Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that Build it Back payments were finally in the mail, and that some construction projects are now underway. The city’s new director of Housing Recovery, Amy Peterson, elaborated on the numbers at a hearing on Monday, saying only $100,000 in reimbursement checks have been mailed, and only six construction projects have begun.
That’s out of 20,000 applications.
The numbers came out during a hearing of the City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, headed by Councilman Mark Treyger. The seven-hour long hearing was spent blasting the program, for which even its new leadership agreed needs a jumpstart.
The city’s new Director of Housing Recovery Amy Peterson admitted to the Build it Back’s blunders and “overly complicated” process but promised to turn it around.
“Early missteps, unrealistic assumptions and overly complicated processes have hindered rebuilding,” she testified to the Council.
Peterson, who started her tenure on Monday as well, vowed to make up for the setbacks.
“We’re going to make sure the money gets out to people,” she said.
Peterson added that another $800,000 worth of checks will be mailed this week.
Treyger and others used the opportunity of the first public hearing on Build it Back to detail the program’s shortcomings.
“Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources, and other problems have thwarted the building of even a single home,” he said, according to Brooklyn Daily.
The new chief attributed the problems to a lack of resources, and burdensome bureaucracy, according to the Daily report.
“This process includes multiple different steps in which customers interface with variety of different contractors and specialists,” she said. “From a process standpoint, the continued passing of responsibility from one contractor to another has had the effect of diminishing accountability.”
… Other problems were the result of federal requirements, Peterson said. The program was designed to not repeat the sins of past disaster relief programs, which were rife with contractor fraud and shoddy construction.
“The intent was for clients of the program to feel assured that construction would be done correctly, to the resilient building standards, and that they would bear no risk that funds would be reclaimed or extorted,” she said.
The Sheepshead Bay – Plumb Beach Civic Association, at their meeting last night, said that after a long silence neighbors have started receiving calls from the program. Officials are setting up appointments to discuss the options for which the victims qualify, and compensation packages are being drawn up.
But the group also said that too many questions about the process remain unanswered.
“There are still a lot of things we don’t know about it,” said civic president Kathy Flynn. “We’re getting a lot of questions … we don’t have the answers. And every time they send out another e-mail,” it seems the terms have changed.
Flynn said that although the signs of movement are positive, she’s not optimistic.
“I’m not counting on them to give me anything. If I count on it, it’ll be another five years. Or forever,” she said.