Monday, September 18, 2017

Superstorm Sandy Survivors Warn Harvey, Irma Victims Of What’s Ahead


Brace yourselves for years of bureaucratic quagmire, those who lost homes warn.




WASHINGTON — Nearly five years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed their house, Sophia Vailakis-DeVirgilio and her family are still waiting to rebuild and return to their property. It’s a nightmare she fears many in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean have only just begun.
“God help them,” Vailakis-DeVirgilio told HuffPost, adding that when it comes to securing insurance money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency she expects those hurt by the back-to-back, record-breaking hurricanes will “get raked over the coals.”
Vailakis-DeVirgilio and her husband had been paying into the National Flood Insurance Program for nearly a decade when the storm surge from Sandy inundated their home in Broad Channel, New York. The damage was extensive. The walls of their newly renovated seaside cottage were blown out, and the water “rocked and twisted” the house, knocking it from its foundation, she said. 
The couple did what it was supposed to: They filed a flood claim with FEMA, which oversees the federal flood insurance program — established by Congress in 1968 to provide low-cost insurance to people living in flood-prone areas. As they would soon find out, being an NFIP policyholder doesn’t necessarily mean that rebuilding in the wake of a natural disaster will happen quickly. 
A few months after filing their claim, the family was cut a “lowball” check for $69,000, Vailakis-DeVirgilio said. Unsatisfied, the family hired an attorney. It would be more than 2½ years of fighting FEMA and the insurance company — while her husband Lenny was undergoing treatment for liver cancer and hepatitis C — before they received an offer they found acceptable. That settlement remains confidential.
Since receiving the money they were owed, the couple has dealt with numerous other issues that have prevented them from rebuilding, including a contractor who defrauded them of more than $40,000 and numerous issues with permits, she told HuffPost. Vailakis-DeVirgilio, her husband and their 15-year-old daughter have moved four times since the Sandy disaster and are currently living in a rental home three doors away from their vacant property. 
Vailakis-DeVirgilio’s husband, a former New York City schoolteacher, has drained his retirement account. And had it not been for her job, working a condensed three-day workweek on a computer help desk, she says she would never have been able to wage such a battle.
“This is a full-time job,” she said.
Vailakis-DeVirgilio was among a number of Superstorm Sandy victims who traveled to Washington this week to warn the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma that their problems have only just begun and to urge them to be vigilant as they fight to recover. 
“The storm is the easy part,” George Kasimos, founder of Stop FEMA Now, a citizen advocacy group fighting to reform NFIP, said during a news conference Wednesday at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill.


CHRIS DANGELO/HUFFPOST


Superstorm Sandy flood victims, including Sophia Vailakis-DeVirgilio, far left, hold a news conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to warn those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma about the challenges of navigating the National Flood Insurance Program.

The NFIP, which is now almost $25 billion in debt, was set to expire Sept. 30. But with national attention on the struggling program and little time for constructive reform, Congress passed legislation extending it until Dec. 8. The punt was tucked into an agreement struck by President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats to provide billions of dollars in disaster aid for Hurricane Harvey, raise the debt ceiling and keep the government from shutting down. 
Stop FEMA Now is among a number of groups calling for an overhaul of NFIP. Its members say it’s time that the program protected homeowners from outrageous premiums, pushed money to storm victims rather than insurance companies and government contractors, and held insurers and engineers accountable for fraud
Augie Matteis Jr.’s law firm represents more than 1,200 clients in New York and New Jersey who opted to reopen insurance claims in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Nearly five years after the disaster, 900 of those clients are still waiting for a reimbursement, he said, adding that Irma and Harvey victims need look no further for a glimpse of what they’re up against. 
“When is this mess going to end?” Matteis asked. “This is the proverbial swamp of Washington that people talk about. Somebody needs to stand up now and make FEMA pay these claims fairly — not next year, not next month, but right now.” 
What was once a self-sustaining program has been walloped in recent years by an increasing number of claims following costly natural disasters, including Sandy and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In fact, 1 percent of the roughly 5 million policyholders account for 25 to 30 percent of all claims, according to Scientific American. The Government Accountability Office has labeled the program as “high risk,” citing “structural weaknesses in how it’s funded.” And in a report published Sept. 1, the Congressional Budget Office found that the program is operating at a $1.4 billion annual shortfall
In a call with reporters before the Stop FEMA Now news conference, Roy Wright, FEMA’s deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation, said the agency had taken steps in recent years to refocus the program on policyholders, to be more transparent and to make the appeals process more fair. He said he was committed to ensuring policyholders are paid “every dollar” that they are owed. 
Losses from Hurricane Harvey alone are expected to cost NFIP $11 billion. So far, 84,000 Harvey victims have filed claims with FEMA, and the flood insurance program has divvied out $177 million in advanced payments — a figure Wright said he expected to “rapidly” climb. 
Then there’s Hurricane Irma, which pummeled islands in the Caribbean before moving on to the Florida Keys and the U.S. Southeast. Although still early, Irma will only further stress a program that, as The Naples Daily News in Florida reported, has just $1.5 billion on hand and $5.8 billion in borrowing authority


