The New York City Housing Recovery recently released the above infographic, showing the number of registrations for Build it Back. These are the final numbers now that registration for the program is closed.
Along with the Build it Back, the agency also released the number of homes fixed up by Rapid Repairs, have had mold removed by city-run programs, or were demolished by the city. All of these are broken down by impact zones – the six waterfront areas most impacted by the storm, and accounting for a total of 61,793 buildings (many of which are multi-family residences, so the number of households is likely higher).
The numbers tell a story in themselves. While they don’t quite deliver insight into the extent of damage into each neighborhood – a fairly ephemeral impact that’s hard to quantify and even harder to wrap one’s head around – they do show us how active these programs are in particular neighborhoods, and we can draw some conclusions from that.
So let’s get started.
Let’s take a look at the size of these impact zones, as measured by the total number of buildings:
Below is a pie chart showing the percentage of Build it Back registrants for each neighborhood when compared to the borough total:
So right off the bat, we can see two things:
- The Bergen Beach – Mill Basin, Canarsie, and Sheepshead Bay – Gerritsen Beach zones are by far the largest areas affected by the storm, yet…
- The Canarsie, Brighton Beach – Manhattan Beach, and Coney Island – Seagate zones have the highest percentage of Build it Back applicants, followed very closely by Sheepshead Bay – Gerritsen Beach.
In fact, let’s take a closer look at that. We’re going to take the percentage of registrants in each zone compared to the borough totals, and match it up with the percentage of houses in that zone as it compares to the borough totals. Let’s also throw the Rapid Repairs and mold numbers in as well. Seeing all of this together tells us how large each zone is compared to the others, and what percentage of the services boroughwide that neighborhood is receiving:
That definitely gives a better idea of where each of these neighborhoods stand compared to the rest of the borough.
For example, we see that in Bergen Beach and Mill Basin, the largest of the impact zones by number of houses, has been getting the fewest services compared to the rest of the borough. Meanwhile, Coney Island and Seagate, one of the smallest impact zones, is getting more services than others. Here in Sheepshead Bay, we seem to be right about in the middle of things: we account for nearly 20 percent of the buildings in all of the impact zones combines, and we account for nearly 15 percent of Build it Back registrants, 17 percent of completed Rapid Repairs jobs and 18 percent of mold removal.
That’s should strike residents of, say Bergen Beach and Red Hook, as a shocking lack of parity. The Bergen Beach impact zone accounts for about 31 percent of buildings in all of the impact zones combined, yet only accounts for eight percent of Build it Back registrants, and even fewer of the other services.
Let’s draw that number out a little further, shall we?
To do that, we’re going to break out the percentage of homes within its own impact zone that are receiving each of these services. To make it clearer, the previous graph shows the proportion of houses services in each zone to the borough’s total. The next graph gives you penetration rates for each service within each impact zone. So if Sheepshead Bay has 100 homes, and 30 of them are signed up for Build it Back, the program has a 30 percent penetration rate. (Whereas, above, if Brooklyn has 1000 homes and 500 Build it Back registrants, and Sheepshead has a 100 homes and 30 Build it Back registrants, we account for 10 percent of the borough’s total number of homes, and six percent of its Build it Back registrants. Am I clear enough here?)
The blue bar is the same as in the graph above. It’s the percentage of the borough’s affected buildings inside that impact zone. It’s there gauge the penetration of the services against the size of the impact zone.
Here we go:
To me, this is absolutely the most revealing graph. We can see that even though less than five percent of the borough’s affected housing was in Coney Island, those houses are registered for Build it Back at a staggering 44 percent rate. And while Bergen Beach and Mill Basin account for about a third of all affected buildings in the borough, a measly three percent of those properties are registered for Build it Back. Here in Sheepshead Bay, we’ve got an eight percent registration rate.
There are no certain conclusions we can draw from this data, but it does reveal which neighborhoods have the most interest in these programs.
The strongest assumption we can make from this is a no-brainer: Coney Island and Seagate got walloped. Even though fewer houses were affected, those houses were affected more severely than elsewhere in the borough. Ditto that to Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.
Canarsie should also take note – with a touch of outrage. That’s a neighborhood, along with Bergen Beach and Mill Basin, that received absolutely zero coverage in the aftermath of Sandy. Seriously. Comparing the amount of coverage they received to the amount Sheepshead Bay’s corridors of destruction received is like comparing the number of US Weekly covers your Aunt Olga has had compared to Angelina Jolie (and I’d like to think it’s because Sheepshead Bay has a strong independent media site pushing our story out beyond our borders).
But while this information gives us a decent indicator of the amount of destruction in each zone, it doesn’t really tell the whole story. There are far too many variables, most of which are anecdotal. For example, if an impact zone was most affected in its business district, as Sheepshead Bay was, will it have lower registration rates for Build it Back? Probably. Although the program is open for business owners, my discussions with many of these owners suggest they’ve hit “recovery fatigue,” fed up with all the paperwork, and have gone forward with repairs on their own (or made do with the loans available immediately after the storm).
There are cultural and economic differences, too. An area like Bergen Beach and Mill Basin is generally wealthier, and the residents seem – again, anecdotally – to be less interested in what they consider “handouts.” I’m betting a lot of people there, and probably Manhattan Beach as well, did their repairs themselves and got on with their lives.
Meanwhile, those less well-off, as in Coney Island or Canarsie, as well as areas with large immigrant populations like Brighton Beach, were also the most in need of these services, which likely affected the penetration rate.
Other variables can also throw the whole thing off: where did the City market these programs the most? I still find plenty of Sandy survivors in Sheepshead Bay who have not heard of Build it Back. And while the mayor’s men have made the rounds here, it was hard to find fliers or advertising in local media for these programs. Walking in Coney Island, advertisements, fliers, posters, et cetera were as prominent as the Parachute Jump on the skyline.
Anyway, it’s been interesting to play with these numbers and see what could be learned. Is there an angle you see in the graphs above that we didn’t mention? Tell us in the comments.
With thanks to the Brooklyn Community Fund, who first sent us the NYC Office of Housing Recovery’s infographic.