Coney Island NYCHA residents demand long-delayed Sandy repairs

sandy repairs
Residents of O’Dwyer Gardens (left) are demanding that NYCHA finish its long-delayed Sandy repairs.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

Residents of a Coney Island public housing development are insisting that authorities deliver the Superstorm Sandy repairs they were promised years ago, which have been mired in delays, one petition states.

“This petition is for O’Dwyer to stand up a[nd] let NYCHA know that they have mismanaged funding for our development for too long,” reads the petition, signed by 49 people as of Dec. 7.

O’Dwyer Gardens, Surfside Gardens, and Coney Island Site 8 — three subsidized housing developments on Surf Avenue between W. 31st and 36th streets — have been waiting for years to receive the full $275 million in repairs that the Housing Authority earmarked for the developments after Superstorm Sandy wrecked them in 2012. 

The fixes, which were funded by a 2016 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant, originally included facade resurfacing, roof and boiler replacements, playground improvements, the installation of flood mitigation systems, and the renovation of 38 ground floor apartments destroyed by Sandy, among a slate of other improvements

Construction began in 2017, and workers recently finished the first stage of the project, which included roof replacement at all 12 buildings, facade work, and the installation of underground utilities, said NYCHA spokeswoman Rochel Leah Goldblatt. Construction for Sandy-related fixes has cost $38.9 million dollars so far at O’Dwyer Gardens and $97.8 at all three developments, Goldblatt added, and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2022. 

But the repairs have already gone over-budget, forcing the Housing Authority to eliminate elements of its original plan — such as a much-needed renovation of O’Dwyer’s lobby, area Councilman Mark Treyger said. 

“Their excuse was that the cost of construction, the cost of doing work, and because of the age of the buildings, [the lobby renovation] would cost more than they originally thought,” said Treyger, who said he attended a meeting about the construction’s progress with Tenant Association President Sheila Smalls, Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus, and a NYCHA representative a few weeks ago.

Treyger said he asked how much money the agency needed to revamp the lobby, so that he could apply for city funds to close the gap, but as of Dec. 4, he said he hasn’t heard back from NYCHA.

There really is an issue here of management resources and doing things in a timely manner,” he said. “[NYCHA] is an agency that no question is in serious need for resources … but here you have a situation where you have a three billion dollar grant from FEMA.”

Smalls, who leads O’Dwyer’s tenant association, says that many of the repairs are too little, too late. Over the last several weeks, Smalls has posted flyers across O’Dwyer’s six buildings, urging residents to speak out about the complex’s conditions, residents told Brooklyn Paper. 

“How long do our children have to wait for playgrounds that have not been updated for two decades?” the flyer reads. “Why do we have to enter buildings that lack proper lighting and utilize mailboxes that are broken and wet?” 

Several of the ground floor apartments that NYCHA promised to repair with the FEMA funds have not yet been renovated, Smalls said in the petition.

Goldblatt said that the agency is working “as quickly as possible” to finish construction.

“The construction is underway and the contractors are working as quickly as possible, taking into account that the buildings are fully occupied, so work must be phased to ensure interruptions to services are limited and that the construction is performed in a safe and thoughtful way,” she said.   

Correction [Dec. 8, 2020]: A previous version of the article misspelled Rochel Leah Goldblatt’s name. We regret the error.