SEAN RAYFORD VIA GETTY IMAGES


Marc St. Peter, left, and Chris Wisor lend a hand cleaning up as floodwaters from Hurricane Irma recede Wednesday in Middleburg, Florida.

Among those who shared their personal horror stories Wednesday was Diane Mazzacca, whose 1,400-square-foot home in Beach Haven West, New Jersey, was flooded with 4 feet of water during Sandy. She said she’s been fighting an initial payout offer of $27,000 and has yet to receive a full reimbursement. Her advice for anyone affected by Harvey or Irma: “Put on your big girl pants, because it’s going to be a long, bumpy ride.”  
“My heart breaks for everybody that has been hit with these floods,” Mazzacca said, holding back tears. “I know that their task at hand is going to be beyond stressful.” 
Phil Nufrio, a professor of public policy, administration and emergency management at Metropolitan College of New York whose Seaside Park, New Jersey, home was damaged by Sandy, said people will be “undercut” and “shorted” by the agency. 
“Take pictures. Tons of pictures,” Nufrio said. “Keep your receipts, organize your receipts, because you are going to go through a quagmire of government bureaucracy.” 
Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) joined the group of Sandy survivors in calling for a reform of the NFIP. He said the program is “essential” for America’s coastal communities and has been successful in driving safer building standards. Instead of vilifying it, it’s time to fix it, he said. 
“We cannot let the program lapse,” he said. “It will be a disaster for the American people.” 
MacArthur also stressed that while all eyes are on Texas and Florida right now, FEMA’s job “is far from being done” in New Jersey and New York. 
Like others who spoke Wednesday, Vailakis-DeVirgilio said she’s all for reforming NFIP to make it more sustainable and holding insurance companies accountable. But she sees a bigger issue that can’t be ignored: climate change.
“It’s not just ‘let’s just move people.’ We have to do more than one thing,” she said of fixing NFIP. “I’m a registered Republican. Climate change is real. I’m a climate refugee, my whole family is. We can either take the bull by the horns and be at the forefront of technology and the economy of climate change and how we can correct it, or we can let the rest of the world — like China — do it.”
Vailakis-DeVirgilio also fought back tears when asked about the people whose lives and homes have been devastated by Harvey and Irma. 
“If I could go down there and help every single one of them I would,” she said. “Right now I have to focus on getting [my family] home.”

Saturday, September 9, 2017

NEW SANITATION APPOINTMENT SERVICE TO SCHEDULE LARGE BULK PICKUPS

Picture2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                           Press Release #17-53
     September 7, 2017                                                                              www.nyc.gov/sanitation
                                                                              
DSNY LAUNCHES NEW APPOINTMENT SERVICE TO SCHEDULE LARGE BULK PICKUPS
WILL ALLOW FOR MORE TIMELY COLLECTIONS

Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia today announced the official launch of a new and innovative appointment system designed to help DSNY more efficiently collect large non-recyclable bulky items such as sofas, mattresses, and large wooden furniture.

New Yorkers can now arrange for timely bulk pickup appointments online at nyc.gov/bulk or by calling 311.

“We’ve heard New Yorkers’ concerns regarding how to place out large bulky items for collection around the city,” said Commissioner Garcia.  “Between July 2016 and June 2017, New Yorkers made nearly 90,000 calls to 311 to inquire about collection of large bulky items. Recognizing that we had implemented a hugely successful e-waste pickup program on Staten Island, we modeled our large bulky item collection service along the same principles,” she added.

