Locals slam city for squandering resiliency funds on Manhattan Beach Park

Photo by Jessica Parks

The city spent $4.5 million in state resiliency funds on a Manhattan Beach park — while doing next to nothing to enhance the playground’s storm preparedness — and local civic gurus blasted the Parks Department for squandering an opportunity to safeguard the neighborhood.

“Nothing — not one thing has been done,” said Manhattan Beach Community Group President Judy Baron.

In the wake of 2012’s devastating superstorm, Governor Andrew Cuomo funneled more than $4.5 million to Manhattan Beach Park through the state’s New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program, which called for the installation of flood barriers and backup generators in Sandy-wrecked communities.

However, the city’s Parks Department is using the funds to erect a new entranceway, repave a promenade surrounding the park, and create pathways through a memorial garden dedicated to former Manhattan Beach Community Group President Dana Borell, and locals feel just as vulnerable despite the massive expenditure, according to Baron.

“Adding concrete to the Memorial Garden is unnecessary and helps no one survive the storm,” said Baron. “Fixing concrete is wonderful but it doesn’t keep water out of our homes.”

A spokeswoman for the Parks Department, Anessa Hodgson, refuted Baron’s claims, saying that the new concrete paving would “absorb the storm surge,” thereby improving resiliency.

And even as Park workers labor wrap up construction of the Manhattan Beach Park upgrades by 2021, the surrounding areas remains woefully unprepared for the next Sandy. The state allocated $9 million in resiliency funding to benefit Sheepshead Bay, but the city has refused to communicate with local representatives regarding how that money’s being spent, according to the Chairwoman of Community Board 15.

“I don’t see any difference, none whatsoever,” said Theresa Scavo. “I haven’t seen a thing.”

In the months following Sandy, residents of the hurricane-impacted neighborhoods met with city officials in an effort to kick-start dozens of storm-resiliency projects in the area. Among the numerous proposals developed during those sessions included the installation of check valves to prevent sewage backup in homes, solutions for safeguarding the Manhattan Beach Bathhouse against future storms, and modifying a local facility for use as a “one-stop-shop” for information and resources during emergencies.

However, at a so-called “Climate Resiliency Townhall” meeting at Kingsborough Community College on Oct. 21, locals expressed concern that none of these projects had enjoyed any substantial progress in the last seven years, with one man asking where the money went.

“We were supposed to have sewer check valves put in and a whole array of things which all never took place,” said one Gerritsen Beach resident who declined to provide their name. “Money was allocated to the community.”

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes — both at the meeting and when reached for comment — vowed to seek out answers regarding the state of resiliency across southern Brooklyn.

Representatives from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery did not a return a request for comment by deadline.

Reach reporter Jessica Parks at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jparks@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @_JessicaParks.

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