Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled details of his hotly anticipated overhaul of Superstorm Sandy recovery operations yesterday, committing the administration to getting 500 Build it Back checks in the mail and 500 construction projects kicked off before the end of the summer.
In addition to getting the long-delayed aid to some of the 20,000 homeowners in the Build it Back system, the plan calls for expanding the eligibility of those seeking aid, including eliminating priority levels so that income is no longer a cause for disqualification from several Build it Back recovery options.
“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 de Blasio in a press release.
The New York Times reports:
Under the new rules, about 4,000 more residents than initially planned will be eligible to receive compensation from the government for repairs they have already performed on damaged homes. Hundreds more will be eligible to receive the full value of their property if they decide to vacate.
By the end of summer, the mayor said, the city planned to have started construction on 500 new homes and to have mailed out 500 reimbursement checks for previously performed repairs. As of Thursday, only 30 residents had received the payments.
The report, titled “One City, Rebuilding Together” and which can be read in full here, also calls for reassigning Department of Buildings inspectors to support Build it Back efforts, offering relief from city water bills for vacant homes, and providing tax relief to Sandy-impacted residents, among other proposals.
Aside from just doling out money and getting projects underway, the city is developing a plan to house residents displaced by recovery construction at their homes.
Several proposals are also being pushed to increase coordination and communication, including the appointment of borough directors and locally-based Build it Back staff.
Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island and is chairman of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, praised the report but noted that residents need to see action, not proposals.
“I understand that this administration has only been in place for a few months, but the reality is that it has been 18 months and counting for residents struggling to rebuild and get back on their feet,” said Treyger in a statement. “The bottom line is that this recovery will ultimately be judged not by announcements and presentations, but by action on the ground in communities still feeling the impact of the storm. We must make sure that local residents and organizations are included in this process so they have an active role in the rebuilding of their own neighborhoods.”
Conservation groups, meanwhile, criticized the plan for focusing too much on recovery, and not enough on protecting coastal communities from future disasters.