Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GAO Cites FEMA's Soaring Administrative Costs

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

BY ,  The Fiscal Times
July 28, 2014

At a time when natural disasters are more expensive than ever, the agency responsible for responding to them is under scrutiny for the way it’s spending its money.
A new report from the Government Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog, expresses concern over the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s soaring administrative costs.
No wonder: Since the 1990s, FEMA’s administrative costs have doubled. Between 1980 and 1995, the government spent only 9 percent of its disaster relief money on administrative costs, including expenses like employee salaries, travel expenses and rent at field offices – but between 2004 and 2011, that amount surged to 18 percent.
The increase in administrative costs has outpaced spending on temporary housing subsidies, medical expenses and counseling, noted Fierce Homeland Security, which tracks government developments. 
At the same time, disaster spending has become more and more expensive. In the last two decades, natural disaster costs have soared from $100 billion to nearly double that amount, according to Munich-Re, the world’s largest re-insurance agency.
Auditors have previously suggested that FEMA address the spending issues and set goals to reduce the percentage of disaster relief spent on administrative costs. As of July, though, FEMA had not followed up on the GAO’s recommendations.
The auditors also raised issues over the government’s increasing response to  “smaller” disasters. Presidents have declared an average of 60 “major disasters” per year since 1996—roughly more than one a week, says the GAO. However, many of these involved spending less than $10 million, suggesting they were likely relatively minor events.
When the government declares a given situation a “disaster,” it pays 75 to 100 percent of the response costs. Auditors cautioned that responding to smaller events could impede FEMA’s response to major disasters.
“The damage threshold upon which FEMA makes recommendations on disaster requests should be raised significantly to ensure the availability of federal assistance when truly needed, help stem rising disaster losses, and encourage state and local self-reliance for ‘ordinary’ disasters,” Daniel Sutter, economics professor and senior affiliate scholar at George Mason University, wrote in congressional testimony.
The GAO also flagged FEMA’s preparedness grant programs and said most of the programs “have similar goals, fund similar types of projects, and are awarded in many of the same urban areas.” Concerns about these programs prompted the Obama administration to propose the National Preparedness Grant Program in its budget requests for fiscals 2013, 2014 and 2015.
This would consolidate most of FEMA’s grant proposals to prevent any overlap. Congress, however, has yet to take up any action to consolidate the grant programs.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Goldfeder to co-sponsor hearing on restoring public transit in parts of borough

State Assembly members Phil Goldfeder (l.) and Nily Rozic (r.) will hold a hearing next month to address public transportation woes in parts of Queens.

By Kelsey Durham...July 28, 2014

Two state lawmakers from Queens are gearing up to address the transportation woes that constituents in the outer parts of the borough say they have suffered through for too long.
State Assembly members Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) and Nily Rozic (D-Flushing) announced this week plans to host a hearing next month in hopes of bringing more transportation options to neighborhoods in the northeastern and southern parts of the borough, including Fresh Meadows and Rockaway.
Goldfeder and Rozic have partnered with the Committee on Corporations to host the Aug. 7 public meeting to discuss how to help what the lawmakers called “transit-starved communities” in Queens as well as in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
“This is an opportunity for transit riders to share detailed information about the challenges they face due to limited bus and subway service,” Rozic said. “Queens has been a transit desert for far too long and it is time changes are made so that residents can be better served.”
Rozic, who represents an Assembly district that does not contain a single subway station, has been working to allocate funding from the state to conduct studies and research that will reinforce the need for more transportation in her constituents’ neighborhoods.
In January, Rozic joined civic leaders and other elected officials and asked the federal government to provide the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with funding that would allow it to restore bus service to Douglaston, a neighborhood that residents say has been ignored by public transportation for years.
Rozic also worked with state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) to announce in April that the state had allocated $500,000 for a yearlong bus restoration study that would look at options for bringing more bus service to every neighborhood in Avella’s 11th Senate District.
Goldfeder represents the southern Queens neighborhoods of Rockaway and Howard Beach, an area that recently criticized the city’s decision to cut funding for the Rockaway Ferry beginning in October, stating that the ferry is one of the area’s only reliable source of public transportation.
He recently partnered with the Queens College Urban Studies Department to conduct a study on revitalizing the Rockaway Beach rail line, a study that is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
The assemblyman said the upcoming hearing, which will be held in Manhattan, will give residents and business owners a chance to express concerns over how a lack of public transportation affects them.
“In today’s difficult economy, our residents and small businesses rely on affordable and accessible transportation to carry out their everyday lives,” Goldfeder said. “I have been a strong advocate for better transit options for Queens residents and I will continue to fight until all our families are provided the transportation we deserve.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Beyond the “Go Kit”: Empowering Older Adults in Disasters

