Howard Beach residents urged to sign up for Sandy Build it Back program before deadline

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder’s office

Laura DeMarie continues to repair her Howard Beach home nearly one year after Sandy.

“The storm was very scary,” she said. “We saw the water pouring down our avenue. We had a sewer in our basement, it came halfway up our staircase.”

DeMarie, like the majority of her neighbors, needed to replace things both inside and outside of her 157th Avenue home.

She stayed the whole night that fateful Monday in October, “under a blanket, in the cold.”

Once the rain and wind subsided, DeMarie needed a new roof, new kitchen cabinets, furniture, appliances, garden tools, car and more in the home she shares with her elderly mother and sister.

She additionally had about six feet of water in her basement, but said she still hasn’t done anything to repair it because “it’s too much money.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

For the repairs thus far, DeMarie has used home insurance money, FEMA grants, Catholic Charities donations and roughly $5,000 of her own money. Most recently, she and her sister signed up for the city’s Build it Back program.

The recently designed program is meant to assist storm-affected homeowners, landlords and tenants by providing different pathways to help them return to permanent, sustainable housing by addressing unmet housing recovery needs.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder went door-to-door throughout Howard Beach to educate the unaware about the program and help them sign up before the September 30 deadline.

“Having been through this process personally, I know how many scams are out there and how many programs families have received,” Goldfeder said. “I understand the skepticism, so I wanted to personally go out and erase some of that fear.”

DeMarie signed up for Build it Back in July and has yet to see any results.

“We’d like some funds to help us along,” she said of the program. “I don’t know why they’re taking so long.”

Goldfeder said the program is “going slowly,” but credits the city with “trying to get all of their ducks in a row” to determine “families who need it the most” before they start handing out recovery funds.

“I understand and appreciate that people need the money right away. I also understand the need to get the program right,” he said.

He added that the percentage of homeowners in Howard Beach who signed up for Build it Back was significantly lower than the rest of the affected region.

“I think it’s important for every family that is in need of the money to make themselves whole again or to recover from the storm to sign up for the program,” he said.

As for DeMarie and her family, the waiting game continues.

“We’re just expecting a little help, not much,” she said.




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