The new service is designed for items that are larger than four (4) feet by three (3) feet, such as sofas and bulky wooden furniture that can be lifted by two workers and be able to fit inside a Sanitation collection truck.

“We always encourage New Yorkers to donate furniture and other items that they no longer want but that potentially can be reused by others,” said Commissioner Garcia.  To find convenient donation centers and non-profit partners, visit nyc.gov/donate.  

This service does not apply to items that require special handling, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, TVs, computers, and other electronics. To learn how to properly recycle or dispose of those items, visit nyc.gov/dsny or call 311.

Also, metal, glass and rigid plastic items, including bedframes, patio furniture, and filing cabinets, should still be placed out for recycling collection after 4 p.m. the night before your scheduled recycling day.  

Some helpful tips:
• Do not block foot traffic or place items in the street or in front of another property.
• If you have more than six (6) large items for collection, schedule additional appointments.
• Place your large items curbside after 4 pm the night before your appointment.
• Mattresses/box springs should be placed in a plastic bag before setting out at curbside to
prevent the spread of bed bugs and avoid a $100 fine.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

NWS - High Surf Advisory



COASTAL HAZARD MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW YORK NY
733 AM EDT TUE AUG 29 2017

...HIGH SURF ADVISORY TONIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY MORNING...

NYZ075-080-081-178-179-292100-
/O.CON.KOKX.SU.Y.0002.170830T0000Z-170830T1600Z/
/O.CON.KOKX.RP.S.0018.000000T0000Z-170830T0000Z/
KINGS (BROOKLYN)-SOUTHWESTERN SUFFOLK-SOUTHEASTERN SUFFOLK-
SOUTHERN QUEENS-SOUTHERN NASSAU-
733 AM EDT TUE AUG 29 2017

...HIGH SURF ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 8 PM THIS EVENING TO
NOON EDT WEDNESDAY...

* LOCATIONS...ATLANTIC OCEAN BEACHES.

* RIP CURRENT RISK...HIGH

* SURF HEIGHT...4 TO 7 FEET, INCREASING TO 6 TO 9 FEET TONIGHT.

* LIGHTNING RISK...NONE

* TIMING...THROUGH TONIGHT AND INTO WEDNESDAY.

* SHORELINE IMPACTS...HIGH SURF OF 6 TO 9 FT TONIGHT INTO
  WEDNESDAY WILL CAUSE SOME LOCALIZED DUNE EROSION DURING TIMES
  OF HIGH TIDE. A HIGH RISK OF RIP CURRENTS TODAY IMPLIES THAT
  WIND AND/OR WAVE CONDITIONS SUPPORT THE DEVELOPMENT OF VERY
  STRONG RIP CURRENTS. THESE RIP CURRENTS WILL BE LIFE
  THREATENING TO ANYONE WHO ENTERS THE SURF.

A HIGH SURF ADVISORY MEANS THAT HIGH SURF WILL AFFECT BEACHES IN
THE ADVISORY AREA...PRODUCING RIP CURRENTS AND LOCALIZED BEACH
EROSION.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Rockaway Times - Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Between the Bridges....


Between the Bridges in Broad Channel

by
 Peter J. Mahon
August 24th, 2017

LANDLUBBER REPORTING IN

The next six to eight weeks represent the heart of the 2017 Atlantic Basin hurricane season and the likelihood of tropical storm and hurricane formation will increase due to warm water, shrinking dry air and diminishing winds. Now is the time when storms are more likely to form off in the central and eastern Atlantic Ocean, giving them plenty of time to feast on what’s now bathtub-warm water as they move thousands of miles towards the North American coast. Traditionally, about two-thirds of hurricanes form in August and September, according to the National Hurricane Center.

NOAA recently updated its' 2017 hurricane projections noting that  wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season, in part because the chance of an El Nino forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May. In addition to the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean conditions and weak El Nino, sea surface temperatures are running 1 to 2 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than average, which tends to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean. As all of us here in the Channel are acutely aware our community's true vulnerabilities to storms and their accompanying storm surge, it goes without saying that it is imperative that each of us stay aware of any and all storm forecasts between now and the end of this hurricane season. 

