De Blasio Administration Releases Comprehensive Sandy Report, Announces Major Overhaul To Accelerate Recovery

April 17, 2014

Major improvements include expedited pre-construction, expanded eligibility, direct financial relief for homeowners, real community engagement, & commitment to local jobs

Administration also announces major progress on construction, reimbursements following initial efforts to cut red tape and expedite relief

NEW YORK—The de Blasio administration today released a comprehensive diagnostic report on the city’s response to Hurricane Sandy, including an extensive set of recommendations to provide financial relief to homeowners and businesses and engage communities directly in the rebuilding process.

The report represents a major overhaul of currently active recovery programs—including expediting the process for families and businesses currently rebuilding and expanding eligibility for immediate relief; using the rebuilding and recovery process to expand economic opportunity and create job pathways for more New Yorkers; and improving coordination within the city and across levels of government. The report also provides details on the city’s infrastructure-related efforts to rebuild a stronger, more resilient New York to protect against future extreme weather and climate change.

This report follows a number of improvements made since January to cut red tape and move homeowners through the pre-construction process much more rapidly—resulting in the first reimbursement checks going out and first construction starting last month. As a result of these efforts, the pace of homeowner interaction, decision-making, and receipt of financial support has increased dramatically in the past three months, with momentum growing.

“We can’t stand idly by as red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks prevent far too many New Yorkers from getting the relief they need. That’s why, from day one, we prioritized more efficient recovery. And now, we’ve laid out a blueprint to provide critical financial relief to homeowners and directly engage communities in the rebuilding process—all while continuing our work to ensure a stronger and more resilient New York,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The full report is available at: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/reports/2014/sandy_041714.pdf

To provide financial relief and expedite recovery for homeowners, the city will:

  • Improve the experience of homeowners navigating the pre-construction process by:
    • Faster and easier selection by homeowners of various forms of relief, including the Acquisition and Choose-Your-Own-Contractor pathways.
    • Assigning staff from the Department of Buildings to work on Build It Back exclusively and expanding staff support for homeowners.
    • Committing to a goal of at least 500 homes started into construction and 500 reimbursement checks issued by the end of summer 2014.
  • Expand eligibility for acquisition and reimbursement so more households can get relief by:
    • Eliminating priority levels to ensure that no applicant’s income will be a reason to disqualify him or her from access to rebuild, reimbursement, or acquisition funds; this follows the administration’s announcement in late March that it will eliminate priority levels for homes that must be rebuilt.
  • Provide additional financial support to impacted homeowners by:
    • Developing a plan to better address temporary displacement during construction.
    • Offering relief from New York City water bills for vacant homes.
    • Partnering with state legislators and the Department of Finance to provide property tax relief to Sandy-impacted homeowners.
    • Working with the American Red Cross to expand rental assistance to serve the needs of undocumented immigrants who were physically displaced from their homes by Sandy.
  • Enhance coordination among city, state, and federal partners by:
    • Establishing the Sandy Community Improvement Initiative to expedite and coordinate city services and capital projects in impacted neighborhoods.
    • Convening a regular interagency working group at City Hall to set priorities, streamline the recovery process, and resolve ongoing issues; hiring additional staff at relevant city agencies to expedite the design and construction process.
    • Creating a regional Sandy group that brings together the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, New Jersey, New York State, and New York City to coordinate housing recovery activities, share best practices, and expedite services.
  • Improving the business recovery effort by:
    • Pursuing ways to expand eligibility for the Hurricane Sandy Business Recovery Loan and Grant program, expedite processing, and expand intensive technical assistance for businesses affected by the storm that are seeking grants or loans.
    • Working with HUD to increase the individual program award limit for businesses.

To better engage local communities in the rebuilding efforts, the city will:

  • Support a high-quality, local workforce in rebuilding efforts by:
    • Creating a new position reporting to the Director of the Housing Recovery Office entirely focused on workforce development and the employment of local residents, including public housing residents.
    • Creating a working group including community groups, labor organizations, and other partners to advise on workforce development initiatives and help in developing solutions.
    • Engaging local workforce development partners in coordinating Section 3 implementation.
    • Partnering with local community groups and elected officials to hold recruitment events with unions, pre-apprenticeship programs, and workforce development programs to recruit local residents for construction careers.
  • Engage communities through the recovery process by:
    • Appointing borough directors in Staten Island, Queens and Brooklyn with authority to direct city agencies to increase community engagement and coordination.
    • Bringing Build it Back staff directly into the community (including at elected officials’ offices) and increasing the program’s presence in underserved neighborhoods.
    • Working with local non-profit organizations that can directly aid homeowners throughout the Build It Back process.
  • Improve public communication by:
    • Developing a new web portal that allows applicants to track their status in real time, including by viewing and submitting paperwork.
    • Releasing a user-friendly guidebook, available online and in many languages.

