The Build It Back Program is one of the monumental failures of the de Blasio administration and a perfect example of what not to do.

Background

On October 29, 2012, Super Storm Sandy hit the shores of New York, taking lives and devastating neighborhoods. New York City’s recovery effort following Superstorm Sandy was a boon for consultants who failed to do required work and left thousands of victims without a home. Five years later, many homeowners are still living outside their home with little home. According to an audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer in March of 2015, the City’s office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO) failed to properly monitor contractors and paid $6.8 million to them for work that that was flawed or incomplete – contributing to extensive delays in the delivery of aid to more than 20,000 people seeking help.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, whose district was hardest hit by Super Storm Sandy, held a press conference with homeowners and community leaders in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, and New Dorp Beach Staten Island, where she discussed the rebuilding process and the failure, headaches, delays and expense of New York City’s Build It Back program. She described Build It Back as, “one of the monumental failures of the de Blasio administration and a perfect example of what not to do as Texas prepares to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The Malliotakis Plan Recommendations for Storm Recovery

1. Cap each grant at the assessed value of the home.

This will allow us to spread out limited amount of funding to help the widest selection of people.

2. Property taxes and water charges should be waived.

The waiver would be for the time a homeowner is displaced and awaiting reconstruction.

3. Take the government out of the construction process and allow each applicant to hire their own contractors.

This removes the city as a middleman and allows people to work with someone with whom they’re comfortable.

4. Elevation should be limited.

Due to the exorbitant cost of elevating, we must consider the cost of elevating a severely damaged home versus rebuilding a new home (example: a home on Staten Island valued at approximately $225K was elevated at a cost of $773K). Additionally, using unnecessary helical piles instead of spread-footing increased the cost by roughly $150,000 to $250,000.

5. Contractors and homeowners should be required to attend a one-time training session

The training session would educate contractors and homeowners on how the program works so they can understand its limitations, the process for reimbursements and payments, and how to avoid being the victim of fraud.

6. Streamline a homeowner’s interaction with recovery program by assigning a single assessor and representative to work with throughout the process, so that a relationship can be established.

Providing homeowners with a consistent point of contact, and giving city representatives a certain portfolio of homeowners, will prevent mishandling of paperwork, miscommunication, and misunderstanding.

7. Those who assess damage and work with homeowners through the application process must be better trained, and copies of all applications and paperwork must be scanned electronically and returned to the homeowner.

Too many homeowners were forced to fill out paperwork multiple times because originals were lost or misplaced.

8. Use common sense and creativity.

A recovery program needs to allow its personnel to take unique circumstances into account and make exceptions. There is no cookie-cutter approach to help people recover from catastrophe of this type.

Nicole for NYCNewsroom

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