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Church leaders rally for city to release federal Hurricane Sandy recovery money

Faith in New York is asking new mayor Bill de Blasio to make Sandy recovery a priority and get Build It Back funds to the storm victims who need it

By Claire Trapasso
December 18, 2013

Hurricane Sandy victims, whose homes are still in disrepair, are urging the city to accelerate the recovery this holiday season.

More than a dozen church leaders rallied on Wednesday to urge the incoming administration to speed the delivery of $648 million in federal money into the hands of struggling city homeowners.

About 20,000 city residents have applied for grants through the NYC Build It Back program. The city stopped accepting applications on Oct. 31, but only a few homeowners have received a payment, local leaders said.

“We’re asking the next administration to make Sandy recovery a priority,” said Daniel Green, an organizer with Faith in New York, a group of congregations that organized the rally.

“People are still living in half-built homes that are in disrepair,” Green said. “Some people are still dealing with mold recovery issues. There are people who are still lacking heat.”

Single mom Jean Ferrara-Rodriquez’s Howard Beach home was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. She desperately needs the city to quickly release Build It Back funds to help homeowners rebuild.

Single mom Jean Ferrara-Rodriquez’s Howard Beach home was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. She desperately needs the city to quickly release Build It Back funds to help homeowners rebuild.

Jean Ferrera-Rodriguez, 52, said there’s mold growing on the walls of her Howard Beach home after it was flooded with six feet of water in Hurricane Sandy. About half of her first floor still needs insulation and sheetrock, she said.

But the unemployed single mom, who applied to Build It Back, said she didn’t receive enough money from her flood insurance settlement to finish the repairs. And she and her 14-year-old daughter still don’t have a refrigerator or stove.

“You have to go through hell to get your money,” she said.

City officials said “millions” have been distributed through the program — but refused to specify the exact amount or say how many grants have been awarded.

“We anticipate being able to help all homeowners who have signed up for our program,” said Mayoral spokesman Jake Goldman. This hinges on the city receiving all of its promised federal funding, he said.

Single mom Jean Ferrara-Rodriquez’s Howard Beach home was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. She desperately needs the city to quickly release Build It Back funds to help homeowners rebuild.

But homeowners shouldn’t hold their breath.

It took 18 to 24 months for Hurricane Katrina victims to receive federal rebuilding money, said Ivan Miestchovich, director of the Institute for Economic Development and Real Estate Research at the University of New Orleans.
That’s because the assistance program was mired in bureaucracy and officials followed “the guidelines of the law” to protect the city from being penalized, he said.

But the delays in New York are “stalling the recovery,” said Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach).
“The city has to allocate every penny to get our families back in their homes.”

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