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City Condemning Hurricane Victims to Moldy Fate, Say Advocates

By March Bussanich
February 27, 2013


A coalition of community-based groups held a presser on the steps of City Hall to offer solutions to get families displaced by Hurricane Sandy out of hotels and back into affordable housing. Errol Riley, a displaced Far Rockaway resident, said that city agencies are failing the storm’s victims by forcing families to move back into mold-infested units.

According to the groups, including the Coalition for the Homeless, New York Communities for Change, Legal Services NYC and Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, there are over 2,000 displaced households still living in temporary hotels and shelters paid for by the City of New York and FEMA.

The groups presented a blueprint minutes before a City Council hearing on the city’s response to displaced New Yorkers.

They recommend that the city request 10,000 Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers to help evacuees quickly secure housing, as well as re-locate evacuees from temporary hotels into city-subsidized units and New York City Housing Authority public housing. Over the long term, they recommend that the city repair the existing affordable housing stock and that new housing construction include affordable options.

Inside City Hall, city housing officials highlighted their efforts thus far, such as the Rapid Repairs program to help residents make permanent repairs rebuilding their communities; the Housing Portal created to give displaced families exclusive access to vacant apartments; and the Mold Training and Remediation program to treat and remove mold at no cost to homeowners.

Brad Gair, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations, said that after surveying the hardest hit regions, his office ascribed three main categories to the city’s housing damage: Rebuilding over 800 buildings (over 900 units) because they’re structurally unsound; major damage to approximately 1,700 buildings (over 19,000 units) and less severe damage to nearly 16,000 buildings (over 40,000 units).

Jody Bearden, an assistant commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services, said that the department contracts with three providers, Samaritan Village, SCO Family of Services and the Bowery Residents’ Committee, with nearly 65 case management workers on the ground to help people and families relocate from temporary hotels into permanent housing.

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