The New York Academy of 


NEW YORK, July 22, 2014—Drawing on the lessons of Superstorm Sandy, a new report from The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), “Resilient Communities: Empowering Older Adults in Disasters and Daily Life,” presents an innovative set of recommendations to strengthen and connect formal and informal support systems to keep older adults safe during future disasters. 

Following the 2012 superstorm, tens of thousands of older adults were isolated in high-rise buildings and private homes, in need of food, water, heat, medical attention, and medication. This unprecedented report looks at not just the vulnerabilities of older adults, but at the role many can play in leading and supporting their communities during disasters. Its findings are especially important for policymakers; city, state, and federal agencies; community and faith-based organizations; health care and housing providers; and emergency management personnel. While the report looks at the experience of older adults in New York City, it has implications for communities across the U.S.

“Older adults have unique needs during disasters, but also unique strengths to offer in supporting their communities,” said Jo Ivey Boufford, MD, NYAM President. “With extreme weather projected to increase, a new strategy is required to keep older adults, who are often among New York City’s most long-term, civically engaged residents, safe. Older people are also effective first responders, and should be seen as problem solvers in disasters rather than problems to be solved.”

New York City’s 1.4 million people age 60 and over constitute 17 percent of the city’s total population. This number is projected to increase by 50 percent over the next 20 years. Efforts to increase individual preparedness among older people through the creation of “go-bags” and the stockpiling of supplies have been repeatedly undertaken, but this approach is not enough. Vulnerable populations face significant barriers in attempting to prepare, including lack of funds, transportation, and storage space, as well as difficulty reading maps and other preparedness content.

“Individual preparedness is important, but it doesn’t connect older adults with the resources and support they need in disaster situations,” said Lindsay Goldman, report author and Project Manager at NYAM. “We are calling for a paradigm shift towards a community preparedness model of disaster recovery from one of primary emphasis on individual preparedness. Resources are needed for enhancing communities’ social networks, connectedness, and integration of assets long before disaster strikes.”

The report draws on data collected immediately after Superstorm Sandy, and interviews with older adults, experts, and leaders of community-based organizations in affected neighborhoods. It presents four key findings about the experience of older adults post-Sandy:
•    Formal and informal social networks influenced older adults’ decisions and facilitated their access to information and assistance.
•    Because older people had not been engaged in emergency planning, emergency services were often inadequate, inappropriate, or inaccessible, and basic and health care needs went unmet.
•    Older adults actively supported their communities before, during, and after Superstorm Sandy.
•    The local neighborhood infrastructure was a critical factor in meeting the needs of older people within affected communities.

The report recommends 12 action steps toward community preparedness, including establishing community planning hubs in each neighborhood, supporting landlords with large concentrations of older adults, enacting a pharmacy law for disasters, and consulting with home health care and hospice providers on emergency plans.

Funded by the New York Community Trust and the Altman Foundation, the report builds on the platform of Age-friendly New York City, a public-private partnership led by NYAM to enhance city life for older adults.

About The New York Academy of Medicine
The New York Academy of Medicine advances the health of people in cities.
An independent organization since 1847, NYAM addresses the health challenges facing the world’s urban populations through interdisciplinary approaches to policy leadership, innovative research, evaluation, education, and community engagement. Drawing on the expertise of diverse partners worldwide and more than 2,000 elected Fellows from across the professions, our current priorities are to create environments in cities that support healthy aging; to strengthen systems that prevent disease and promote the public’s health; to eliminate health disparities; and to preserve and promote the heritage of medicine and public health. For more information, visit www.nyam.org.
- See more at: http://www.nyam.org/news/press-releases/2014/2014-07-22.html#sthash.ABvxngac.dpuf

"Bing" street mapping vehicle in Broad Channel

Bing Street Mapping Vehicle on West 12th Road 
Sunday 7/27/2014

I have become used to seeing the various Google street mapping vehicles touring our area over the past several years but this is the first time I have seen a Bing street mapping car in Broad Channel.

