Schumer: Cromwell Recreation Center On Staten Island Denied FEMA Funding For Permanent Rebuilding Or Reclocation Due To Sandy

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Cromwell Recreation Center Damaged Due To March 2010 Nor’easter and Hurricane Sandy; FEMA Denied NYC Parks Funding for Rebuilding

Schumer Calls On FEMA Headquarters to Have Senior Staff Meet With NYC Parks Officials on Appeal Review Process to Ensure Full Transparency and Accurate Review

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to have senior staff, from FEMA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, meet with New York City Parks and Recreation officials and review the City’s application after being denied twice. The Cromwell Recreation Center was severely damaged after the March 2010 Nor’easter when the front portion collapsed into the harbor. FEMA Region II denied the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s first application for Category E public assistance to repair the Cromwell Recreation Center. NYC Parks appealed FEMA Region II’s decision, but the appeal was denied on the grounds that the pre-existing conditions and structural instability required repair and stabilization over ten years prior to the Nor’easter, despite acknowledging that additional site inspections were necessary to determine whether damages were a direct result of the Nor’easter. NYC Parks has submitted a second appeal which awaits final determination by FEMA. Because of its serious destruction after Sandy, New York City is looking to rebuild or relocate the center elsewhere on Staten Island.

“Cromwell Recreation Center is in need of this critical funding from FEMA to help rebuild or relocate a community hub that serves as a recreational resource for the Staten Island’s North Shore community,” said Schumer. “Without proper and complete inspections to determine the direct cause of the Cromwell Center’s damages and collapse, it is premature to deny them the much-needed funding to rebuild. FEMA headquarters must work with its regional counterparts and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to approve this appeal and help rebuild this vital facility.”

The George M. Cromwell Recreation Center, located at Pier 6 on Staten Island, honors Staten Island’s first Borough President, George C. Cromwell. The Cromwell Recreation Center serves the neighborhoods of St. George, Stapleton and Tompkinsville as a waterside recreation center with historical significance. The park was opened in 1936 through the Works Progress Administration initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. President Roosevelt hosted a gala ball at the Recreational Center in 1939 and Sugar Ray Robinson fought his last amateur fight there in 1940.

Efforts were taken in 2002 to stabilize Cromwell Recreation Center’s structure. However, in the midst of the large renovation, the Nor’easter hit the north shore of Staten Island on March 13, 2010. Despite plans to further stabilize the structure in April, the front portion of the structure collapsed into the harbor on May 26, 2010 before repairs could be made. City and State emergency management officials successfully argued to FEMA that the collapse was a direct result of the March Nor’easter and were subsequently awarded public assistance funding for emergency work and repairs (Category B Public Assistance).

NYC Parks and Recreation pursued additional funding from FEMA under Public Assistance Category E – Permanent Work for Public Buildings and Contents to conduct permanent work repairs on Cromwell Recreation Center. However, FEMA Region II denied the request. The City appealed and supplemented its appeal with documentation from a Final Engineers Report for Cromwell that suggests the March 2010 storm, “could be regarded as sole proximate cause of collapse.” The Cromwell Recreation Center has been closed to the public since the collapse in May, leaving North Shore communities with significantly reduced recreation options.

Schumer today wrote to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate asking to send officials from FEMA headquarters to the region in order to work with FEMA Region II and New York City Parks and Recreation as the City submits its second appeal. Schumer explained that, given the disconnect between FEMA Region II officials and NYC Parks, it is important that FEMA officials from FEMA headquarters be sent to the region to meet with City officials and arbitrate the appeal negotiation in order to ensure full transparency and a full, complete, and accurate review. Schumer noted that is an important step to rebuilding the Cromwell Recreation Center, and restoring a vital recreational resource for Staten Island.

Schumer’s letter to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is below:

Dear Administrator Fugate:

As you know, the Cromwell Recreation collapsed on May 26, 2010 as a result of the March 13, 2010 Nor’easter. Following that destructive storm, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the New York State Office of Emergency Management (NYSOEM), applied for FEMA Public Assistance Category B – Emergency Protective Measures and Category E – Permanent Work for Public Buildings and Contents. FEMA approved Category B funding assistance, yet Category E assistance was denied. New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and NYSOEM subsequently appealed this decision.

Unfortunately, FEMA Region II denied this appeal. In her denial, Regional Administrator Canton wrote that “the main cause of the collapse of the Cromwell Center…was not the March 2010 storm, but the pre-existing conditions and structural instability that required repair and stabilization for over 10 years prior to the declared disaster event.” This decision was reached despite the fact that, in the very same letter, Administrator Canton indicated that additional site inspections were necessary in order to fully determine whether or not Cromwell Center’s damages and ultimate collapse were the direct result of the March 2010 Nor’easter.

NYSOEM and New York City have submitted a second appeal. However, given the disconnect between FEMA Region II and the applicant, I believe it is imperative and appropriate that you send officials from FEMA headquarters to the Region to meet with the applicant and participate in the appeal review process. This will ensure full visibility on the City and State’s information and positions and a full, complete, and accurate review.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

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Release Date: 2/14/14

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