The report follows a number of other Build it Back improvements announced in late March to cut red tape and improve the process for homeowners.

Today’s report also highlights the ways in which the Mayor’s new Office of Recovery and Resiliency will ensure that rebuilding and hazard mitigation efforts lead to a stronger, more resilient New York, including:

  • Enhanced policy and planning of long-term climate resiliency efforts across the city and the region and improved coordination between city agencies in the implementation of recovery and resiliency initiatives, securing funds, and disclosure of key information via the Sandy Tracker.
  • Expedited efforts to secure additional federal funding and expand resiliency upgrades through FEMA, HUD, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal partners.
  • Continued collaboration with state recovery and resiliency planning processes.
  • Expanded economic opportunity for New Yorkers through recovery and resiliency efforts and more effective support for small businesses.

“I am pleased that Mayor de Blasio understands the urgent need that still exists in neighborhoods across the city,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger, Chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency. “It is encouraging that his administration has heard the concerns and frustrations raised by residents at recent hearings and has incorporated many of their ideas in this plan. We are finally putting the pieces in place to better expedite the recovery process and help victims rebuild their lives and communities. As we move forward, it is essential that we focus on getting reimbursement checks to those who have emptied out their life savings. This process also requires working closely with community organizations that already serve these neighborhoods and can best advocate for local residents. I am very encouraged by recent steps to speed up the recovery, and I will work with the Mayor until every New Yorker who was impacted by this storm is back on their feet. After all, this effort will ultimately be judged by the realities on the ground and by our ability to deliver real results to every storm victim.”

“Hurricane Sandy revealed the underlying and growing racial and economic inequality in our city, with our most vulnerable communities already struggling with high levels of unemployment, rising rents, and widespread poverty before the storm hit. Clergy and faith leaders from all five boroughs applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment today to make New York City a national model for the creation of local, living wage jobs and career pathways for New Yorkers to rebuild their own city, instead of importing workers from other cities or states. We know that a resilient people means a more resilient New York, and the estimated $3.3 billion in federal rebuilding funds this year give us 3.3 billion reasons to create good, local career opportunities for families. There is still much to be done towards growing together as a city after Sandy, instead of growing further apart. We look forward to working with the administration to set big, concrete goals for job creation in our local communities, and to create a plan to produce deeply affordable housing during the coming months,” said Rev. Arthur Davenport of First Church of God in Far Rockaway and Faith in New York.

“While I am heartened to see New Yorkers finally begin to rebound from the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy, the reality for many families and businesses is that the road to recovery is far from over,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley. “I commend Mayor de Blasio for recommitting our city to the rebuilding process and spurring the recovery for many homeowners for whom relief cannot come soon enough.”

“A year and a half after Hurricane Sandy hammered our region, many New Yorkers continue to recover from the devastation,” said U.S. Rep. Grace Meng. “I applaud Mayor de Blasio for advancing recovery efforts, so that affected residents and communities can finally receive the relief they desperately need.”

“New Yorkers who live and work in communities that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy have faced many challenges,” said U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel. “As the dean of the state’s congressional delegation, I was proud of our bipartisan effort to swiftly secure funding for the recovery efforts, and I applaud the Mayor for working hard to ensure that the federal funds are being used properly and making the Build it Back program more effective. It is important that homeowners and tenants are protected, and that their concerns and problems are addressed quickly.”

“I welcome the ‘One City, Rebuilding Together’ report, and I look forward to working closely with the Mayor and local community organizations in the rebuilding of our neighborhoods. This report serves as a guide that will keep our city on the right track to ensure continued economic growth and opportunity as we move to the next chapter of the recovery. I am also relieved to see that FEMA’s first reimbursement checks are finally being sent out to the numerous victims of excessive rate increases. This provision of the law, which mandates retroactive adjustments and refunds is one that I specifically added to the bill, and it gives me great satisfaction that we were able to get it done in a bipartisan way for our communities here in New York that were heavily impacted,” said U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks.

“I applaud the steps Mayor de Blasio has taken to refine and improve the housing recovery process for those affected by Hurricane Sandy,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. “These latest announcements from the administration have brought new hope to many of our residents who have been displaced and are fighting to put their lives back together and move forward. My office will continue to focus resources on the issues and challenges still outstanding for these residents, so we may collectively find solutions.”

