It has been 17 months since Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast, leaving hundreds of houses and properties destroyed. Many are still waiting for help from the city, but last Saturday might have offered a ray of hope. Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to allocate $100 million in federal funding—originally earmarked for other recovery programs—into the Build it Back program to get every destroyed home rebuilt regardless of the homeowner’s income level.
“We’re going to reach them, no matter what priority level. So many people filled out reams of paperwork and went through hours of meetings and still haven’t see a dime of money,” said de Blasio. “This is going to be a central focus for me and my administration.”
As part of his effort to revamp the city’s slow response to the post-Sandy recovery process, de Blasio said he will increase staffing in the office that oversees the city’s Build it Back program by 35 percent. He also said checks have begun to be mailed to homeowners who were affected, and repairs and reconstruction will begin soon on 500 homes in the city through Build it Back.
“After the 17 months that already happened, we can’t let one more month go by without making significant process,” said de Blasio.
Joined by Sen. Charles Schumer, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other elected officials in a library that was hit hard by Sandy in the Rockaways, de Blasio also introduced the senior leadership team that is spearheading the recovery process, including Amy Peterson, president of Nontraditional Employment for Women, a nonprofit that helps women pursue careers in the construction field. Peterson will lead the Housing Recovery Office and Build it Back.
Also on the leadership are Daniel Zarrilli, who will serve as director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, and former MTA CEO Bill Goldstein, who will be the mayor’s senior advisor on recovery, resiliency and infrastructure.
On Saturday, Schumer criticized former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and said the Build it Back program under his leadership was “too bureaucratic,” claiming Bloomberg failed to make the recovery process a top priority.
“We want to help poor people. We also want to help a schoolteacher whose house was wiped out, or a cop and a firefighter who aren’t rich. And to say they had to wait and go to the back of the line didn’t make any sense,” said Schumer. “We put enough money in the Sandy bill to fund every homeowner.”
De Blasio said design meetings with homeowners will be announced in the days to come.
According to published reports, the city has spent less than $10 million of the $648 million that was made available for Sand- related home repairs and relief.