City plan helps speed home repairs post-storm

City plan helps speed home repairs post-storm
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Karen Frantz

The city is assessing damage to houses and apartments in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and has started a program to help owners quickly make needed repairs, such as fixes to electrical systems that will help restore power.

The Rapid Repairs program, announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last week, allows homeowners to sign up with a Federal Emergency Management Agency ID number to be matched with inspectors, electricians, plumbers and other tradespeople contracted by the city to make fast repairs to damaged buildings.

“We have an awful lot of houses to get to. It is going to take some time, but we’re trying to do this as fast as ever been done before,” Bloomberg said at a news conference Tuesday.

The program is a shortcut to the regular FEMA process for repairs in which homeowners must arrange for their own repair work.

Bloomberg said the program should particularly help homeowners whose power cannot be turned back on even though utility companies have restored electricity to their street because their electrical wiring might have been compromised by floodwater. He said the majority of people now without power need to have repairs made before their electricity can be restored.

Meanwhile, the city Department of Buildings is also assessing damage to houses and apartments and is using color-coded stickers to let residents know if their homes are safe to re-enter or if they need repairs.

“This is part of the department’s rapid assessment process to conduct as many initial inspections as quickly as possible and provide New Yorkers with information on the status of their buildings,” said a spokeswoman with the department, Ryan FitzGibbon in an e-mail.

FitzGibbon said 58,000 buildings had been inspected citywide as of last week. Areas in Queens included Arverne, Bayswater, Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Rockaway Point, Broad Channel, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Hamilton Beach, Hunter’s Point, Meadowmere, Neponsit, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, Roxbury and Seaside.

The placards are coded green, yellow or red, with the following meanings:

• Green means there is no apparent structural damage to a building and it is safe to enter, but it may still be flooded or other hazardous conditions may still exist.

• Yellow means the building is damaged, although the type of damage could range from a compromised electrical system to a localized structural problem that makes part of the building unsafe. Buildings with a yellow placard may have entry limitations listed on the placard, along with the type of damage sustained.

• Red means the building is seriously damaged and unsafe to enter.

Nearly 90 percent of all buildings that have been inspected have been tagged with green placards, with 9.5 percent tagged with yellow cards and 1.5 percent tagged with red placards, FitzGibbon said.

Bloomberg said houses with green stickers will be among the first inspected and repaired by Rapid Response teams because many would need minimal work before power, heat or water could be restored.

“And then we’ll work our ways up the chain,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.