The Oakwood Beach Buyout Committee, has been formed to facilitate the governmental acquisition of homes that exist or existed on the day of Superstorm Sandy, in the Foxbeach section (“target area”) of the town of Oakwood Beach in Staten Island, NY. A purchase of this kind uses FEMA funds, as detailed by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (“HMGP”), promulgated by Section 404 of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended.
The Committee has had first hand knowledge of the perils of living in the target area well before the storm. The area is located in a natural area referred to as the blue belt that serves Staten Island as a storm water retention area. Most homes are bungalows originally constructed between 1930 – 1950, with several having large additions put on in recent years. A 1992 ‘NorEaster was first to destroy the berm and sea wall protecting the area, and caused flooding of 5-7 feet. Fires from tall grass phragmites that grow wild in the area, which are highly flamable, are a constant threat. A particularly serious fire occurred in 2008, damaging homes and severely damaging the berm that had been constructed as a temporary fix, making the area even more vulnerable once again. Potential soil contamination from the Oakwood sewage plant, together with other unnatural products, have been long time concerns exacerbated by Superstorm Sandy. Hurricane Irene in 2011 caused significant flooding in the area, and residents who had virtually just finished reconstruction, are now faced with an even more daunting task. Both the berm and sea wall that had been hastily reconstructed, were completely destroyed by Sandy, leaving the area completely exposed. All this, and knowing that neighbors have died during superstorm Sandy, have given Foxbeach residents no alternative but to seek a bittersweet government buyout of our homes.
The target areas geographic location is bounded by Tarlton Street going west from the ocean front to Mill Rd, then north along the ocean side of Mill Road to Kissam Avenue, then going east back to the ocean front. Streets included in those boundaries are Promenade, Foxlane, Foxbeach, and Cedar Grove. There are 165 homes in the target area. Homes outside the target area may be included on a case by case basis so long that they are considered bordering on the blue belt section, as defined by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.
The Committee will direct its efforts by first educating local public officials as to the many reasons the target areas qualifies for the Program, and then helping officials facilitate the Program application process by communicating with residents and collecting information. Although the goal is to include all 165 homes (plus other eligible homes) the Committee realizes that participation in HMGP is strictly voluntary and some homeowners may, for whatever personal reasons, choose not to participate. Lastly, the Committee will seek to collaborate with “Zone A New York”, a non-for-profit entity it recently helped form, whose mission statement includes HMGP facilitation for the target area, and very importantly also includes financial assistance for those residents who chose to participate.