Bing works in conjunction with Microsoft on its "Streetside" mapping service.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

News from Assemblyman Goldfeder

July 25, 2014
In This Issue
MTA Oversight Hearing
Invest in our Evacuation Routes
Sandy Recovery Task Force Meeting
New Release!
Office Locations

Ozone Park  
108-14 Crossbay Blvd
Ozone Park, NY

Rockaway Beach
2-14 Beach 96th Street
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693

Albany Office
LOB 834
Albany, NY 12248

   Quick Links

Dear Neighbor,

Together with Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and theAssembly Corporations & Authorities committee, I am holding a public hearing to address the need for more reliable and accessible transportation for our families.

Please join me for the hearing on Thursday, August 7th, 10:00 AM at 250 Broadway, Room 1923 in Manhattan.   
I have been a strong advocate to increase transit options for Queens' residents and will continue to fight until all our families are provided the transportation we deserve! 
You can stay up to date with community news and daily updates by following me on Facebook and Twitter

Stay Strong,           
Invest in our Evacuation Routes
We have made tremendous progress in our Sandy recovery, however, we must not overlook the most basic necessity, which is the ability to evacuate our families quickly and safely. I have partnered with neighboring Nassau County legislator Howard Kopel to call on NYS DOT and Governor Cuomo to address this important issue immediately. Please join me in our fight to invest in our roadway infrastructure and sign my petition todayat www.FixOurRoadsNow.com 
Sandy Recovery Task Force Meeting  
I attended a very productive Sandy Recovery Task Force meeting convened and hosted by Borough President Melinda Katz at Queens Borough Hall. As our families recover, we must hold all agencies accountable and ensure programs like Build it Back are actually moving forward and working together to make real progress. While our families continue to suffer from the devastation caused by Sandy, every penny must be accounted for and provided to our families who need it most.
New Release!   
I was honored to write the foreword for this heartfelt and emotional story of Breezy Point during Sandy as told by one of our brave volunteers!

"As a resident of Breezy Point, a New York City police officer, and a volunteer firefighter in the Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department, Sebastian Danese's experiences during the storm offer a unique insight on the challenges our community faced in the aftermath of Sandy. He and his fellow volunteers have served as a beacon of hope and strength for so many families drowning in grief. Their fearless dedication to our community before, during, and especially after the storm is truly remarkable."

Get your copy today at BattleForBreezyPoint.com  

Friday, July 25, 2014

Flood Mitigation Project Advisory #6/2014

I spoke with Fern Weinreich, the assigned Community Construction Liaison for the pending Flood Mitigation Project (new bulkhead and street raising) for West 12th Road earlier today and she provided me with the following update on the progress of the project. 

1.  The Community Construction Liaison's office will be relocating from Far Rockaway to 59 West 12th Road (last house on the right side at the bay end of the block) in early August.

2.  Bulkhead construction on West 12th Road should start in mid to late August.  Prior notification will be made to all residents in advance of the actual start date.

3.  At this time, the contractor is unsure of his ability to ingress and egress construction equipment safely on and off the street so residents should be aware that there is a possibility we may have to relocate to the displaced parking spaces on Cross Bay Boulevard when bulkhead work starts on West 12th Road.

4.  If displaced parking on Cross Bay Boulevard becomes necessary during bulkhead work, the appropriate signs regarding such parking shall be displayed on Cross Bay Blvd. and notification to all parking enforcement authorities shall be made. 

Waiting comfortably for the A Train at Broad Channel...

The Rockaway Times

Now this is waiting for the A Train!

Waiting for the train pic

A woman at the Broad Channel station decided to get comfortable while waiting for the shuttle.  We guess it came eventually.  Photo by Jordan Lage.

