Sea Gate, NY – Gated Communities Seek Government Intervention In Storm’s Aftermath

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    NYC Council speaker Cristine Quinn, Councilman Domonick Reccia, Sea Gate police officer, Sea Gate’s Association President Pinny Dembitzer Surveying damage in Sea Gate two days after Sandy. Photo: Shimon GifterSea Gate, NY – Residents in gated communities like Sea Gate, Brooklyn and Breezy Point, Queens have long enjoyed a certain anonymity – so much so, that many of their streets do not even appear on City maps.

    Those who live in these middle-class neighborhoods not only pay their maintenance and association charges, but also willingly absorb the cost of maintaining their streets and sidewalks, their sewer system, their parks, and the operation of their own police department – all for the sake of safety and exclusivity. They also pay sewer, water, and property taxes to the City.

    But all that changed when Sandy hit, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. The havoc inflicted on Sea Gate and Breezy Point has residents who previously subscribed to a “hands-off” approach with the government now asking for local, state and federal intervention.

    The New York Times reports (http://nyti.ms/TjWCKU) that residents cannot afford the cost of rebuilding both their homes and the common infrastructure. “We’d be foolish not to ask for help,” said Steven Greenberg, the former chairman of the Breezy Point Cooperative Board. “We would hope that we see something [from the government], but if we don’t see something, we’re prepared to go forward to keep the community.”

    The City has responded to the call for help by sending out private contractors with bulldozers to remove sand and hunks of concrete from Sea Gate’s streets, as well as trucks with vacuums to clean sand out of the sewers.

    Over in Breezy Point, the Department of Environmental Protection has provided drinking water to the residents. But for now, it remains unclear how much of a role the government will take in assisting the rebuilding effort in gated communities.

    Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway said City Hall wants to help all people severely impacted by the storm – including those in private communities – “get back to normal as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
    “We’re not going to let the form of the community, whether private or gated, stand in the way of getting the outcome we all want, which is to help them recover,” he said. “It’s in everyone’s interest to get these communities back. If they’re successful, the City is successful.”

    William Korn, 52, a bakery owner and Sea Gate resident whose home sustained more than $300,000 in damage, concurs with Holloway’s sentiment. He says the City should pay to rebuild the devastated communities. “I don’t pay for water?” he asked incredulously. “I don’t pay real estate taxes – $6,000 a year? I don’t pay for services? I pay for those. Just because we have a private community? I pay for that private community.”

    Sea Gate’s Association President Pinny Dembitzer said prior to the storm, many residents were already having difficulty paying their maintenance charges, placing a strain on the association. “If they can’t get enough money to build their homes, they can’t have enough money to rebuild the sea wall. But if they don’t rebuild the sea wall, they can’t rebuild their homes,” he said.

    Councilman Domenic Recchia, Jr., who represents Sea Gate, had been working with City officials to upgrade the gated community’s sewers even before Sandy hit. “Just because they’re a gated community, they’re still citizens and pay taxes,” he said. “They won’t be able to sustain themselves. Anybody can say what they want, but we can’t turn our back on them.”


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