This past Saturday I was supposed to be accompanying several intrepid seafarers from Broad Channel out to Montauk where we had planned to meet up with the local "Captain Quint" aboard his charter (The Orca?) for some shark fishing.  Our conversations were always peppered with the possibility of catching the big one, a Great White, and then all of us would stand around the dock in our Rockaway Times T-shirts with the huge beast hung by it's tail behind us.  Now I don't know about the rest of you but I see absolutely reason why I would go out of my way to drive miles out to the end of Long Island and then get on a boat,head out into the ocean, and start looking for a big fish that could make a meal out of me in one bite.  Keeping that in mind, I didn't see any need to tell my brother fishermen that my closest encounter with a shark was a 1 foot sand shark I accidentally stepped on off the beach in shallow water some years ago which found me screaming like a maniac splashing crazily back towards the beach in a panic. A lifeguard ran over to me to check and make sure I was okay stating that he couldn't understand how a 6 foot man could be having difficulty in a foot of water. Obviously the well intentioned lifeguard was not a Jaws aficionado.   

Needless to say, my fears were unfounded because as the weekend trip approached we were all reminded of the sage words of Robert Burns from his poem "To a Mouse" where he states that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Circumstances quickly spiralled out of control and ultimately the trip had to be cancelled. In an effort to salvage what we could of the weekend, I suggested that we all head up to the VFW on Saturday and sit around a picnic table in the yard armed with fishing rods wearing waders and caps festooned with lures while drinking cold beer and watching "Jaws"  on an computer tablet with the caveat that each time the shark made its presence known during the movie we would all jump up from the table and yell in unison, "We're gonna need a bigger boat!"  

I can see you all snickering out there....laugh all you want but the last time I checked there were no sharks in the VFW yard! 

Broad Channel, why would anyone want to live anywhere else?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

NWS - Heat Advisory issued


URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE
National Weather Service New York NY
331 AM EDT Tue Aug 22 2017

...Hot and Humid Today...

NYZ072>075-176-178-222200-
/O.CON.KOKX.HT.Y.0005.170822T1600Z-170822T2200Z/
New York (Manhattan)-Bronx-Richmond (Staten Island)-
Kings (Brooklyn)-Northern Queens-Southern Queens-
331 AM EDT Tue Aug 22 2017

...HEAT ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 6 PM EDT
THIS EVENING...

* Heat Index Values...Around 100.

* Timing...This afternoon.

* Impacts...The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during
  outdoor exertion or extended exposure.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

New York City residents should call 3-1-1 to obtain "Beat the
Heat" safety tips.

Use air conditioning to stay cool at home, or go to a place that
has air conditioning. Check on vulnerable friends, family members
and neighbors.

A Heat Advisory is issued when the combination of heat and
humidity is expected to make it feel like it is 95 to 99 degrees
for two or more consecutive days, or 100 to 104 degrees for any
length of time.

To reduce risk during outdoor work, the Occupational Safety and
Health Administration recommends scheduling frequent rest breaks
in shaded or air conditioned environments. Anyone overcome by
heat should be moved to a cool and shaded location. Heat stroke
is an emergency! In cases of heat stroke call 9 1 1.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

News from Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato


Friday August 18, 2017 

In This Issue





Quick Links




Stop by the office!

Rockaway 
9516 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693

Howard Beach
162-38 Cross Bay Blvd.
Howard Beach, NY 11414

Albany 
LOB 827
Albany, NY 12248


Dear Neighbor,

With summer winding down, our district is picking up speed! Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to visit local senior centers, speak at civic and precinct council meetings, in addition to hosting several successful mobile office hours.

You can stay up to date on community news and daily updates by following me onFacebook & Twitter.

