The Belle Harbor Yacht Club was packed on Tuesday, October 18 for the monthly Belle Harbor Property Owners Association meeting. An agenda including some new updates on beach protection led into an informal debate between Assembly candidates, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and challenger Tom Sullivan for the rest of the meeting.
BHPOA President Paul King opened up the meeting acknowledging neighbors who recently died of cancer including John Keane and Jonathan O’Leary, and 15-year-old Jayjon Burnett who was killed on the train. He also brought up a recent incident in which a young woman was harassed by a man while waiting for the bus to school at Beach 138th Street. The 100th Precinct Deputy Inspector informed him that the suspect, who is a registered sex offender, is in custody. “It’s a different world. Please be mindful,” King said.
Barbara Larkin provided updates on some concerns about trees, including one that was knocked down in a car accident on Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 130th and 131st and other dead trees in Belle Harbor that neighbors have repeatedly requested to be removed. NYC Parks was informed and will be addressing both issues later this week.
Speaking on other Parks issues, including beach protection, King said the original timelines of some Army Corps projects have changed. Building the reinforced dune wall is taking longer than anticipated, as work was only done from Beach 146th to 143rd, instead of to Beach 137th as was expected by this time. The groin construction for the jetties planned for Beach 125th and 130th will also be starting later than anticipated. The Army Corps and Parks are expected to be at the November meeting to provide more details on these projects and their timelines.
John Signorelli then went into details about a newly announced Army Corps report on the NY-NJ Harbor and Tributaries Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study. The massive 569-page report provides five options for addressing flooding issues and storm risks from New York to New Jersey. Option 1 is to take no action. Option 2 entails a massive storm surge barrier connecting from Sandy Hook, NJ to Breezy Point, that could address a coastal storm surge or wave action from the New York Bight of the Long Island Sound. Option 3, the tentatively selected plan, would be to instead create 12 smaller storm surge gates, in areas along the Marine Park Bridge, Sheepshead Bay, Gerritsen Beach and other areas to prevent storm surges in various areas around the bay and NY Harbor. Option 4 involves multiple storm surge barriers, four primary structural components involving storm surge barriers on the Hackensack River, and the individual or creeks of Gowanus, Newtown and Flushing located in Brooklyn and Queens, and three primary structural shore-based measures in Jersey City, the lower west side of Manhattan, and East Harlem. Option 5 would be shore-based measures only and no in-water structures.
The Army Corps hopes to complete further study on this by 2025 to start construction by 2030. The project would take 14 years and cost $52 billion, most of which will be federal funds and $18 M in nonfederal funds. A comment period on this recent report is now open through January 6. For the full report, Google: NEW YORK-NEW JERSEY HARBOR AND TRIBUTARIES COASTAL STORM RISK MANAGEMENT FEASIBILITY STUDY.
After the updates, democrat candidate Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato and republican challenger Sullivan were invited to participate in a debate, starting with opening statements and followed by questions.
Sullivan, a Breezy resident who has previously run for state Senate twice, spoke about his experience with nearly 30 years in the military, time spent as a restaurant owner and involvement with a family business involving insurance, taxes and lawsuits, plus coming from a family of civil servants. “I’ve given a lot to this city and this country. I’m not a career politician,” he said. Sullivan said the biggest issue for him is tackling crime, mentioning some of the latest crime events to impact Queens, including shootings and assaults, and attributing bail reform and lack of repercussions as some of the reasons behind the uptick in crime. He spoke briefly about education and the need for hospitals but emphasized that fixing the crime issue is number one.
Pheffer Amato spoke about her record as assemblywoman since 2017 and thanked her constituents for the support and her staff. She explained she was a UFT Para, spent time working for DSNY and FDNY as a purchasing agent, was an active participant in civic groups and is the wife of a pizzeria owner. In her time in office, she said her office has helped solve 6,000 cases of constituent concerns. “It’s a number one priority to me,” she said. She also spoke of some of the laws she made, including passing bills for breast cancer patients, bills regarding 9/11 including requiring a moment of silence in schools on the anniversary, and more. She also addressed voting in favor of the budget that included bail reform. She explained she voted for the budget as a whole, and bail reform was a last-minute item that was included. “It didn’t work. The next June, I was on numerous bills to change what bail reform has done. I’m frustrated with you, crime is up, gun violence is up. We just went back and passed the repeat offender bill,” she said. “All democrats are not the same and you have known for a long time that I’m a moderate democrat.” She added that she went against her party on single issues like saying no to 24/7 speed cameras, legalization of marijuana and the green light law allowing undocumented immigrants of obtain a driver’s license. “I know what you stand for when it’s on independent bills and I’m not just with the party line. I stand with you,” she said.
The floor was then opened to questions for both candidates, along with some praise and criticism of Pheffer Amato’s handling of issues. Additional questions came up regarding crime, education, Covid mandates and more which led to heated debate throughout the room, but due to time constraints, the meeting was called to an end at 8:30 p.m. Early voting opens October 29. Instead of the YMCA, uptown residents can participate in early voting at the RAA building in Fort Tilden. Election Day is November 8 at your usual polling place.