Gov. Cuomo Requests Federal Funds to Acquire Sandy-Damaged Homes

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STATEN ISLAND — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo requested federal funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Emergency Watershed Protection Program on Thursday for the purchase of 77 properties — 75 homes and two vacant parcels — in the communities of Midland Beach and New Dorp Beach on the East Shore of Staten Island.

“New York State has made great progress in helping local communities recover from the effects of Superstorm Sandy, but there is still more work to be done,” Governor Cuomo said. “I am urging Washington to help us protect Staten Island communities by delivering the funding we need for these buyouts. It is imperative that the federal government continues to support our efforts to reimagine this State for the new reality of extreme weather.”

The New York State Department of State has determined these properties were all substantially damaged or destroyed during Superstorm Sandy, were inundated by flooding from Sandy, or sit within a 100-year flood plain. Removal of structures damaged by Sandy and wetland restoration properties will positively benefit the entire floodplain and surrounding residential communities. These parcels will add to adjacent wetlands and storm management systems, such as the NYC Department of Environmental Protection Bluebelt–known as the New Creek Bluebelt–and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, including Great Kills Park.

Storm Recovery Director Jamie Rubin said, “NY Rising is committed to ensuring that federal funds are sought and invested in projects that will lead to a stronger, more resilient New York. We strongly believe the USDA Emergency Watershed Protection Program is the right resource to enhance wetlands restorations in Midland Beach and New Dorp Beach, and the model we have developed for NY Rising will ensure the successful return of these properties to Mother Nature.”

Borough President James S. Oddo said, “I would like to thank the Cuomo administration for their recognition of how important it is to forever protect areas adjacent to our Bluebelt. Bluebelts work, and are necessary to help alleviate some of the flooding conditions that occur during even small rainstorms in flood prone areas. These properties, once acquired, will help provide a greater measure of protection for the Midland Beach and New Dorp Beach communities, which is so important for residents who have chosen to stay in those neighborhoods. I am hopeful that this funding comes soon so that our Bluebelts can be expanded as quickly as possible.”

The preliminary cost for easement, demolition, acquisition and restoration for all properties is estimated at $37 million and, if awarded, will be fully funded by the USDA Emergency Watershed Protection Program. NY Rising will administer this iniative as a distinct project from the State Buyout Program, which is funded entirely by Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR).

The Midland and New Dorp Wetlands Restoration initiative was developed with the assistance of the Midland Beach Civic Association and the New Dorp Beach Civic Association, who garnered homeowner support through petitions for these specific properties to be purchased and returned to nature. If USDA funding is secured, the properties will become a permanent part of existing adjacent wetlands restoration and can never be built on again.


BrassCraft introduces Zip-It tool to contractors

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BrassCraft is introducing its handy Zip-it tool to plumbing contractors as a safe, reliable and cost-effective way to resolve many common clogged drain problems.
The Zip-It tool is a fast and easy way to clear clogged and slow running drains.

The Zip-It tool is a fast and easy way to clear clogged and slow running drains. This durable plastic tool is suitable for use in many residential drains including most household sink, shower and tub drains. It is 20” long, with 18” of barbed length. As an environmentally friendly option, users don’t need to use any harsh chemicals.

“Zip-It could save the contractor time and is easy to use; it’s always worth a try on a clogged drain. Every contractor should have one of these in his tool box and keep a ready supply on his truck,” says Charles Pryde, channel marketing director, BrassCraft Manufacturing.

A slow sink drain can be fixed in 10 minutes or less (including clean up) with no tools other than Zip-It. There usually is no need to remove the stopper. Just open the drain stopper all the way, turn on the water, insert the Zip-It and then remove it slowly. Use it once, and then throw it away.

“Not only is Zip-It a great tool, but because it is so easy to use and so effective, we are recommending that plumbers consider it as a promotional item for their customers,” adds Pryde.

BB&T Ballpark features Charlotte Pipe plumbing system

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Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co. recently finished a world-class plumbing system at BB&T Ballpark, the new home of the Charlotte Knights in Charlotte, N.C.

The system features Charlotte Pipe’s cast iron pipe and fittings, which are manufactured at the company’s foundry, just minutes away from the stadium. Charlotte Pipe FlowGuard Gold and PVC pipe and fittings are also included. The $54 million ballpark project will be home to the Charlotte Knights, a Class AAA team. It has a seating capacity of 10,200 and a natural grass field. Two club areas offer skyline views, 1,050 club seats and 22 luxury suites.

Charlotte Pipe products have also been selected for use in two other premier stadiums — Yankee Stadium and Citi Field both in New York City.

