Build It Back Has 'to Do Better' at Releasing Sandy Funds, Mayor Says
ST. GEORGE — The city's Build It Back program, designed to help homeowners recover from Hurricane Sandy, but which has been has barely given out any funds in its 16 months of existence is suffering from "a profound problem" distributing aid, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday.
The swipe at the program came as de Blasio said his administration would review the city's current Sandy recovery plan and release a new one in the coming weeks. While he offered few specifics, the review could mean changes to Build it Back, de Blasio acknowledged.
After a meeting with Staten Island elected officials at Borough Hall, de Blasio did not offer a timetable of when relief will come, but admitted to the slow release of Build it Back recovery funds. Not a single-family home has been rebuilt nearly 16 months after the storm, DNAinfo reported Monday.
"It's self-evident that the pace has been a profound problem," the mayor said. "Right now, for a lot of people, it's still more theory than fact."
"We know we have to do better," de Blasio said.
Just $9.7 million of the nearly $700 million in aid had been distributed as of Feb. 23 and only 154 out of the nearly 20,000 single family home applicants had been awarded money, according to city data.
Of the more than 1,000 multi-family housing projects that applied for assistance, only three had begun as of the most recent statistics.
The program was designed to provide federal dollars to single- and multi-family homeowners to make repairs or provide them with reimbursement. It also provides funding for public housing and resiliency projects.
The mayor did not give any details about the new Sandy recovery plan, only that it will be announced in the coming weeks. He also didn't offer any names on who would replace the head of Build It Back, Kathryn Mallon, when she leaves.
Borough President James Oddo endorsed a plan to purchase large areas of land to rebuild in Sandy-damaged areas.
"There's an opportunity to transform communities and transform lives," Oddo said.
De Blasio said he knew residents were frustrated about the slowness of Build It Back, but asked them to wait a little longer.
"I don't blame anyone who's frustrated," he said. "I would say to them just bear with us, when our plan comes out soon, judge that."