clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Sea Gate Adrift After Local Politician’s Corruption Scandal

Sea Gate
The office of Sea Gate’s homeowners association has been housed in temporary trailers for seven years.
Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Sign up for “THE CITY Scoop,” our daily newsletter where we send you stories like this first thing in the morning.

Residents of Brooklyn’s Sea Gate say the state left their homeowners’ association marooned after a $500,000 state grant got washed away in a corruption scandal.

They’ve been operating out of a pair of trailers for seven years since Superstorm Sandy destroyed the association’s office.

Sea Gate Association members are demanding their current state Assembly member, Mathylde Frontus, recover the state funding originally secured in 2016 by her predecessor, Pamela Harris.

Harris resigned last year and subsequently pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges, for which she served six months in prison. Prosecutors alleged she used $25,000 in other Sandy recovery funds for a shopping spree, a cruise and more.

Now, locals say Frontus is letting the Coney Island-area gated community down by not pressing to restore the funding, which vanished as Harris departed.

“We haven’t even broken ground on the new office,” said Barbara Garofalo, vice president of the Sea Gate Association. “The grant would have helped us immensely.”

Garofalo, who works out of the office alongside several staffers, said Frontus could have done more to get the money.

“She said she’ll look into it, but it didn’t really go anywhere,” said Garofalo. “Right now we are at a standstill.”

Private Listing

Frontus and her staff point to an August letter from the state Dormitory Authority, which administers the grant program, as proof nothing can be done.

The letter, as described by both Frontus’ office and Garofalo, declared the agency could not disburse the funds because Sea Gate is a private community.

Frontus’ chief of staff, Michael DeCillis, said that the assemblymember’s hands were tied.

“We do feel bad that it took this long to determine,” DeCillis added.

Sea Gate beach
Waves crash along the beach of the Sea Gate community at the tip of Coney Island, Dec. 2, 2019.
Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A Dormitory Authority representative was not available for comment Monday.

The governor’s Office of Storm Recovery has distilled Sandy-related federal cash to Sea Gate before — providing the neighborhood with $2.8 million to rebuild a severely damaged seawall and an accompanying bulkhead.

Garofalo said that Sea Gate Association has been repairing its own sewers and bulkheads, and retrofitted its chapel so its private security could have a place to work.

She told THE CITY that the Dormitory Authority’s contention that the office reconstruction funding could not go forward shocked her and her staff.

“They always knew it was a private community,” she said of Sea Gate, which is home to some 8,000 residents. State Dormitory Authority grants earmarked by Assembly members frequently benefit private organizations, including religious groups.

“We had it and all of a sudden we didn’t,” said Garofalo of the state money. “It’s mind boggling that we just had to sign on the dotted line, and then suddenly it was pulled back.”

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.


You just finished reading another story from THE CITY.

We need your help to make THE CITY all it can be.

Please consider joining us as a member today.



THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit newsroom dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York. Please consider joining us as a member today.


We’re here to listen. Email or visit our tips page for other ways to share.

Sign up for the newsletter Get THE CITY Scoop

Sign up and get the latest stories from THE CITY delivered to you each morning