As always,
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001yF1RmlAi8dDWRvMXx52RmbFPf8z33ZVe1YyCe1MxXkXvgf1ZvVlHrK28KVEJG1YJjyohh08xt2jByO1UUKcHBdmh7Vz3tneiFvxbm_HYW3lJPxcYWZ77cprF0LAFEHQBy2m4rVNtIcdvQDMO6udOCdOfon1ZZyrFSy92-x5j6uTUKsgSI3977ELpzS5WZG705ebxB41oFL0=&c=XG_gKmLNBhiq6Sl8LeiACQikfOc00P2Z5-GTldZSq5lFO7KtGJ3NIg==&ch=khn0-dubfmSEagaCoiXPx5LdeklfdUuZFJk6Y32NS71DotuWSTrTRQ==
Better Transportation Options for South Queens

I had the opportunity to submit testimony to the City Council committee that oversees the MTA last week. I look forward to working with the MTA to build a more accessible and resilient transportation system that serves all New Yorkers especially residents of South Queens. My full testimony can be foundhere.


MTA, LIRR, NYCT: South Queens Needs Transit! Sign the petition: bit.ly/SouthQueensNeedsTransit.

http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001yF1RmlAi8dDWRvMXx52RmbFPf8z33ZVe1YyCe1MxXkXvgf1ZvVlHrK28KVEJG1YJx2n8U8p_14TgFHTNi7czozbGJnCtZadsNWbQbYBoIQTEVq1JKoKt5lvJFKyqTheKi3OT8b8RjsVTN7YtaiGfc6pH_3-elG5bhUmNbm3EWaTpCviSHHPGuUFilJEnQNeodb4ZjZulV3vSVAOGrAAnZb7SVjXbto42ye4lELdrkGDa6MHcXKF7tB99RHRuGOZLD9uAEgaQexydCEyY5Wmvg17jDg9KUvIx&c=XG_gKmLNBhiq6Sl8LeiACQikfOc00P2Z5-GTldZSq5lFO7KtGJ3NIg==&ch=khn0-dubfmSEagaCoiXPx5LdeklfdUuZFJk6Y32NS71DotuWSTrTRQ==
Better Safety Measures in Howard Beach

I joined my colleagues and the Howard Beach Lindenwood Civic in asking forthe Department of Transportation to implement more changes at the Lindenwood Triangle.
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001yF1RmlAi8dDWRvMXx52RmbFPf8z33ZVe1YyCe1MxXkXvgf1ZvVlHrK28KVEJG1YJUqfeXevpPdMcLEI-QIWR0J9JnS_lofRY1PZxZ0OlBrgqVIORoMQoNLRdDzTKYTSZwSLrLd3HL61ykZbBnDJVvZBF7fA74vhmpJZVE4oJTJTaUuM5kIAIIuvEK9_a2M8tcsQH2S4BwnAByXlLGRMtMQe3C8mwF-7ZD91aUywixpduPA-P8Mjs58vxLWwHA0CLhO9lgkdIqtPJwiHJUln2Bw==&c=XG_gKmLNBhiq6Sl8LeiACQikfOc00P2Z5-GTldZSq5lFO7KtGJ3NIg==&ch=khn0-dubfmSEagaCoiXPx5LdeklfdUuZFJk6Y32NS71DotuWSTrTRQ==
Ferry Options for those who need it most

This past week I called on the Economic Development Corporation to accept regular MetroCards on the Ferry instead of using their own system, so that seniors, students and the disabled can get discounts they deserve.
http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?f=001yF1RmlAi8dDWRvMXx52RmbFPf8z33ZVe1YyCe1MxXkXvgf1ZvVlHrK28KVEJG1YJtXX0oKYAOcvbChH0gTLOCq523AXYvHEjHv5E6zNkGkKJXn4gLxNu_VieMUznqiUWcMMjD7x-cBlBqey0BroFYzpKB-6g-1RP4mQmyy8A5felFdQDK7XIawIaDpWbpiKUmI3D6ZhWouQ=&c=XG_gKmLNBhiq6Sl8LeiACQikfOc00P2Z5-GTldZSq5lFO7KtGJ3NIg==&ch=khn0-dubfmSEagaCoiXPx5LdeklfdUuZFJk6Y32NS71DotuWSTrTRQ==
Back to School Drive

All children need basic supplies to succeed. Having been a paraprofessional for years, made me aware that not every child gets equal access. This is a generous, tight-knit community, and we always come together to support our own! Please call my office at 718-945-9550 for my details on how to donate.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato |NYS Assembly | P: 718-945-9550| F: 718-945-9549 |amatos@nyassembly.gov | 
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