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City gets $640M in Sandy aid

Photo courtesy Michael Bloomberg
By Philip Newman

New York City will provide more than $640 million in federal money to help thousands in the city, including residents of the Rockaways and other parts of Queens still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

The process will start next month and registration has already begun.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced at City Hall Monday that the program, Build It Back, will include grants and loans to New Yorkers recovering from the hurricane, which struck more than seven months ago.

The Rockaways and Broad Channel were devastated by the superstorm, leaving such severe damage behind that empty homes and shuttered businesses are still scattered through some areas.

The process includes the possibility of selling a wrecked home.

Bloomberg said eligible city residents can start registering by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov.

“Hurricane Sandy was the worst storm ever to hit New York City and we are launching a new program to continue the road to recovery,” Bloomberg said. “Through NYC Build It Back, we are making our federal aid package simple and understandable and tailoring assistance to the specific needs of the families and businesses most impacted by Sandy. Whether it’s personal assistance in the rebuilding process or reimbursements for completed repairs, this program will provide a new infusion of support to help families, neighborhoods and businesses come back stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

Officials said $648 million was to be spent on helping New Yorkers as part of federal disaster recovery enacted by Congress for victims of the hurricane.

Beginning next month, those who have registered will be contacted by Housing Recovery Specialists, who will help them review their options and guide them through each step of the process, officials said.

Officials said Build It Back provides four ways to get help for those whose properties were devastated by Sandy:

1. Build It Back can help eligible participants whose homes require minor to moderate repairs. Registrants also have the option of choosing their own contractor within federal and program guidelines.

2. If a home is substantially damaged or needs to be rebuilt, qualifying participants can choose a home model design specifically for their own community, that uses the best available resiliency standards and is designed by a Build It Back developer. Alternatively, registrants can choose their own architect and contractor to develop and build their homes within federal and program guidelines.

3. The city can also help participants recover eligible out-of-pocket costs for minor repairs already made to their homes that satisfy all U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other requirements.

4. Some owners may want to voluntarily sell their homes and, in some cases, the city will be able to work with communities to strategically redevelop these properties in a smarter, more resilient way.

Housing recovery specialists will be able to explain these options.

Not long after the storm, the city led a fast disaster recovery effort, helping more than 20,000 families return to their homes through the Rapid Repairs program and that work continues.

Elected officials from Queens hailed the news.

“This is welcomed news to homeowners still struggling to rebuild their homes more than seven months after Hurricane Sandy,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “I thank the mayor for his continued efforts that build on the recovery programs already in place. This effort will help homeowners, landlords and tenants whose lives and properties have been disrupted by the storm that will leave its mark on our communities.”

“This new program will greatly benefit those who paid out of pocket to immediately repair their Sandy-damaged property,” said state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park).

Assemblyman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said, “Seven months after Superstorm Sandy, my constituents are still rebuilding their homes, businesses and lives. I am grateful to the mayor’s administration for providing additional assistance and guidance towards the full recovery of those in need.”

“The Build It Back program will streamline the often complex grant and loans process for New Yorkers affected by Superstorm Sandy,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I fought hard to make sure the Sandy relief bill included the federal resources that New Yorkers need to get their lives back to normal after the storm, and this program will make sure those in need receive the aid they are eligible for,” Schumer said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said, “This will get critical aid to New Yorkers in need and is another important milestone in the recovery process.”

“Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg and his administration for developing yet another innovative initiative to help New Yorkers recover from Hurricane Sandy,” said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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