American Standard supports Plumbers Without Borders

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American Standard Brands is supporting the philanthropic work of Plumbers Without Borders (PWB) with a $60,000 donation that supports the group’s mission to connect volunteer plumbers with organizations that are working to increase access to safe water and sanitation worldwide.

“Plumbers Without Borders is a grassroots effort, born from the desire to help people in dire need,” said PWB’s Fred Schilling. “We know we can make a difference to alleviate human suffering and disease caused by the lack of safe plumbing and hygienic sanitation.”

The donation will be used to help PWB develop its database of plumbers and mechanical tradespeople around the world who want to volunteer their services to improve hygiene, access to clean water and help save lives. Volunteers who are registered in this databank can then be connected with organizations seeking their assistance. PWB’s ultimate goal is to serve as a complete plumbing and sanitation information hub for both volunteers and humanitarian organizations.

“We have always believed that plumbers play a crucial role in protecting health and helping to prevent disease,” said Jay Gould, president and CEO of American Standard Brands. “Plumbers Without Borders is doing so much to improve sanitation and quality of life around the world, and we are proud to help them expand their capabilities with this sponsorship.”

“It’s been very exciting to watch this organization grow and develop, borne from a desire to use our plumbing trade to save lives beyond our own communities,” said Schilling. “With this generous sponsorship from American Standard, we will be able to build a crucial resource that will allow us to help even more people all around the world.”

Plumbers Without Borders works in Ethiopia

A current project of Plumbers Without Borders involves working with Seattle Anesthesia Outreach (SAO) to implement plumbing infrastructure improvements in medical facilities located in Ethiopia. The PWB volunteers helped to outfit a portable dialysis center for the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where needless numbers of people were dying due to lack of dialysis treatment.

PWB provided the installation labor for the portable unit built here in the U.S. After the portable clinic was shipped to Ethiopia, PWB volunteers handled the on-site implementation work to get this life-saving equipment up and running. The volunteer plumbers have also done extensive work in Haiti, following the devastating earthquake that hit the nation.

Here in the United States, PWB’s skills are utilized, as well. The organization has partnered with Habitat for Humanity to assist with homebuilding needs throughout the country. The group also works to maintain the plumbing systems on a volunteer basis in the Children’s Home Society of Florida.


City Council members vent Sandy frustrations

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A frustrated group of City council members liberally peppered officials from the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget with questions during a Wednesday hearing about the pace of spending of Superstorm Sandy recovery money. The members urged the agency, if nothing else, simply to comply with a recently passed law that requires the city to track where the cash is going.

“There are people suffering,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, which held a joint hearing with the Committee on Finance. He noted that delays in repairing homes and businesses are sapping the last financial wherewithal of residents in storm-affected areas.

The city spent more than $2.3 billion on the recovery efforts, according to the latest figures from the end of 2013, which it hopes to fully recoup from federal funding sources. But additional billions of dollars coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development has yet to make its way to individual homeowners.

While the administration notched up several victories with the Federal Emergency Management Agency-including launching the successful Rapid Repairs program and recouping the maximum reimbursement on several initiatives-there have also been a host of programmatic and management challenges.

Those challenges have proven more acute with the HUD money, which must be allocated according to a laundry list of specific regulations that lawmakers have blamed for delays.

“We are in conversation with senior staff at HUD and at FEMA about how best to streamline the federal coordination issues,” Mr. Grathwol said, indicating that the city hoped the talks would result in a quicker approval of federal funding.

And on a city level, Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to announce a comprehensive reforms to Sandy spending Friday, though the administration has already retooled programs like Build it Back, which has helped thousands of residents reach the final steps of beginning work on their homes.

Councilmembers also chided the office for not posting all of the information required by a recent law to an informational website called the Sandy Tracker.

“It’s not a suggestion,” said City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), who was a cosponsor of the legislation. “It’s a law of the city.”

Mr. Grathwol said issues of privacy for individual homeowners and businesses, for example, have hindered the office’s efforts to provide all of the information outlined in the law, but that the Office of Management and Budget would work with the Council on the sticking points.


Here Are 8 Fascinating Projects Aimed At Protecting NYC From The Next Superstorm Sandy

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Adaptation measures would strengthen local resilience to sea level rise and the next Superstorm Sandy.

Ten proposals are vying for funding to prepare the New York metro region for disasters like Superstorm Sandy and make recovery from such events easier, cheaper, and faster. Organized by a project called Rebuild By Design, some of the plans have evocative names, like “Blue Dunes,” while others hit the conceptual nail on the head: “Commercial Corridor Resiliency Project,” anyone? But they share a bottom-up approach for creating urban and regional design solutions that invest in the concerns and needs of local communities.

