Eighteen months after Superstom Sandy flooded cities and towns across the northeast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will award the MTA over $400 million for repairs to the Hugh L. Carey (formerly Brooklyn Battery) and Queens Midtown Tunnels.
Senator Charles Schumer announced last week that the MTA will receive approximately $329 million for repair work and $74.5 million for mitigation work on the tunnels.
Schumer, the main architect of the Sandy relief bill, worked to include language in the bill that will allow FEMA to reimburse the MTA for repair-and-resiliency work on vehicle tunnels.
“As a result of this investment, we will be able to rebuild and modernize two of the most vital arteries — not only in New York, but in all of America — better and stronger than they were before Sandy,” Schumer said. “This massive and appropriate reimbursement by FEMA enables the MTA to repair the catastrophic damage wrought when the Sandy-surge completely submerged the Battery Tunnel and flooded the Queens Midtown Tunnel.”
Included in the mitigation work are flood walls, portal flood protection, the elevation of select mechanical equipment and flood-proofing at pipe galleries. All of the mitigation work done will be designed to protect the tunnels against a 500-year flood event.
To repair and restore the tunnels, the MTA will conduct an environmental cleanup, repair the electrical, lighting, traffic control, communication, ventilation and drainage systems, and lay down roadway slab.
The MTA will also work on the ventilation buildings and service buildings at the Hugh L. Carey tunnel.
Along with the FEMA grant, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major overhaul to the city’s Sandy recovery effort. His administration released a comprehensive report outlining the steps the city would take to reshape the currently active recovery programs.
“Let’s be blunt, it’s been overly complex and it’s been confusing for homeowners over the last year and a half,” de Blasio said at the Staten Island Built It Back center last week. “We know we have to do things differently, better, faster. We have to serve people in need right now.”
The report outlines the ways in which the de Blasio administration will work to provide financial relief and expedite recovery for homeowners and better engage local communities in the rebuilding process.
Some of the goals listed in the report are improving the experience of homeowners navigating the pre-construction process, expanding eligibility for acquisition and reimbursement, providing additional financial support to impacted residents, and improving the business recovery effort and public communication.
Staten Island Borough President James Oddo thanked the mayor for his efforts to fix the recovery programs, but reminded everyone that the work is far from over.
“I want to say to the mayor publicly what I have said to him and his staff privately,” Oddo said, “and that is to implore him and to beg him to personally see that we get this right. We need that sole-minded, laser-like focus that we’ve seen this mayor demonstrate on some of the victories he’s had in the first few months on this issue. And he’s made that commitment and we need that commitment to get it right after 18 months.”