Southern Brooklyn

Infographic: Brooklyn’s Superstorm Sandy Recovery By The Numbers

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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:

Number of buildings in each zone.

Below is a pie chart showing the percentage of Build it Back registrants for each neighborhood when compared to the borough total:

Percentage of Build it Back applicants in each zone compared to the borough total. Percentages rounded to the nearest decimal.

So right off the bat, we can see two things:

  1. The Bergen Beach – Mill Basin, Canarsie, and Sheepshead Bay – Gerritsen Beach zones are by far the largest areas affected by the storm, yet…
  2. 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:

The percentage of borough totals for buildings and services in each zone.
The percentage of borough totals for buildings and services in each zone.

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:

Penetration rates for recovery services in each impact zone, compared to the size of the impact zone.

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.

Comment policy


  1. Luda, is generally a Free-Speech-Free zone…yeah I think that sounds right. Any comments not deemed satisfactory by Dear Leader are removed. What was your comment about?

  2. When (if) you get a check… I had a visit back in August and another
    visit in September…. maybe one day I’ll get that Twix bar with my

  3. Excellent analysis, Ned. Good insight and the graphs enhance the raw data with information that should not be ignored. You make good points and show a real understanding of the affected communities. Your questions deserve answers. Unfortunately, the comments from your readers show how clueless they are and don’t appreciate your dedication to the neighborhoods that were impacted by Sandy. If the programs are not reaching the people who deserve to be helped then those issues should be exposed. Good job.

  4. Thanks, Ned. Very interesting article and I commend you on taking a stab at assembling the
    numbers and bringing them to the public’s attention. Some thoughts: Overall number of buildings impacted is an
    important number here, but more revealing would be the number of
    households within the “buildings” category, because it was primarily
    households and not buildings that were potentially eligible for these
    three city programs. Within the “households” sub-category, a breakout
    of the number of NYCHA apartments as opposed to non-NYCHA apartments as
    opposed to homeowners is critical to understanding the numbers.
    Drilling down further, were all of the households (apartments) in those
    multi-story buildings (NYCHA or not) eligible for these programs, or
    just those on the first floor? My guess is that all households in NYCHA
    housing that could prove need were eligible (as renters) for Build It
    Back but not mold remediation or Rapid Repairs, since those programs
    were only for homeowners. Many non-profits did mold remediation, always
    for free, and so some homeowners may not have felt signing up for the
    city’s program was necessary. It is also critical to note that all
    three of these programs had income
    limits, and that those families above the income limits were ineligible
    (which would make even the raw number in the “households” category
    deceptive). Let’s also not forget that coops–invariably found in
    buildings–were late to the party for these programs;
    that second homes were ineligible for these programs, to the extent
    they would be eligible anyway, due to income limits; and that houses of
    worship (see below) were also also not eligible. For a variety of reasons, some
    households/individuals who WERE eligible for these programs were much,
    much less likely to hear about them than others. Furthermore, even
    among those who did hear about them, many did not have the time,
    capacity, organizational skill, inclination, courage, strength,
    patience, will, or bandwidth to pull together all the paperwork
    necessary just to determine if they are eligible. (Build It Back, in
    particular, demanded a hideous amount of documentation–itself a
    disincentive.) Among these: the poor, working poor, physically disabled,
    mentally disabled, elderly,
    single parents, caretakers, people working multiple jobs, people
    working off the books, business owners working long hours, renters
    living in illegal apartments, the undocumented, low- or
    no-proficiency English speakers/readers, and people speaking anything
    but English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, or Arabic (the main languages
    flyers were translated into and for which there is more access through
    mainstream media). And it is really a crying shame that houses of
    worship in the impacted areas, which had the heart to help and could
    have done so much more for these vulnerable populations, were ineligible
    for federal assistance.
    As for businesses, Build It Back was not a very attractive program
    because it
    required that owners take a loan before they could receive a grant.
    Already swimming in debt because everyone and their grandmother–not
    just BIB–from just about Day 1 was running at them to
    take loans (while no one in their communities had money to buy), they
    were not interested in more debt. I do not believe Rapid Repairs or mold
    removal programs were available
    to brick-and-mortar or home-based businesses. (NYC Business Solutions
    may have this data.) All that said, RESIDENTS WHO STILL HAVE UNMET NEEDS
    are encouraged to call the Sandy Helpline at 1-855-258-0483
    to be assigned a disaster caseworker who can assist with identifying
    programs for which they may still be eligible. (When called, this
    number goes to Catholic Charities and then is relayed to another
    non-profit working in the community. It may be used by the

  5. Fantastic points, Laura. And you’re right about the additional data points, but I was trying not to overwhelm (or be overwhelmed; for me, this is a rare stab at visualizing data sets), not to mention those figures were not freely available. I will consider putting in a FOIL to the relevant agencies to get some of the figures you suggest, though, as they would provide a whole other level of insight.

  6. By the way, Neighborhood Revitalization (the city’s mold remediation program) only has 150 slots still available for free, professional mold remediation. They will be ending intake the end of November, so there are only two more weeks left to access this service for clients. Eligible homeowners can register by calling 1-855-740-MOLD (6653).

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