Photo by Erica Sherman
Four months after taking office, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced over the weekend that he is renewing the push to help victims of Superstorm Sandy, including reallocating $100 million in funds specifically targeted to residential rebuilding.
The mayor also repeated his vow to cut through the red tape that has long plagued recovery efforts, and has made three appointments he says will be key in moving the efforts along.
The New York Times reports:
Bill Goldstein, most recently the executive vice president of the MTA Capital Construction Company, will be a senior adviser to the mayor, overseeing all recovery programs.
Amy Peterson, the president of Nontraditional Employment for Women, which offers training for women in industries like construction, will direct the city’s Housing Recovery Office. Daniel A. Zarrilli, the acting director of the city’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, will lead the newly formed Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
The $100 million in aid will fill a critical gap. Previous aid money was first distributed to assist poorer hurricane victims deemed “priority one” by the city. Victims labeled “priority two” and “priority three” had been told they would have to wait. Many of these lower-priority homeowners are city employees — police officers, teachers, firefighters — with limited incomes or savings.
This money, the mayor’s office said, will ensure that all homeowners with destroyed homes can build new ones, regardless of the homeowner’s priority level.
The funds are expected to cover the cost of approximately 500 homes.
Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Housing Recovery office, which oversees the Build it Back program, will have a staffing boost of 35 percent, bringing the total number to more than 100 employees.
The announcement follows headlines critical of the Build it Back program, which has so far failed at distributing any of the $648 million in aid. As of February, none of the nearly 20,000 single family homes (defined as homes with between one and four residential units) registered for the program have started construction, and only 154 of those registrants have had their awards selected.
However, the city has ramped up the process in recent week. The city’s own Sandy Tracker website, last updated in mid-March, shows that the number of registrants with their awards selected has more than tripled. Although not reflected on the tracker website, de Blasio claims the agency has recently sent out the first batch of reimbursement checks, and that some construction projects are already underway.