Donovan Richards Tag All blog entries tagged as Donovan Richards Wed, 16 Jul 2014 23:44:44 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb #Sandy Evacuees Sue To Stay In Hotels (UPDATED)

A group of evacuees left homeless by Superstorm Sandy are suing to stay in hotels that the city says they need to leave by tomorrow.

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Six months to the day that Sandy hit New York City, five individuals filed a lawsuit today to prevent the city from following through with its deadline to end its temporary hotel program for Sandy victims.

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Calling the city's deadlines "arbitrary," the suit seeks to force the city to keep paying for hotels until the residents can secure permanent housing. The lawsuit also says that the city's evictions notices were served without a fair hearing, which attorneys say does not comply with federal and state law.

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"They have attempted to use whatever resources have been made available to them," said the complaint, "but have been stymied by poor case work, a lack of adequate housing resources and the failure of government agencies to timely implement forthcoming federally-funded housing resources."

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The news came on the heels of a rally held in front of City Hall today, where a range of labor, faith and reform groups asked the city to extend the hotel deadline. They also called on the city to address the invasive mold problem in afflicted housing and properly track how the city spends money devoted to Sandy recovery.

Council members Donovan Richards and Brad Lander introduced a bill last week that would track how the government spends Sandy relief funds, including the $1.77 billion the city expects to received through the community development block grant.

"The City Council legislation we're unveiling today will help track how recovery dollars are spent, and ensure that new jobs created as part of the rebuilding process are good jobs for families and households hit hardest by Sandy," Richards said today. "Residents who are still struggling to pick up the pieces six months after Sandy deserve to know that the city is actually investing in their recovery."

Nathalie Alegre of the Alliance for a Greater New York said that the organizations gathered — including members from 32BJ, VOCAL-NY, Good Jobs New York and Faith in NY — were there to ask the city to help the communities still most in need after last year's devastating storm.

"The reality is that the communities hardest hit, particularly low-income communities of color, continue to struggle," she said.

Allison Puglisi, 46, lived in Staten Island's South Beach neighborhood before Sandy and mold forced her out of her home. Currently living in a hotel, Puglisi said she knows that many of those in her hotel are being forced out tomorrow despite what she called a humanitarian need.

"I've lived here my whole life," Puglisi said. "This is supposed to be the greatest city in the world, and I don't understand this."

UPDATE: Thomas Crane of NYC's Law Department provived a statement that the city "made heroic efforts after Hurricane Sandy" and that the "complaint is without merit."

While the city said that it had not been served by late Monday, Crane also wrote that a restraining order preventing the evacuee's eviction signed by the New York State Supreme Court violated the law. The administration, he said, should have received notice before the order was entered.

"We will be in court tomorrow morning to vigorously challenge it," Crane wrote.

UPDATE 2: Councilwoman Annabel Palma, chair of the Council's general welfare committee, released a statement restraining order on Monday night.

“Today's ruling is a welcome relief to the hundreds of families living in hotels who cannot afford to have their lives uprooted once again," she wrote. "But it should not have come to this; New Yorkers should know that they will not be abandoned by the city in time of great need."

]]> (Administrator) City Mon, 29 Apr 2013 21:20:55 +0000
#Sandy Roundup: Rockaway Peninsula Residents Still Reeling

Some residents in the Rockaway penninsula of Queens remain literally disconnected after Hurricane Sandy.

The 1,800-unit housing project Ocean Bay Apartments was one of the last two New York City Housing Authority buildings to regain power in late December, but local Councilman Donovan Richards says hundreds of his constituents are still waiting for phone service to return.

Despite the lack of landline service, Richards said that many of the residents have told him they are still receiving bills from Verizon. What they're not getting, he added, is any notice about when they can expect their phone lines to work again.

"This is a communication company," he said. "They should be able to communicate."

Richards said that a few of his constituents have continued to pay for the last five months of nonexistent phone service, including elderly residents who don't have access to wireless technology.

A Verizon spokesman told The New York Daily News that any customer can reach out to the company for a full refund. The company added that it has already started working on the units between 51st and 53rd streets, and hopes to begin restoring power between 54th to 59th streets before April.

Revitalization of Rockaway Beach Rail

Leaders from federal and state government want to infuse the Queens neighborhood with some renewed economic energy.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has joined forces with U.S. Congressmen Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jeffries to bring the three-and-a-half-mile Rockaway Beach rail line back to life.

The three representatives sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood requesting that a portion of the federal aid for Sandy recovery be designated to restore the abandoned rail line.

"It became evident after Sandy that we need to increase public transit options and improve our infrastructure for our neighborhoods in Southern Queens and Rockaway," Goldfeder wrote in a statement on Sunday. "Restoring the rail line will help prepare our communities to become more resilient for our future and allow our local economy to thrive for many years to come."

Goldfeder has also delivered a petition about the rail line, with almost 3,000 signatures to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Port Authority and MTA.

However, Goldfeder's proposal is only one idea being floated around as an option for the rail line. Closed in 1962, the railroad could turn into Queen's answer to Manhattan's High Line park. Nicknamed the QueensWay, the project is being promoted by national parks group the Trust for Public Land and the recently established local group Friends of the QueensWay.

Questions About Bloomberg's Post-Sandy Buyouts

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plans to buy out Sandy-damaged homes may have came out last week, but there are questions about its differences from Governor Cuomo's proposal.

WNYC reported last week that Bloomberg's program, unlike Cuomo's, allows for redevelopment on the properties in question. In terms of immediate effects, that means homeowners can only receive the post-Sandy value under the city's plan.

Long term, some critics argue that the Bloomberg proposal is too short-sighted and doesn't take climate change into account. Capital New York interviewed Columbia University professor Klaus Jacob, who warned against ignoring rising sea levels and increased storm surges.

"You don't want to, in the long run at least, invest new assets into areas that ultimately will be doomed," Jacob said. For more on Jacob's views on the matter, see our extensive interview with the expert.

Bloomberg himself has previously linked the spike in severe weather to climate change. The mayor raised eyebrows last year when he endorsed President Barack Obama specifically acknowledging climate change as a national issue.

"Our climate is changing," Bloomberg wrote days before the presidential election. "And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."

Image of Rockaway Rail Line courtesy of Sean Eric Carlson.

]]> (Administrator) City Wed, 27 Mar 2013 19:39:23 +0000