New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio named a new team on March 29 to speed up efforts to help New Yorkers still recovering from Superstorm Sandy, saying he was “thoroughly dissatisfied” with previous results.
De Blasio joined Sen. Charles Schumer and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to announce his new plan at a news conference in the Rockaways — a Queens, New York, waterfront neighborhood that was among the hardest hit in the 2012 storm.
The mayor said $100 million would be reallocated to fund the rebuilding of homes, with the first checks already mailed.
“For many New Yorkers, it’s been the worst 17 months of their lives,” de Blasio said, adding, “I want to emphasize this, I’m thoroughly dissatisfied with what happened in the last months before we came into office.”
Now, he said, “help isn’t just on the way, that help is already here.”
Leading the city’s Sandy-recovery team will be William Goldstein, serving as the mayor’s senior adviser who will oversee the newly created Office of Recovery and Resiliency. He most recently served as executive vice president at MTA Capital Construction.
Nonprofit executive Amy Peterson will serve as director of the Housing Recovery Office. And economic development official Daniel Zarrilli will serve as director of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
Since he came to office in January, “my administration has prioritized the fast and efficient delivery of relief to affected families, and now we begin to see results,” the mayor said. “Construction has started, the first checks are on the way, and we are making immediate policy and staff changes to further expedite and streamline the process — so that New Yorkers get the help they need now.”
Since January, he said, more than 7,000 of nearly 10,000 damage assessments have been completed, and calls have been made to 5,000 unresponsive applicants.
However, many New York residents forced out of their homes by Sandy are still living in temporarily rented apartments, or with friends and relatives. And thousands who applied for help have yet to see a payout.
“These are your cops, these are your teachers, these are your firemen, who are homeless now,” Rockaways resident Noreen Ellis told the mayor.
De Blasio agreed with her, saying “surviving the storm and its devastating aftermath was one thing. But people had to then survive for months and months with the uncertainties.”
The reallocated $100 million — funds previously appropriated for the U.S. Department of Housing and Development’s Community Development Block Grant — will ensure that every destroyed home is rebuilt, regardless of income, the mayor said.
The new plan also includes a 35 percent increase in the city’s Housing Recovery Office staff, to more than 100 members; design consultation starting immediately after a homeowner gets an offer; and eliminating permit and other bureaucratic glitches that slow repairs.
“The first priority of the Sandy relief bill was to compensate storm victims for damage,” Schumer said. “Now, finally, the necessary steps are being taken for all who lost their houses.”
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