New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced the formation of a Sandy Oversight Unit this morning, with its first task slated to be an audit of the Build it Back recovery program.
Stringer is targeting the program in the wake of headlines earlier this year that noted money has been distributed and construction started in only a handful of cases nearly a year after Build it Back’s launch, despite nearly 20,000 homeowners on the wait-list.
The unit will be looking to see if the Housing Recovery Office – the program that oversees Build it Back – has set goals and timetables for the delivery of services and established procedures to reduce the backlog of applications. It will also look at the quality of the service and review fraud prevention procedures, with a focus on the Single Family Program.
The Oversight Unit will draw from the Comptroller’s Audit, Contracts, Budget and Policy Units, with an overall goal of reviewing how federal aid has been spent, making recommendations to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, monitoring the progress of Sandy projects and proposing policy recommendations for managing the financial tracking in future emergencies.
To aid the review, Stringer is holding Town Hall meetings across Sandy-stricken neighborhoods to hear from residents about the problems they face. The following locations and dates have been set:
- April 30 in Breezy Point from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bay House, 500 Bayside Drive, Breezy Point, NY
- May 6 in Coney Island from 6 to 8 p.m.
Coney Island Hospital, 2601 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
- May 20 in the Rockaways from 6 to 8 p.m.
Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 348 Beach 71st Street, Arverne, NY
- May 28 in Staten Island from 6 to 8 p.m.
Olympia Activity Center (OAC), 1126 Olympia Blvd., Staten Island, NY
Mayor Bill de Blasio is already seeking to increase the efficiency of the program, announcing today that his office has completed a report that will kickstart the process, getting money out to homeowners faster. Details of those reforms will be made public later today.
Meanwhile, the mayor is also seeking to slash the property tax bills of 1,500 city residents who have rebuilt or repaired their homes since Superstorm Sandy. He announced yesterday that his office is pushing for support in Albany to provide a property tax credit for Sandy victims.
Construction and renovations to a home can trigger a higher assessment value, even if it’s solely for Sandy recovery. The bill would allow the city to grant partial property-tax abatement to nullify the higher assessed value from those repairs.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
To be eligible, homeowners would have to meet three criteria. First, the city had to reduce the valuation of the homeowner’s property in fiscal year 2014 from the value in 2013 because of Sandy damage. Second, the city would have had to increase the assessed value of the property for fiscal year 2015 compared with 2014. And, lastly, the 2015 assessed value of the building must exceed 2013’s.
While the city controls its property-tax rate, the Legislature and governor must approve special abatements like this.
The mayor has six weeks to gather support and pass the reforms before city property tax bills are delivered.