Schumer, Gillibrand seeks funds for coastline

An aerial view of Ohio Avenue and Nevada An aerial view of Ohio Avenue and Nevada Avenue in Long Beach. (Nov. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

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WASHINGTON -- New York's U.S. senators said Wednesday they will seek $500 million to $1 billion in federal funding for seven Army Corps of Engineers projects to protect the coastline from Staten Island to Montauk Point.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) likened the Northeast's damage from superstorm Sandy to the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must use its emergency authority for New York as it did in Louisiana.

"Simply put, it is undeniably clear that New York City and Long Island have the same critical need that the Gulf Coast had," Schumer said.

"New York needs a post-Katrina style comprehensive protection plan, and it needs to be started right away."

The seven projects, including construction of two sea walls, dredging of inlets and rebuilding of dunes, had been authorized by Congress -- some of them more than 10 years ago -- and now need appropriations for their completion, Schumer said at a news conference with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The projects include work on Long Beach, Rockaway Beach, Fire Island and one North Shore project -- a seawall -- at Asharoken.

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"What's particularly important is the South Shore of Staten Island, Coney Island, Rockaway Beach and Long Beach, which are heavily populated areas," Schumer said. "We can't let them lie fallow until another storm occurs."

He said he's confident Congress will approve money, and that he will bring it up Thursday with President Barack Obama when he tours damage from the storm in New York.

Schumer said the projects, which could cost more than $1 billion, were not coordinated with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and that he doesn't know if they're included in Cuomo's $30 billion estimate for storm recovery.

Steve Ellis, of the nonpartisan group Taxpayers for Common Sense, raised concerns about short-term measures, such as dumping more sand on beaches to build up dunes.

"Is it sustainable in the long run?" he asked. Ellis also asked whether taxpayers should foot the bill for protecting properties and homes in areas subject to flooding and storm damage.

The nation chose to rebuild and protect New Orleans after Katrina, Schumer said, and it should do the same for New York.

Schumer and Gillibrand also said they asked the Corps of Engineers in a meeting Wednesday for a study for a long-term protection plan for New York.

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