BREEZY POINT, Queens (PIX11) — “This was their home. This was not just some place they came for a weekend this was where they lived,” said Arthur Lighthall.
It happened right in the middle of Superstorm Sandy — when the focus was on the weather, high winds and flooding. A devastating fire ripped through Breezy Point, destroying 135 homes in this cooperative community, leaving behind just a trail of concrete foundations.
“An event took place and an entire community had to leave and go find another place to live,” Denise Neibel said.
Six months later, one would believe the process of rebuilding would be under way, but it has stalled — and the blame is falling on the city and a map it is using from 1948.
Applications for building permits filed by the Breezy Point Cooperative have been denied by the city’s Department of Buildings, citing “municipal improvements on streets, buildings, not on mapped streets.”
But what does that even mean?
“We are standing here, the homes that were in this whole section of this whole community were fronting a walkway not a NYC mapped street,” Lighthall said.
Lighthall and Neibel — general manager and assistant general managers for Breezy Point — are the ones fielding calls from homeowners and the ones who have been filing these applications on behalf of architects, engineers and residents.
They say the city is referring to an outdated map, one created in 1948, in denying building permits for hundreds of homes.
Now the only way to move forward is for Breezy Point to file for a waiver with the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.
“Typically the board of standards and appeals could take six months,” Lighthall said.
This glitch is leading to a major delay, with recovery now stunted in Breezy.
“It’s a horrible technicality. We understand the city has rules and regulations and we abide by them like everybody else does. What we need is somebody to step in,” Neibel said.
“It might only be the Mayor’s office that needs to tell his various commissioners, let’s cut through the bureaucracy,” Lighthall added.
The Board of Standards and Appeal says it is working with the city and the mayor’s office to help expedite the process for Breezy Point residents including legislation by the State Assembly.
“We are working closely with residents and their design professionals to help them rebuild their homes, including seeking approvals from the Board of Standards and Appeals,” a press secretary for the NYC Department of Buildings said in a statement to PIX11.