Archive for the tag 'michael bloomberg'

Sheepshead Bay’s Randazzo’s after the flood.

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.

Metro reports:

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.

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.

Photo by Erica Sherman

With new reports every week about the growing frustration New York City’s Superstorm Sandy victims feel towards recovery programs, Mayor Bill de Blasio has acknowledged that the city “needs to do better,” and said his administration will find a new approach.

Wall Street Journal reports:

“Some of [the inefficiencies in relief] is in the way that the federal law was written that made this very complicated,” Mr. de Blasio said Sunday in response to a question at a news conference.

“Some of it was on the implementation side, and New York City needs to do better,” he said.

He said he agreed with Mr. Bloomberg’s focus on resiliency and fortifying the city for future storms.

But he said he didn’t think “the effort to respond to the needs of a lot of folks affected by Sandy was as strong as it should have been.”

“We intend to come in with a different approach,” he said.

It’s being seen as a rebuke of the approach of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, whose administration was instrumental to the rollout of the programs now confounding residents – including Build it Back, which has distributed only $9.7 million of the $648 million allocated for it.

According to the city’s own Sandy Tracker website, 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.

By comparison, the state received $838 million for housing recovery from the federal government, and has already written $573 million in checks to more than 7,000 homeowners.

While de Blasio implied criticism of Bloomberg’s approach, the new mayor has not yet appointed a head of Build it Back. City Councilman Mark Treyger of Coney Island has called for the appointment of a Sandy recovery czar to help hold the city accountable.

De Blasio did not elaborate on the “different approach” he intends to pursue.

brigham

ONLY ON SHEEPSHEAD BITES: After many years, proposals, battles and studies, the plans to begin work on Sheepshead Bay’s newest green space, Brigham Street Park, are finally unveiled.

The park will be sited at Brigham Street, sandwiched between Emmons Avenue and the waterfront. The current site is now a rubble-filled lot abutting the entrance to the bike path and greenway leading out to Plumb Beach. That entrance is about to get a whole lot more appealing with what looks like might be the new gem of Emmons Avenue’s eastern terminus.

The park will feature a playground, walking path, picnic tables and lots and lots of greenery.

Let’s take a closer look at the plans currently being circulated to local leaders by the Parks Department, and which will go for approval by the Public Design Commission later this month.

Check out the plans!

Source: Travel Salem/Flickr

I’m not one to go tanning at a salon, but I’ve got enough carrot-toned neighbors to know it’s a pretty popular pastime in our area. So I thought I’d pass along the news that the Bloomberg administration has announced a new set of regulations for tanning salons and will soon begin inspections to ensure compliance.

The biggest policy changes is a new requirement that the Health Department inspect tanning salons, UV machines and timers every two years, and that salons install signs warning customers of the dangers of skin cancer that could result from use of the equipment.

While conducting inspections, the Health department will also be checking permits, according to the New York Post, as there are at least 100 tanning salons that are operating illegally in New York City.

Here are a few more details from the paper:

Operators of UV equipment for the first time would undergo training.

The department will also enforce the state law that bars adolescents under 17 from frequenting tanning salons and launch a public education campaign at salons to warn New Yorkers — particularly adolescents — of the dangers of absorbing too much UV radiation.

So is this more nanny-ism, or good public health policy? You tell us.

nyrising

Residents help with long-term planning at a NY Rising meeting.

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article last week, examining the different and competing visions of city and state administrators when it comes to using the billions of dollars received for Superstorm Sandy recovery.

In short, the city wants to use it for long-term resiliency initiatives. The state wants to see the money funneled to homeowners seeking relief.

Here’s the nut of it:

More than a year after superstorm Sandy, the mounting frustration illustrates a broader dilemma for policy makers in New York City and Albany: Is it better to invest in pricey measures that protect the many or to help those hardest hit immediately?

The question is at the heart of different approaches taken by the city and state in how they distribute federal funds they received to help the region recover.

The city has decided to spend about $300 million of the nearly $1.8 billion it received in the first round on what is known as resiliency, or efforts to protect against future storms. The state, by contrast, has set aside just $30 million of the $1.7 billion it received on resiliency, including increasing public awareness about safe rebuilding and helping places like hospitals and nursing homes create energy backup systems.

About $650 million of the first round of federal funding the city received is being spent on housing recovery, while the state is spending about $840 million on far fewer applicants.

As it stands now, the city has only allocated enough funds to handle approximately 4,000 of the 26,000 applicants to the Build it Back program, and is prioritizing based on financial need. The program will receive another chunk of funds soon, a representative for Mayor Bloomberg said.

What do you think? Should the city have prioritized direct assistance to victims at the cost of long-term planning? Or is it better to get the big projects underway while the political will still exists?

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. Photo by Erica Sherman

BETWEEN THE LINES: For more than a decade, Michael R. Bloomberg governed the Big Apple. Entering politics after years as a business entrepreneur, he adapted to the process and departs with conspicuous accomplishments. To paraphrase an iconic line from a Grateful Dead song: It’s been a long, sometimes contentious, yet triumphant trip.

Some Election Day exit polls indicated that more than half of those surveyed approved of Bloomberg as mayor, but they also felt it was time the city had a new direction. And while no one can predict the future, a change is gonna come.

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Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

Lady Justice, atop the Fontaine de la Justice in Cudrefin, Switzerland. Source: Wikimedia

A federal judge has come down hard on the outgoing Bloomberg administration, ruling that the city has inadequate plans for helping the disabled evacuate should a major disaster like Superstorm Sandy strike the city again. WNYC is reporting that Judge Jesse Furman’s ruling came from a lawsuit waged by the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled and the Center for Independence of the Disabled who argued that the city violated the Americans with Disability Act.

