Resolution calls for co-op, condo storm recovery grants

A Queens lawmaker introduced a resolution in the City Council last week calling for Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

The measure, brought forth by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., comes after many citywide co-op and condo owners found they could not receive FEMA grants for Sandy-inflicted damages.

It would push the passage of an already proposed federal law that aims to fix a glitch keeping co-op and condo owners from disaster aid.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, officials said. However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.

“Co-ops and condos are not corporations — they are people’s homes,” Vallone said. “They deserve the same assistance as other homeowners.”

Congressmember Steve Israel introduced a law in August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act and allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants.

It would also call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

A spokesperson for Israel said the bipartisan bill has 14 cosponsors so far, including Republican Congressmember Peter King, who represents parts of Long Island.

The proposed legislation currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

While a resolution is only a formal position statement, Vallone said he hopes it will “show that the city speaks with one voice for fairness” for co-op and condo owners.

The disaster aid is needed in Queens, local leaders said, where co-op and condo communities are digging into reserves to fund fixes.

Some Queens co-ops, like Glen Oaks Village, sustained more than $250,000 in damage to infrastructure, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who represents some of the most Sandy-devastated areas, said co-op and condo communities in the Rockaways are facing “astronomical” renovation costs.

Repairs to buildings destroyed by the storm could easily exceed $250,000, he said.

“Nearly a year after Superstorm Sandy, co-ops and condos are still struggling to rebuild,” Ulrich said. “Congress must act now and provide relief before it’s too late.”

The City Council resolution, introduced on September 12, sits in the Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings.

Committee Chair Erik Dilan said several Sandy-related bills that await the committee’s ruling are being “actively considered.”

“We as a committee and council are active in moving things that will help the city recover or prevent disaster from another hurricane, including the co-op resolution,” Dilan said.

If the measure moves out of committee and then passes the City Council, Vallone would then urge Congress, in a letter, to enact the federal bill.

Warren Schreiber of the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council said advocates could use the City Council’s support as a bully pulpit to boost federal efforts.

“Anything that can be done to put pressure on the federal government and educate other people is absolutely welcome,” Schreiber said. “Hopefully, it sails through the City Council.”

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