“It's not just a storm,” State Senator James Sanders reminded a small gathering of residents at Beach 73rd Street on a small portion of the rebuilt boardwalk. “It was a killer. It took lives away.”
Pastor Arthur Davenport of the First Church of God of Far Rockaway saw his church severely damaged by the storm, and is watching the slow rebuild happen.
“As people of faith, it’s essential that we continue uniting our communities to ensure the promises of local jobs, affordable housing and a full and complete recovery are followed through on,” he said. “There are still far too many people waiting to come home.
“We also need to begin reflecting and planning for the next storm and make sure that we are better prepared then when Sandy struck,” he added.
A common sentiment was that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the entire peninsula – for the first time in a long time – was united.
“Rockaway is a more together community,” said Jonathan Gaska, district manager for Community Board 14. “Sandy really brought Rockaway together.”
Prior to the ceremony, Sanders, along with State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilman Donovan Richards, hosted a question-and-answer information session for residents featuring representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, NYC Build it Back and Queens Legal Services, to name a few of the participating organizations.
The sentiment before the morning session got underway was that progress had been made, but there's a long way to go.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Addabbo said.
That was evident later in the afternoon, as those participating in the memorial ceremony were flanked by ongoing construction and piles of sand.
“This boardwalk was gone,” Sanders said. “We still don't have it back,”
Last summer for the first time since Sandy, a portion of the boardwalk that connects the concessions at Beach 86th Street to Beach 106th Street was opened to the public. Eventually, the boardwalk will be restored in full.
The city is still pushing forward with the rebuild throughout the five boroughs. Just a few days after the three-year anniversary, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Build it Back program, which reimburses owners of single-family homes for construction costs, has a timetable for reaching its goals by the end of 2016.
“Last year, we were fixing Build it Back, and now we’re finishing it, committing to completing the program and getting families home by the end of next year,” said de Blasio. “While there has been major progress since our overhaul, including 100 percent of reimbursement checks now out to homeowners, we won’t stop pushing forward until every applicant sees relief.”
De Blasio also noted infrastructure investments that are making the city safer, including adding 4.2 million cubic yards of sand to coastal beaches, 9.8 miles of dunes across the Rockaway peninsula and Staten Island, and 16 new regulations in the city’s building code to address new climate threats.
“Even as we work to get every family home, we are also aggressively moving to address the risks of climate change,” de Blasio said. “We’re already safer today than we were three years ago, and we will continue to implement our comprehensive $20 billion resiliency plan across the five boroughs.”