“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for taking a progressive hands-on approach to post-Sandy redevelopment. He is taking the lead to coordinate with local elected officials and community groups to meet the needs of residents in a way we haven’t seen before. Red Hook residents and Brooklyn waterfront businesses have been waiting a long time for this kind of response and action. I look forward to working with the Mayor to engage community-based organizations and advocate for practical solutions and results,” said Assemblyman Felix Ortiz.

“I’m pleased to have the Mayor visiting a Staten Island recovery center but, more importantly, hopeful that his proposals to bring reimbursements, property tax relief and an expanded acquisition program will help Staten Islanders who are still struggling nearly 18 months after Sandy struck our neighborhoods. I know that our residents are eager to receive the long overdue and much anticipated funds promised to them to help rebuild,” said Councilmember Debi Rose.

“By leveraging hindsight into foresight, we can ensure the havoc and wreckage wrought by Hurricane Sandy never happens again,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile. “Whether it’s through initiatives to expedite financial relief to homeowners through expanded reimbursement eligibility, or by continuing to identify ways we can strengthen our city’s infrastructure, together we can ensure that our city is even better prepared to meet Mother Nature’s next challenge. I commend Mayor de Blasio and his team for prioritizing Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts, while detailing reforms to speed recovery and expedite relief for homeowners.”

“Today, I’m proud to stand with Mayor Bill de Blasio in his efforts to ensure that homeowners can rebuild their homes and lives post-Hurricane Sandy,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards. “Taxpayers from the Rockaways to Staten Island deserve to have a government that doesn’t abandon them during crisis, but instead gives them support to recover during their time of need. The reforms announced today are a major step in the right direction and ensure that communities can take part in rebuilding efforts with opportunities for local hiring. I applaud the de Blasio administration and look forward to continuing our work with them to ensure that New York City becomes more resilient and sustainable.”

“Sandy left many deep scars on our city, and Mayor de Blasio’s plan for One City, Rebuilding Together will create a clear path to long-term healing. All of us in government must remain attuned to the most urgent needs in communities where recovery and rebuilding have barely begun. Low-income residents in the hardest-hit areas are still living in shock and squalor. Investing in the resiliency of our public housing, infrastructure, and economy will help ensure that the most vulnerable are protected and prepared for future disasters,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres.

“I am encouraged by the Mayor’s statements today on the city’s rebuilding efforts. Our communities continue to struggle, even 18 months after we were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I am confident that with the financial and local assistance that has been outlined in the Mayor’s report, we will strengthen and restore our waterfront neighborhoods,” said Councilmember Chaim Deutsch.

“More than one year after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the recovery and rebuilding process for many residents and small businesses in Lower Manhattan is far from over,” said Councilmember Margaret Chin. “As we look toward storm-hardening our city, we must allocate the resources needed to ensure that both new and existing infrastructure and housing are resilient, sustainable, and ready for future emergencies. Today’s report sheds light on these ongoing efforts, and I thank the Mayor’s office for their commitment to engage and prepare communities to weather any storm.”

“Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create One City, Rebuilding Together is an important step forward. We welcome the city’s expansion of rebuilding initiatives at the community and neighborhood level that will empower homeowners and help more residents gain access to good jobs. Government and community-based organizations must also work together to address the most the urgent needs of low-income tenants, NYCHA residents, and undocumented immigrants who are among the most vulnerable Sandy survivors, still in the grips of crisis and despair. A truly equitable recovery from Sandy must ensure that no New Yorker is overlooked or forgotten,” said Nathalie Alegre, Coordinator of the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, a large and diverse citywide coalition representing thousands of Sandy survivors.

“The Mayor continues to show that he takes the city’s response to Sandy seriously. There are encouraging changes here—such as taking a holistic neighborhood approach to rebuilding and creating local jobs. As New Yorkers of color continue to suffer in the storm’s aftermath, the mayor has taken another good step on the long road to an equitable and just recovery,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change.

“Eighteen months ago, my family and I lost everything to Hurricane Sandy. Since then, I have been excluded from nearly every source of aid because of my immigration status. The storm didn’t discriminate based on immigration status, so I am excited by the steps the city has taken today to ensure that the recovery doesn’t, either. This rental assistance will help hundreds of immigrant families regain some of the dignity the storm took away,” said Nancy Peredo, a Make the Road NY member and resident of Staten Island.

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