Federal Funds Help East Coast Prepare for Summer Season

Statue of Liberty and ferry in New York Harbor
Statue of Liberty and ferry in New York Harbor

Historic sites and beaches damaged along the New York-New Jersey coastline by Hurricane Sandy received some good news just in time for summer tourist season. The Department of Interior is providing federal funding to help with disaster relief for 234 projects along the East Coast, including sites around NY-NJ Harbor. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that out of $475.25 million allocated these projects, over $313 million will be specifically for New York and New Jersey at Liberty and Ellis islands, Gateway National Recreation Area, and other locations. The funds are for the purpose of repair work and rebuilds at parks, beaches, and public lands to make sure facilities, roads, and services are available and open to the public.

Millions of people visit New York-New Jersey Harbor every year. The Statue of Liberty averages around 4 million visitors a year. Hurricane damage to the island was extensive and included power systems, passenger and auxiliary docks, and utilities. Part of the DOI funding will be used to get repairs done in time to reopen the Statue by July 4th. Liberty Island, and neighboring Ellis Island with its Immigration Museum, make up the Statue of Liberty National Monument managed by the National Park Service.

The Gateway National Recreation Area, part of the National Park Service, lists several places which are also receiving funding. Some of the ways they are preparing for summer visitors are:

1). The Sandy Hook Light, the oldest standing lighthouse in the United States, was built in 1764 in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, at the southern end of New York Harbor. The lighthouse was not damaged but the parking lots are in need of repair.

2). Floyd Bennett Field, in Brooklyn, named after Brooklyn aviator Floyd Bennett who was the first person to fly over the North Pole, was at one time a New York City airport and the departure point for aviators Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes. Now, its campgrounds and the Jamaica Bay Riding Academy need repair.

3.) The Rockaways, a peninsula in Queens, has been a popular seaside resort since the 1830s. During Sandy, over 100 homes burned and the boardwalk washed away. Funding will be used to rebuild and strengthen seawalls.

The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 gave the Department of Interior $829.2 million. This amount was changed to $786.7 million after a reduction of $42.5 million due to the sequester. With the release of the $475.25 million for restoration of public areas, approximately 60 percent of the Department of Interior’s supplemental funding for Hurricane Sandy relief has been distributed. The remaining funding will be issued in the coming months for projects that rebuild and restore public assets, and increase capacity for coastal resistance against future storm damage.

Written by: Cynthia Collins, Guardian Correspondent

Source: NY-NJ Harbor Coalition

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