The Committee on Recovery and Resiliency held a hearing yesterday on Council Member Mark Treyger’s proposal to create a task force to study the damage that houses of worship and charitable organizations suffered during Hurricane Sandy and the expenses they incurred in helping storm victims. In many cases, local religious congregations and community-based non-profit groups were among the first to respond to the storm and begin assisting residents, before government agencies reached impacted neighborhoods.
The task force’s responsibilities would include studying the aid that is available to assist these groups and issuing recommendations on how the city can best partner with charitable organizations and houses of worship during and after future storms and emergencies. Council Member Treyger, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, proposed this legislation after hearing from numerous clergy members whose congregations provided critical help after the storm hit, but are still struggling to rebuild their own buildings two years later and are hampered by restrictions on religious organizations receiving federal relief money.
“These houses of worship did not ask storm victims what religion they are – they simply opened their doors and provided critical services to all residents. In many cases, congregations focused on helping others despite having sustained incredible damaged themselves, and are now still waiting for help two years later. Houses of worship and non-profit organizations are often the first groups on the ground following an emergency, and these are the people who best know the communities they serve. We must do more as a city to help them rebuild and to prepare for the next major storm so they are in position to again play an integral role in the recovery of impacted neighborhoods,” said Council Member Treyger.
The task force would be comprised of 11 individuals, including clergy members, individuals experienced with Sandy relief work and the Director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. It would be specifically charged with studying the damage sustained by these groups during the storm, expenses they incurred in assisting victims after the storm, the sources of aid that have been available to them, and whether that aid has been sufficient to meet their recovery needs. Finally, the task force would issue a report to the Mayor and Council containing recommendations on how best to meet any existing recovery needs and recommendations on how to better utilize charitable organizations and houses of worship in future storms.
Daniel Zarrilli, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, indicated during the hearing that the administration would work cooperatively on this task force if the legislation passes the City Council. In addition, a number of community and non-profit organizations testified in support of this proposal, including The Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC, Catholic Community Relations Council, Center for NYC Neighborhoods, LISC NYC, Staten Island Interfaith and Community Long Term Recovery Organization, and Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton-Manhattan Beach. The legislation currently has support from 10 Council Members.
(YWN Desk – NYC)