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Mayor’s bill makes it easier to tear down Sandy-damaged homes

By Julianne Cuba

The wrecked homes Hurricane Sandy left standing will be gone soon.Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to speed up the city’s sluggish Sandy-recovery program Build It Back, which has struggled to rebuild victims’ homes more than four years after the historic storm. Hizzoner signed a new law Nov. 2 that makes it easier for contractors to get the permits they need to demolish damaged homes.

De Blasio recently admitted the program won’t meet his self-imposed deadline to fix all Sandy-destroyed homes by the end of the year, but this new bill is a step in the right direction, he said.

“We’ve been very upfront about the fact that we have not made as much progress as we intended to and we have fallen short and we have to do better,” he said. “This bill gives us the ability to help more families return faster and it will not comprise the design or the safety of these homes.”

The new bill will allow homeowners to fix their homes more quickly in two ways.

• Contractors will be able to begin demolition before filing all the necessary paperwork. Officials will employ licensed safety professionals on site during teardowns to ensure safety, a city spokesman said.

• The city will waive certain violations and fines that homeowners may have incurred before Build It Back began in 2013 that would otherwise have to be resolved before the program can begin work on their homes.

De Blasio inherited the fraught program from his predecessor, and rejiggered it in 2014, but he caught flak earlier this year for threatening to kick people out of the program in an effort to meet his goal of finishing work by year’s end.

The bill will help families in construction gridlock years after the storm, said Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), who chairs the Council’s Committee on Resiliency and Recovery.

“Four long years after Superstorm Sandy ran roughshod over our coastal areas, many of our neighbors are still waiting to be made whole, waiting for their recovery process to be over, waiting for their promised return to normalcy,” he said. “This long overdue piece of legislation will help hasten the safe return home of hundreds of families currently enrolled in the Build It Back program.”

Reach Brooklyn Daily reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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