High-Level Sandy Recovery Official Steps Down

By Colby Hamilton and Katie Honan  on February 19, 2014 9:11pm

 A homeowner in Broad Channel, Queens, turned his unlivable home into a billboard expressing his frustration with the city and federal programs. Build It Back's director Kathryn Mallon, inset, stepped down from her position.
A homeowner in Broad Channel, Queens, turned his unlivable home into a billboard expressing his frustration with the city and federal programs. Build It Back's director Kathryn Mallon, inset, stepped down from her position.
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan/City of New York

CIVIC CENTER — Kathryn Mallon, the head of the city's Hurricane Sandy reconstruction program, has stepped down — making her the second top-level storm recovery official to depart in the past month, officials said.

Mallon has been the head of the city's Build It Back program since November 2012, and was formerly at the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, where she managed the department’s $14 billion capital program, according to the mayor’s office.

She also managed the city's Rapid Repairs program, which was implemented after Sandy to address immediate repairs.

“Kathryn has done the city a great service in helping the city get back on its feet after Sandy, and the de Blasio Administration looks forward to finishing the job and putting so many people impacted by Hurricane Sandy back on the path to recovery,” de Blasio spokesman Phil Walzak said in a statement.

An email to Mallon was not returned, and it’s unclear whether she’ll be returning to DEP. Sources said she was leaving of her own volition.

She’s the second high-level Sandy recovery official to leave de Blasio’s administration this month. Brad Gair, the former director of housing recovery operations for the mayor’s office, left City Hall for a job with NYU earlier this month.

The leadership vacuum in the Build It Back program leaves the de Blasio administration with few experienced hands in the housing recovery department at a time when the mayor says he’s looking to ramp up Sandy efforts.

“We will not forget our obligations to the people of this city still recovering from the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy,” de Blasio said during his State of the City speech earlier this month. “We are resolved to make the efforts underway function more effectively and efficiently.”

The Build It Back program has come under fire recently over concerns money isn’t flowing fast enough to homeowners still struggling nearly a year and a half after Sandy.

“The main problem was that the bar was set so high [by the city’s initial response to Sandy] and here we are, a year and a half out, and people are saying, 'Where’s Build It Back,’” said Queens Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who recently penned a letter critical of the Build It Back program for The Wave, a weekly newspaper in Rockaway.

According to the city’s online tracker of Sandy funds, $9.7 million of the allocated $648 million in Build It Back funds has been spent — roughly 1.5 percent.

Ulrich said the program has become notorious for losing paperwork and not returning phone calls, even as he praised Mallon for doing a “phenomenal job” as its head.

“[Build It Back] is a massive juggernaut and the city either needs to restructure this entire program and get people in there who are ready to do that, or come up for some other program,” Ulrich said, promising to work with whomever the city picks to replace Mallon.

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