should another natural disaster hit.
The governor’s Office of Storm Recovery allocated up to $18.4 million in Federal Community Development Block Grant -- Disaster Recovery monies to fund eligible recovery and resiliency projects in Howard Beach.
The program prides itself on using bottom-up community participation mixed with state-provided technical expertise. It is led by a committee of local residents, civic leaders and business owners.
According to Frances Scarantino, a local business owner who co-chairs the committee, the community came up with 10 different plans and strategies to rebuild the neighborhood and make it more equipped to handle unpredictable weather.
Some of these include coastal protection for Charles Memorial Park in Old Howard Beach and a relief center hub.
“After Sandy, many hubs popped up like Senator Joe Addabbo [Jr.]’s office, the Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department and churches but they all had damage,” she said. “As a committee we tried to find a location centered and high enough on land that wouldn’t get damage and would be able to serve as a hub for information and supplies. This has to be one central location to go to for vital information.”
According to the reconstruction program’s website, the project provided funding to an existing community facility for on-site capital improvements to make the building more structurally sound.
Scarantino said a location has been chosen but she cannot disclose until it is approved by the governor. The committee also wants to see smaller satellite relief centers throughout the area so that seniors and families who don’t live close to the central location can get to and receive the same consistent information in time of disaster.
“Although Howard Beach is small, it’s large enough where you might not be able to get from one part to another quickly,” she said. “The satellite centers will help that.”