NYC Sandy Recovery Program to Shift Focus

More community minded and more help on the way, yet questions remain
By Genevieve Belmaker, Epoch Times
April 17, 2014 7:37 pm Last Updated: April 17, 2014 7:38 pm

NEW YORK—A full 18 months after Superstorm Sandy, the mayor announced on Thursday his plans to overhaul storm recovery work to make it more community-focused and user-friendly.

“There’s a lot of red tape to hack through,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a Staten Island press conference at a Build It Back center on Thursday. Build It Back is the city’s housing recovery program.

The mayor said his administration will now start to implement changes in an effort to right wrongs and combat problems that have caused delays, though he refrained from placing blame.

One of the most significant changes to de Blasio’s recovery plan is the allocation of 50 Department of Buildings inspectors who will be dedicated to Build It Back. The role of the inspectors, who will work out of Build It Back offices located throughout the city, will be to streamline the pre-construction process.

The mayor also said his administration’s goal by the end of the summer is to mail 500 reimbursement checks to homeowners who have already completed repairs and start 500 construction rebuilds.

Of the 20,000 applicants, only 30 have received reimbursement checks. Construction has begun on only nine homes, according to a report issued by the mayor’s office on Thursday.

When asked what the plan is for the remaining applicants, the mayor hedged.

“All 20,000? I don’t know if we have that goal yet,” said de Blasio.

The city will also appoint directors in the outer borough offices of Build It Back and work to create local jobs and community-centric recovery.

De Blasio was joined by Staten Island borough president James Oddo, as well as several members of the city council and the community. William Goldstein, the mayor’s senior Sandy recovery advisor, and Daniel Zarrilli, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, were also there. Amy Peterson, director of the city’s housing recovery office and Congressman Michael Grimm, who represents Staten Island, were noticeably absent.

Also on Thursday, city comptroller Scott Stringer announced that his office will be conducting an audit of Build It Back and will establish a Sandy Oversight Unit. Stringer plans to host a series of town hall-style meetings to talk about program ideas and audit recommendations.