Among the areas of New York City hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy were two private, gated communities: Sea Gate in Brooklyn and Breezy Point in Queens. This bears mentioning because those enclaves do not operate like most neighborhoods: though residents pay the same city taxes as every other New Yorker, they also field separate, community fees, and are subject of agreements that allow them to partially operate off of NYC’s grid. Their entrances are gated, they maintain their own sewers and roads, and, in the case of Sea Gate, they even have their own police departments.
Now, in the wake of the hurricane, these enclaves–created, in a sense, to keep the rest of New York out–are turning to the city government for assistance in repairing their infrastructure. Because residents of Sea Gate and Breezy Point agreed to administer these sorts of things themselves, this presents a bit of a logistical and ethical dilemma for the city, though for now, officials are promising to provide all the help they can. “We’re not going to let the form of the community, whether private or gated, stand in the way of getting the outcome we all want, which is to help them recover,” said Caswell F. Holloway, deputy mayor for operations. “It’s in everyone’s interest to get these communities back. If they’re successful, the city is successful.”
Predictably, the situation has raised tensions for both residents of the communities and their neighbors, who often hold a very different economic status. “They seclude themselves,” said Cesar Catala, who lives just on the other side of Sea Gate’s fences. “We don’t have problems with Sea Gate, but they put their noses down at us. We get treated like we’re second class, just because they live in houses and we live in the projects and we rent. They say they need assistance and, fine, maybe they do need assistance. But they have insurance on their houses. We don’t have insurance. We don’t have much out here.”
Community residents, however, maintain that their taxpayer status entitles them to help from the city. “I don’t pay for water?” asked William Korn of Sea Gate rehtorically. “I don’t pay for real estate taxes — $6,000 a year? I don’t pay for services? I pay all those. Just because we have a private community? I pay for that private community.”
(Photo: Jarek Mazur/Flickr)