Build It Back Program Riddled with Delays, Red Tape & Mismanagement

A monumental failure of de Blasio administration & an example of what not to do as Texas prepares to rebuild.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, the Republican nominee and common sense alternative to Bill de Blasio in the race for mayor, held Thursday news conferences in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, and New Dorp Beach Staten Island, where she discussed the rebuilding process from Super-Storm Sandy with homeowners and community leaders and the failure, headaches, delays and expense of New York City’s Build It Back program. Assemblywoman Malliotakis 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 communities were left decimated by Super-Storm Sandy and now, nearly 5 years later, numerous residents have just completed rebuilding, while others still deal with the endless delays, mismanagement and bureaucratic red tape that have become synonymous with Build It Back.

Joining Assemblywoman Malliotakis at the news conference were, homeowners Dan and Kathy Ene, George Broadhead, the President of the Gerritsen Beach Property Owners Association, and John Douglas of Gerritsen Beach Cares and his wife Mary. In New Dorp Beach, the Assemblywoman was joined by homeowners Joseph and Kelly Ancona

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said, “With the 5th anniversary of Super-Storm Sandy barely 2 months away, I stand here with these residents to discuss Build It Back, 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.

“These individuals all experienced the wrath of Sandy, and while that is something they would never want to relive, it pales in comparison to suffering through a rebuilding process that takes over the coals the very people that it was created to assist. When Bill de Blasio was sworn in as mayor, he had every reason and opportunity to transform Build It Back from an ill-conceived and mismanaged program created by his predecessor into one that could have a truly positive effect on the lives of so many New Yorkers. Instead, he allowed it to become what, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer described as, ‘a case study in dysfunction’ in a 2015 audit.

“If a similar storm was ever to hit New York City in the future, we would need to redesign how our recovery and rebuilding programs will operate. Among the ideas that merit consideration are:

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 for 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 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.