Local pol blasts NYCHA for sitting on $70 million earmarked to fix Coney community center shuttered since Superstorm Sandy

Local pol blasts NYCHA for sitting on $70 million earmarked to fix Coney community center shuttered since Superstorm Sandy
John McCarten/NYC Council

Honchos at the New York City Housing Authority must immediately complete repairs at a Coney Island community center that has been shuttered since Superstorm Sandy flooded it, according to Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island).

The local pol blasted city officials Tuesday for failing to keep their promise to reopen the Surfside Community Center a year and a half ago despite having millions of dollars on hand to fund the fixes.

“This community was promised numerous times that this center would reopen in the fall of 2017,” Treyger said April 16. “As far as I’m concerned, the city administration broke its word, its promise, and its commitment to the community of Coney Island.”

The center, located at NYCHA’s Sites Four and Five on W. 28th Street between Surf and Mermaid avenues, housed a variety of educational programming for children and seniors — sponsored by do-good organization HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services — since the space first opened in 2000.

Officials at the organization relocated some of the programs to three classrooms at nearby PS 288, but the school lacks space for the center’s computer and recreational programs, according to officials. Meanwhile, the center has remained closed since Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012 — even though the housing authority has received more than $70 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since 2015 to pay for the repairs and renovations.

A total of $69 million of that cash came from a $3 billion grant FEMA gave to NYCHA to divide among its 33 affected developments, and included the installation of new bathrooms, boilers, and a full back-up power generator — among other features — at the Surfside Community Center, according to housing authority spokesman Michael Giardina.

The housing agency allocated an additional $1.2 million in federal funds to pay for other non-Superstorm-Sandy-related repairs at the center and its surrounding buildings, including repairs to the center’s exterior and the replacement of more than a half mile of sanitary pipes in the complex’s basement in order to prevent backups, Giardina said.

The spokesman said its workers are finishing up final repairs and renovations to the space — including touching up paint and installing security locks — but did not immediately respond to an inquiry about exactly when they expected the center would open.

“We are extremely pleased that repairs and renovations to Surfside Community Center are near completion, and we are looking forward to opening the doors for all to enjoy, once the lease is finalized with the community partner,” Giardina said.

But Treyger said that ‘soon enough’ isn’t good enough, and charged that the delay amounted to negligence on the part of the housing agency.

“Is it incompetence, is it inertia, or is it blatant indifference?” the pol asked. “Our community is still being denied the full promise of critically-needed programs for our children, for our seniors, and for our families.”

Treyger blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio for failing to enforce the repairs, alleging that the mayor was more concerned with launching his prospective campaign for the presidency by feeding on flapjacks with voters in a battleground state than dealing with issues back home.

“I’m sure that the pancakes in New Hampshire are very tasty, but you are still the mayor of New York City,” Treyger said. “Do your job here.”

But for Coney Islanders who frequented the center, the matter isn’t political — it’s personal.

One mother whose kids attended the center’s free, five-day-a-week after-school and summer camp programs said that it offered local kids a safe place to play, and that the delay showed how little the housing agency valued its tenants.

“It’s been enough time, the building should be done. The kids need a safe place to be,” said Shantasia Fee. “We’re forgotten, but we pay rent too.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
John McCarten/NYC Council