State Senator Malcolm Smith has vowed the Rockaways will be united in recovering from the devastation of Sandy, and that residents who have suffered will have a role in determining how to use billions of dollars in federal aid coming to the area.
“We are going to do a meeting every month from now until next year at this time,” Smith said, “so that you have an opportunity not only to hear our report as to what we think is going on, but you can get back to us and tell us whether it’s going on or not.”
At a Thursday, December 13 forum to gauge how federal relief money should be spent, residents took to the floor to tell elected officials where the money needs to go. The Senate task force, co-chaired by Smith and Staten Island Senator Andrew Lanza, can then take this information back to Governor Andrew Cuomo to ensure the money is allocated to the area for what is most needed.
Better infrastructure, community engagement and more jobs are some of the things Rockaway residents said the peninsula needs moving forward from the storm. Some suggested raising houses a level up to prevent some of the damage caused by flooding when the ocean met the bay. An architect recommended homes be rebuilt with energy efficiency to keep the cost of living at a decent price.
Sharon Plummer, whose son was murdered five months ago on Beach 38th Street and Seger Avenue, implored Smith and other officials to use some of this funding for after school programs that could eventually decrease crime in the area.
Along with promising a monthly meeting, guaranteed for at least a year, Smith said people from every corner of the peninsula have to work together on this task force.
“This is the first night of the beginning of a 12-month process in which the Rockaways is going to be completely united,” Smith said. “Sandy was an equal opportunity destroyer. She didn’t care if you were black, white, poor, rich — it didn’t matter.”