By Sarina Trangle
After his first year in office, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration touted what it described as a complete revamp of the Build it Back program.
City Hall said it exceeded goals outlined this summer of cutting 1,500 reimbursement checks for Hurricane Sandy recovery work undertaken by landlords and of beginning construction work on 1,000 homes by 2015.
As of Dec. 31, the administration said reconstruction had gotten under way at 1,002 homes and 2,104 reimbursement checks had been mailed.
In Queens, 9,132 single-family properties have pending Build it Back applications, 3,852 have had damage assessed and been given program options and 2,033 have selected a path, including the 708 who have received reimbursement checks and the 330 where rebuilding has begun, according to the city’s Sandy Funding Tracking tool. As of Monday, 97 homes had construction completed.
Progress appears to be a bit slower on multi-family homes. The Sandy Funding Tracker said Build it Back has received 162 such applications in Queens, completed inspections at 94, started construction on three sites and approved a dozen reimbursement checks, as of Monday.
Amy Peterson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, noted the initiative, which was started under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to assist homeowners, landlords and renters affected by the 2012 storm, had not broken ground on any homes before de Blasio assumed the mayorship.
“Since Mayor de Blasio overhauled Build it Back, homeowners have seen increased flexibility, improved communication and – most importantly – real results,” Peterson said in a statement. “In 2015, we’re going to build on that progress by dramatically expanding design and construction capacity to ensure that every homeowner gets the relief they need.”
Faith in New York, which helped start the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding and packed more than 1,000 people into Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica this summer to demand changes to the administration’s Sandy efforts, said most of its requests had been fulfilled.
“We’ve been very pleased,” said Onleilove Alston, the group’s interim executive director. “One of our demands was for weekly check-in calls and meetings with the mayor’s administration… and those took place weekly after the forum.”
Faith in New York said the administration had redirected $200 million to help families pay for temporary housing as their permanent homes were rebuilt, extended rental assistance for up to four years and set aside $3 million for workforce development and training with the goal of staffing at least 20 percent of Sandy rebuilding work with Sandy victims.
On the other side of Queens, Joann Ariola, of the Howard Beach-Lindenwood Civic, said people have noticed a marked improvement. But she said many still have questions, particularly about how high homes have to be raised in Hamilton Beach and Broad Channel.
“There’s still a ways to go,” she said. “We’re in the process of having Build it Back come to our Jan. 27 meeting for any concerns or questions residents have.”
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4546.