[Rockaway Times]: Editorial A one Term Bill de Blasio?




No ferry.  No plan for Game Changer money.  Nothing from his Economic Development Corporation.  Ticket agents everywhere.  Speed cameras without proper signage.  Road construction at the height of the summer season. A Parks Commissioner who comes to Rockaway as often as the Mayor.  That’s the short list of what we’ve gotten from City Hall.
Oh wait, the Mayor gave us a new homeless shelter.  No neighborhood, especially one already crying for adequate services, wants an influx of more disadvantaged.  What makes the de Blasio homeless move so dumb is that Rockaway is in a flood zone (ever hear about Sandy, Mr. Mayor)?
The most vulnerable populations in storms and emergencies are those that require services (evacuation help, medical attention, and basics like food and water). Getting those services to at-risk populations is a challenge that the city always fails to do. So, what’s the thinking?  Rockaway is vulnerable to storms so let’s put more people who need more services there. Brilliant !
City Hall wants congratulations when Build It Back hands out a few reimbursement checks or breaks ground on building a new home. We say, it’s about time.
One Term Bill likes to blame his predecessor, Mike Bloomberg, for Build It Back. Well, One Term Bill de Blasio just got around to naming a new Buildings Commissioner. It took the Mayor seven months to put someone in charge of this vital city agency! We love his quote: “We have to change the culture of the Buildings Department. There has to be a totally different sense of time and efficiency,”
If his “sense of time” for the Buildings Department is like the rest of City Hall, he should have named Rip Van Winkle commissioner.
We guess choosing a Building Commissioner was an exhausting exercise.  Shortly after naming the commissioner, the Mayor holding office for seven months, needed a 10 day vacation in Italy. 
Pubic Advocate Letitia James reportedly asked her legal team to research what powers she might have while OTB vacations. Comptroller Scott Stringer is a willing watchdog and a steady nuisance to the Mayor.  Just seems that maybe those thinking about a primary challenge aren’t on vacation and might be thinking about a One Term Bill.

Lighting: Myths and Facts

If you think Sandy was bad.....

This ball of fire almost gave Earth a bashing back in 2012. You wouldn’t believe how clos

This ball of fire almost gave Earth a bashing back in 2012. You wouldn’t believe how close we came to a catastrophic solar flare. Source: AP

This is a piece of rather sobering news.  

You are probably not aware of the fact that on July 23, 2012, just three short months before Super Storm Sandy turned all our lives upside down, our planet had a near miss with a huge coronal mass ejection (CME)  resulting from the most powerful solar storm on the sun in over 150 years.

According to the experts, if the solar storm storm has occurred just one week earlier, the Earth would have been in the cross hairs of the CME and the lives each and every individual on our planet would be markedly different today!

Had we been struck head on by this solar storm all electrical circuits would have been fried.
Satellites, power grids, sewage systems, all forms of transportation, communications, etc., would have immediately gone belly up!

Remember what it was like immediately after Sandy with no power, communications or fuel for several weeks?  If this storm had struck us and, as one expert put it, "We would still be picking up the pieces today."  We would have been thrown back into the dark ages for a period of many years before everything was was back up and running and even then, it would be a vastly different life than the one we enjoy now. 

Interestingly enough, not unlike Super Storm Sandy, the CME that almost battered us was also a freak occurrence as it was actually two ejections within 10 minutes of each other, plus a previous CME had happened four days earlier to effectively clear the path.

Another thing to keep in mind is just how much worse conditions would have been had this solar storm hit us back on July 23, 2012 only to be followed up by Sandy 3 months later.  We would have made the trip from "dark ages" to "stone age" in the blink of an eye!  We certainly wouldn't have been able to depend on "Build It Back" to get us back on our feet. Oh, wait a minute, we haven't been able to depend on Build It Back to get us on our feet anyway!

But I digress.....I know you are reading this and thinking to yourself, "How come I never heard of this before?" 

The simple answer is our government, and more specifically NASA, didn't feel it was necessary to mention this "near miss" until just recently.

Makes you wonder what else they have decided is not necessary to tell us!