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NY Sandy Rebuilding Effort Falling Short: Report

By Erin Durkin
February 24, 2014

Sixteen months after Hurricane Sandy, homeowners looking for help rebuilding are still waiting.

Of the 19,920 people who applied for the city’s Build It Back program for home repairs, which started last June, not a single homeowner has seen construction work start.

And only 110 – or 0.55% – had inked a deal on how much aid they’re going to get as of the end of January, according to city data analyzed by the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding in a report to be released Monday. The city says that number has since ticked up to 173.

That’s left the low-income homeowners who are supposed to get priority from the program in a bind, advocates say.

“It is really a life line for folks who don’t have any other means to do repairs,” said Nathalie Alegre, coordinator of the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding. “It’s extremely concerning the program hasn’t been able to speed up to the degree people need to get on with our lives.”

De Blasio officials noted the city only has federal cash for about 4500 homeowners classified as top priority based on their income and the level of damage, and has held meetings and made offers to 1792 of those, some of whom are still mulling their options. But they said they’re looking to make changes.

“The mayor shares the urgency of families who have been waiting months to rebuild and get back in their homes,” said spokesman Phil Walzak. “That’s why we’ve set in motion a top-to-bottom review of programs with the goal of making those efforts more effective, as well as make sure we are giving New Yorkers more opportunity to do the work of rebuilding.”

Apartment buildings haven’t fared much better under the program, funded with federal Sandy aid.

Only three of the 1051 buildings that signed up – a mere 0.29% – have seen repair work begin, according to the report. Some 228 of those are in the high priority group, according to the city.

And only 178 of the 600 disaster rental assistance vouchers that were funded have been handed out.

The group plans to hold a rally Monday at City Hall to step up the pressure on de Blasio, who pledged during the campaign to overhaul the city’s approach to Sandy rebuilding.

[…]

“We’re still hopeful that based on the promises the mayor made during the campaign, we will see a real shift on how the recovery and rebuilding effort is handled,” said Joseph McKellar, executive director of Faith in New York, which includes several congregations in hard-hit Far Rockaway. “But folks are frustrated also.”

Besides cutting red tape to speed up the Built It Back program, the group is also pushing de Blasio to reopen the program to new applications, saying many homeowners in need did not know about it before the registration deadline.

They are also pushing for more local hiring requirements for recovery work – saying rules should be toughened so that 30% of wages paid have to go to locals, instead of 30% of individuals hired.

And they want landlords who get aid to be subject to affordable housing requirements.

Read the full article at New York Daily News.