The project accomplished this by organizing multi-day tours and meetings last fall that brought its design-build teams, selected from architecture and consulting firms worldwide, together with citizens and civic leaders of towns and neighborhoods hard-hit by Superstorm Sandy. The teams were required to use what they learned in these encounters to inform their solutions, which combine flood protection with additional community concerns like improving environmental health, increasing local job and business opportunities, restoring wildlife habitat, and keeping the “flavor” of waterfront and beachfront communities alive.

Rebuild By Design is a public-private partnership organized under the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, including several regional urban design and development groups, and funded in large part by The Rockefeller Foundation. (Full disclosure: I reported on Rebuild by Design last year for the blog 100 Resilient Cities, a project that is also funded by The Rockefeller Foundation.)

The community-design team partnerships have “far exceeded our expectations,” says Amy Chester, project manager of Rebuild By Design. “Each one of them have been able to create real, solid community coalitions, and demonstrate how those coalitions shaped the ultimate designs.” Several teams have been joined by their community coalitions at this week’s presentations to the competition’s jury, Chester says. Once the jury makes its final recommendations, the winners will be selected by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and receive Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding. Even if HUD declines some projects, they might be eligible for other  funding through federal or state agencies, local transportation agencies, or other entities.


Big Apple Goes Super Tiny: Micro-Unit Development in Manhattan Lands $10.3 M Construction Loan

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It took more than one year to get this project going but the Big Apple is finally getting its first ever micro-apartment building developed on city-owned land. As previously reported by Multi-Housing News Online, in early 2013 Monadnock Development LLC, Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation and nARCHITECTS were selected as the winning team of the “adapt NYC” Competition, a city-sponsored pilot program that looked for innovative designs to solve New York’s housing crisis.

My Micro NY in Kips Bay, Manhattan

My Micro NY in Kips Bay, Manhattan

M&T Bank recently closed on a $10.3 million construction loan to provide the largest piece of financing for Monadnock Development LLC and its partners to build the first micro-unit, modular property with rental apartments measuring between 250 and 370 square feet. Additional financing for the $16.6 million project called My Micro NY will come through equity provided by the development team and a secondary construction loan awarded by the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Though some voices might question the project’s significantly low price, My Micro NY will be a financially sustainable development by incorporating very fast, efficient and cost effective modular construction technology designed to make small spaces more livable. “Modular construction is cost efficient and we believe these micro-units will fill a need in the

My Micro NY in Kips Bay, Manhattan

My Micro NY in Kips Bay, Manhattan

Manhattan market,” said in a press statement M&T Bank Regional President Peter D’Arcy.

The innovative My Micro NY is currently under construction on the site of an old parking lot at East 27th Street and Mt. Carmel Place in Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighborhood. The nine-story rental property will include 55 small-sized units built with modules prefabricated in a factory at the Brooklyn Navy Yard by Capsys Corp., Monadnock’s sister company that specializes in modular housing. Designed for singles and couples and expected to be available for rent in 2015, the apartments at My Micro NY will feature nearly 10-foot ceilings, 8-foot windows and built-in storage spaces that will make the units appear larger. According to an official statement, 40 percent of the super-tiny units will be marketed as affordable. Project plans also include nearly 700 square feet of retail space at the ground floor of the building.


NYC Non-Residential Construction Spending Dropped in 2013

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Construction of office space, institutional development, sports/entertainment venues and hotels fell 6.9 percent in 2013 to $8.4 billion from the year prior, marking the third consecutive year-over-year non-residential spending decline, according to a new New York Building Congress analysis.

“At $8.4 billion, construction spending in the non-residential sector was substantial in 2013, but it is disappointing to see a decline in annual spending,” said New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson in a prepared statement. “It is also disappointing in that we had expected spending in this sector to reach $10 billion when we released our annual forecast in October of last year. Hopefully, much of the anticipated work will come to fruition in the coming year.”

Overall construction spending in New York City, however, increased 6 percent between 2012 and 2013 to $29.3 billion. At the same time, construction employment rose four percent year-over-year to a five-year high of 120,900 jobs. But the number of jobs was down from 132,625 in 2008.

“The construction industry’s importance to the city’s economy cannot be overstated,” Mr. Anderson said. “Last year alone, it accounted for $45 billion in economic output, more than $23 billion in labor income and created close to $29 billion in value to the overall economy. These statistics deserve serious consideration in the ongoing discussions about development policies and capital budgeting.”