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New Yorkers affected by hurricane rally for relief

By Gloria Pazmino and Laura Nahmias
February 24, 2014

A coalition of people affected by Hurricane Sandy asked Mayor Bill de Blasio today to deliver on his campaign promise to rebuild their neighborhoods.

The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding released a report Tuesday morning showing that most homeowners hit by the storm have yet to see any of the millions of dollars they need.

The Daily News reported that more than 19,920 people applied to the city’s Build it Back program, but only 173 have signed a deal with contractors to rebuild their homes. None of the applicants have received any money to start rebuilding.

Queens assemblyman Philip Goldfeder said the number of people in his district who’ve received money from the city’s Build it Back program is “zero.”

“No homeowners in Sandy affected communities in southern Queens and the Rockaways have received any funds from the build it back program,” he said. “They’re paying mortgages and rent somewhere else. Some have moved up to different parts of the city. … They’re just waiting.”

While the city and state each received similar amounts initially from the federal government, far more city homeowners have applied for financial help. The city said in November it had more than 26,000 people applicants to its Build it Back program; the state has just a fraction of that – roughly 4,600 people.

Thus far, New York City has received $1.8 billion and the state has received $1.7 billion from the first allocation of the $50.7 billion federal Sandy aid bill that Congress approved in January 2013.

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Councilman Mark Tryger, chair of the Recovery and Resiliency committee, said he is hoping to work with the new administration. Tryger also added he would like the administration to name a “Sandy point-person.”

“We must coordinate, from all levels of government,” said Treyger. “This requires unprecedented cooperation from the local, state, and federal governments, and I know that there is a web of bureaucracy to navigate here but we must get this done.”

Goldfeder also declined to criticize the mayor for the sluggish pace of spending, because the Build it Back program began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“Don’t get me wrong; there needs to be accountability,” Goldfeder said, adding that he’d had hundreds of conversations with de Blasio’s administration, even before the mayor took office, about hurricane relief in his district.

De Blasio today attended a Staten Island meeting on Sandy recovery hosted by Borough President James Oddo. After the meeting, de Blasio said, “This was the hand we were dealt.”

“I think Build it Back, I’m still learning,” said de Blasio. “It’s self-evident that the pace has been a profound problem and that amount of paperwork and the difficulty for people completing the paperwork … has been a real problem.”

De Blasio said his administration would be conducting a review of recovery plans to figure out a way to make recovery as “streamlined as humanly possible, and as local as humanly possible.”

To read the full article, visit Capital New York.