Schumer Says City 'Taking Sweet Time' Dispersing Sandy Aid
BELLE HARBOR — Sen. Charles Schumer slammed the city's recovery efforts in the months after Hurricane Sandy, saying it's taking its "sweet time" in dispersing funds from the multi-billion dollar federal bill he worked to pass.
Standing in front of an empty lot, where a home once stood before the 2012 storm, Schumer said the problems started with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and conditions haven't improved much with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who still isn't "settled" in his role.
Since the storm, nearly 20,000 single-family homeowners have applied for aid through the Build It Back program, which is federally funded and administered through the city. But construction has not started on a single home as of Feb. 23, the latest available data.
Also, just $9.7 million of the $648 million allocated for the program has been distributed. And the program, which Bloomberg started last year, hasn't had a director in nearly a month.
"I busted my chops as did a good number of my colleagues to make sure there was adequate money for every homeowner regardless of income," he said, of the multibillion dollar Sandy recovery bill that passed in January 2013, which includes the Build It Back funding.
"The $60 billion covers everybody — with some give. And the city is just taking its sweet time."
Schumer was in town to discuss the passing of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act in the House of Representatives, which will bring relief to homeowners and businesses facing steep flood insurance increases as a result of the current Biggert-Waters flood insurance legislation, which was passed in 2012.
He plans to meet with de Blasio but has not yet asked for a meeting.
"I have told [de Blasio] in general he's gotta change the way Bloomberg did it, but I've not gotten into the specifics because we've got to wait until he gets his people in place and they're not there yet," he said.
Schumer compared the city's recovery with that on Long Island, which is dispersing federal dollars faster than New York City.
Since the storm, $82.8 million out of nearly $500 million has been given to Long Islanders through the state-administered NY Rising program.
"Out in Long Island it's not been quick enough but it's a heck of a lot quicker than the city," he said.
City officials as well as de Blasio, have said that the documentation required by the federal government to release the funds has slowed the money's distribution.
De Blasio has been relatively quiet on recovery from the storm, and has yet to appoint commissioners pivotal in the recovery process.
The last head of the Build It Back, Kathryn Mallon, stepped down in February, and the city hasn't officially named a replacement.
At an event Monday, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris said that a move could be expected in upcoming weeks.
"Whether it's a czar or a program discussion or new set of procedures — whatever it is — the Mayor asked us to look at everything in a matter weeks, so I would expect that in a matter of weeks," he said at the New York Athletic Club.
In a statement to DNAinfo, de Blasio spokeswomann Marti Asaid "New Yorkers are still hurting from Sandy in a distinct way."
"It's our administration's obligation to put together a plan to build upon some of the things we think were done right in the previous administration, and address some of the challenges and some of the things that weren’t what they needed to be," she said.
The administration, she said, will make announcements on the plan "in the coming weeks" but didn't provide further details.
Additional reporting by Colby Hamilton.