FEMA centers shut their doors - Brooklyn Paper

FEMA centers shut their doors

Over and out: FEMA is shutting down three of its four disaster recovery centers in Brooklyn at 3 pm on Feb. 16.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

All but one of FEMA’s Brooklyn disaster recovery centers will close at 3 pm today, leaving the Coney Island location at MCU Park as the agency’s last outpost in the borough.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency cited dwindling numbers of disaster-victim drop-ins as the reason for shutting the three other recovery centers, two of which only opened their doors about five weeks ago.

The disaster recovery center at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club on Emmons Ave. between Brown and Batchelder streets, and the Gerritsen Beach location at the Volunteer Fire Department Training Hall on Seba Ave. between Frank and Eaton courts — which opened in early January after intense lobbying by local groups — will both close completely.

The Shorefront Y disaster recovery center on Coney Island Ave. near Brightwater Court in Brighton Beach will reopen on Feb. 19 as a Small Business Administration disaster loan outreach center, where that agency’s staff will remain to help both business owners and residents apply for low-interest disaster loans.

“The State of New York and the Federal Emergency Management Agency closely monitor visitor traffic at all New York recovery centers,” FEMA said in a Feb. 13 press release. “Traffic at the four centers has slowed, indicating the information needs of survivors in those areas have mostly been met.”

The Gerritsen Beach center saw an average of 24 visitors a day, and the Sheepshead Bay location helped about 22 Sandy victims each day, during the short time they were open, according to FEMA records. The Coney Island location at MCU Park, which will remain open until further notice, has severed 52 each day on average since it opened in early December.

Gerritsen Beach Cares president Michael Taylor complains that while foot traffic may be tapering off, victims living far from MCU Park — many of whom lost their cars to the storm surge — still need help centers the can get to on foot.

“Without a doubt, there needs to be a FEMA setup within walking distance of the affected homes,” said Taylor, whose group continues to operate a relief tent and supply depot on Gerritsen Avenue near Devon Avenue.

FEMA officials point out that Sandy victims can apply for assistance through the agency’s website, or by calling (800) 621–3362 to receive help in a variety of languages.

Folks have until Feb. 24 to apply for transitional shelter assistance, and until Feb. 27 to apply for disaster relief loans and grants to help pay for “rent, essential home repairs, personal property losses and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance,” according to FEMA’s website. The agency urges all Sandy victims to register for assistance before the deadlines, regardless of pending insurance claims.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

Busy bees: FEMA sited a lack of traffic through its disaster recovery centers as reason to shut down three of the four information hubs in the borough.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

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