According to Furman, the city’s plans for the disabled in case of a major emergency were insufficient.

“Most significantly, the city’s plans are inadequate to ensure that people with disabilities are able to evacuate before or during an emergency; they fail to provide sufficiently accessible shelters; and they do not sufficiently inform people with disabilities of the availability and location of accessible emergency services,” Furman wrote in his ruling.

WNYC listed three crucial foundations of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled’s lawsuit that Furman agreed with:

  • Many of the evacuation shelters were inaccessible to people in wheelchairs;
  • There was inadequate transportation to help disabled people evacuate, especially from high-rises;
  • Emergency officials had no plan to find and rescue those trapped after an emergency.

While Furman came down hard on the Bloomberg administration as far as the disabled go, he did praise them for doing an otherwise “outstanding” job when it came to preparing for future catastrophes.

The Bloomberg administration tried to hold the ruling in a positive light in a statement:

“While we are disappointed with the Court’s conclusions, we are gratified it recognized that the City’s extensive planning is impressive, and the efforts and valor of those responding to emergencies have been ‘extraordinary.’ Planning for the needs of people with disabilities has always been and remains a priority for the City. We are continuing to review this decision and assess our next steps.”

Here’s hoping that city administrators take this ruling seriously and find a way to adequately accommodate the city’s disabled should another disaster strike.

Are you disabled or have disabled family or friends that were in the evacuation zone during Superstorm Sandy? What was your experience like?

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Source: aresauburn via flickr

Senator Charles Schumer sent a message to anxious New Yorkers, still waiting to receive repairs and funds for their Superstorm Sandy devastated homes: the money is coming. Newsday is reporting that Schumer promised that the city will receive $6.3 billion in aid in 2014, a figure that will hopefully address the cash shortages for the Sandy-related projects of 2013.

Last week, we reported that city officials with the Bloomberg administration were worried that the “Build it Back” program was short about $1.9 billion. Schumer is now declaring that in 2014, of the $6.3 billion heading the city’s way, $1.4 billion will be used directly for homeowners affected by Sandy, nearly covering the shortage. Newsday reported on comments made by Schumer at a press conference promising the flow of federal dollars and acknowledged the hiccups in the process:

“The spigot is now open,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in Manhattan. “A year from now, people will feel a whole lot better about the Sandy process than they do today.”

He acknowledged frustration with the pace of spending this year, blaming red tape and the need to establish new programs to disburse the funds. “It should’ve been quicker,” he said.

NBC News reported more fully on the money breakdown:

He said $2.5 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go to New York communities in 2014 to pay for permanent projects as well as reimbursement for repairs already done.

Additionally, Schumer expects at least $1.5 billion in storm-related transportation projects in New York to receive funding.

Smaller pots of money will go to fund coastal protection projects, green infrastructure and health-related projects.

Schumer said another $207 million will be allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan.

If Schumer’s words prove true, it looks like Sheepshead Bay could expect a good year come 2014. I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

Source: Andre R. Aragon / FEMA.gov

Source: Andre R. Aragon / FEMA.gov

The city announced that it might not have enough money to cover all the 24,000 applicants of the “Build it Back” program, leaving officials scrambling for solutions to address the needs of thousands of homeowners devastated by Superstorm Sandy. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the city is approximately $1.9 billion short on funds.

Currently, the city has $648 million to spend on housing repairs while it is estimated that $2.6 billion will be needed to cover all the homeowners that have applied for assistance. The Journal described the breakdown of the federal money allocated to the city and addressed the fears of officials in coming up with the extra cash:

So far, the city has been given about $1.8 billion in federal grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which pays for the program. It decided to spend the $648 million on housing, about $700 million on resiliency measures and about $300 million on grants to stricken businesses.

With $648 million, the “Build it Back” program can rebuild about 4,000 homes for lower-income people and wouldn’t be able to reimburse for repairs already made, according to the city’s rebuilding office.

“We don’t know how much money we are going to get. We got $1.8 billion. We know that’s not going to cover everybody or even going to be close,” said Cas Holloway, a deputy mayor.

Mr. Holloway and state officials said they expected further allocations from the federal government but weren’t certain of the timing or the amount. A spokeswoman for Housing and Urban Development didn’t respond to a request for comment.

City officials expressed increased frustration with the slow pace of Washington when it comes to distributing the necessary funds. Officials blamed the red tape of Washington for the turtle-like pace of aid distribution and already noted its consequences:

New York officials said federal rules, some implemented after Katrina, have required them to perform lengthy tasks, such as conducting environmental reviews on every home that must be repaired and determining whether rebuilding work is happening on Native American burial grounds…

The slow pace of distributing the portion of the money meant for housing has had widespread effects, New York officials said. Many who lost their homes during the storm have lived for months in hotels at government expense, stayed in cramped quarters with family and friends, paid rent on apartments while falling behind on mortgage payments or lived in homes without kitchens or other amenities.

Some said they had all but given up on getting help.

“Do I have any faith in it? Not really,” Nicole Chati, a resident of New Dorp Beach on Staten Island, said of city programs to help her rebuilding her home. “I’ve gone through so much of, ‘We’re going to help, we’re going to help,’ and it’s just not there.”

Brad Gair, the city’s housing recovery director, blamed the system for holdups.

“It’s very, very difficult to get this money. It’s very hard to explain to people. It’s very hard to keep their trust in a process like this,” Gair told the Journal. “We’ve got to fix this system.”

To date, only one homeowner, a Staten Island resident, has received funds through Build it Back’s acquisition program.

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