After pressure from Brooklyn's Congressional delegation, both the many Democrats and the borough's lone Republican, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) finally declared Brooklyn a disaster area on Friday -- three months after the record-breaking late December snowstorm.
Snow may no longer be falling on the ground, but the cleanup costs are still there. The declaration, sought by officials almost since the day after the blizzard, will now help with the estimated $60 million in recovery costs, lost revenue, and residential and private property damage.
FEMA declared Queens a disaster area earlier this month but not Brooklyn, sparking angry comments from Congressman Anthony Weiner, among others.
"Residents of Brooklyn suffered enough during the holiday storm, and they shouldn't be forced to suffer again by footing the bill for the cleanup and recovery," Weiner said at the time.
As city residents still clearly remember, nearly two feet of snow buried neighborhoods throughout New York City, including Brooklyn, last December. The ensuing cleanup efforts forced the city to exceed its snow budget for the entire 2011 fiscal year.
A report by Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's office issued soon afterward revealed that during the 72-hour period after the storm hit, the majority of complaints came from Brooklyn and Queens. Out of 933 complaints logged by his staff, 411 came from Brooklyn alone.
As late as Wednesday, Dec. 29 -- three days after the blizzard -- one e-mail received by de Blasio's office read, "Most side streets in my neighborhood of Borough Park and Kensington have not been plowed." And two days after the blizzard, a Park Slope resident wrote, "Almost every street in Park Slope is unplowed!"
Brooklyn has now been approved for Category B funding for "emergency protective measures." These include steps taken before, during, and after a disaster to save lives, protect public health and safety, and prevent damage to public and private property.
The funding could be used to cover the costs of emergency repairs, search and rescue, and the installation of warning devices like signs or announcements, among other measures. State and local governments, as well as certain non-profit organizations, are eligible for assistance.
"It is heartening that FEMA understands the enormous burdens localities bear during natural catastrophic events," Congressman Ed Towns said. "It is incredibly difficult for local governments to generate resources to meet these demands and we appreciate the federal government's assistance."
"This designation will mean additional federal and state resources to help Brooklyn recover from the snowstorm that struck late last year," said Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez. "December's snowstorm was historic, and bringing this additional funding to bear will help our communities recover more swiftly and fully."
"I'm pleased that FEMA made the right decision," Weiner said. "This declaration is much-needed and will give Brooklyn residents the help they need to cover the massive cleanup costs of the blizzard."
This isn't the first time that FEMA has declared Brooklyn a disaster area. It did so back in 2007 after the freak tornado that tore through Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, damaging scores of houses in a few hours and even tearing the roof off some of them. A local office was set up to help Bay Ridge-area residents with their claims.