Build It Back Homeowners Told of Major Delays in Work

By Nicholas Rizzi on March 20, 2014 9:59am 

 Some homes waiting for Build It Back in Staten Island won't be able to start construction until September because the city needs to get special permits to build on lots too narrow or too shallow under the current zoning code. The earliest other houses can expect to be done is in November.
Some homes waiting for Build It Back in Staten Island won't be able to start construction until September because the city needs to get special permits to build on lots too narrow or too shallow under the current zoning code. The earliest other houses can expect to be done is in November.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

WILLOWBROOK — Hurricane Sandy victims waiting for help from Build It Back will be waiting a while longer.

The earliest date 500 homes destroyed in the storm will be ready to be occupied is November — two years after the storm, city officials said.

Other homeowners will have to wait until at least September for construction to even start.

Representatives from Build It Back and the Department of Housing Preservation and Development spoke at Community Board 2's general meeting Tuesday and gave an estimated timeline for the program, which has yet to repair any single-family homes damaged by the storm.

They said many houses, especially in Staten Island and Queens, would have to wait even longer because special permits are needed for work to start on their homes.

For many, the timetable given by the city gave little hope.

"We don't see a light at the end of the tunnel," said Dee Vandenburg, head of the Staten Island Taxpayer's Association, which has been working with victims of the storm. 

"They're just dragging their feet."

According to the presentation, more than 100 homes around the city — 88 in Staten Island — were built on lots that are too narrow or too shallow under current zoning codes. These projects need to get a special permit from the Board of Standards and Appeals before rebuilding can start.

"This is a significant volume and what we're trying to do is batch properties and applications that are similar," said Deborah Morris, head of resiliency planning for HPD.

She said she expects the BSA to make a decision on the permits in June or July.

"Homes that need a BSA approval are still going to proceed more slowly," she said.

Some members at the meeting blasted representatives from the agency for the delay and the newly announced slowdown for hundreds of homes in Staten Island and Queens.

"Where are all these people going to go and why all this time?" said member Donna Fagan. "I don't understand why this is coming up now while the hurricane was two years ago. I'm just so bewildered."

Patrick Ryan from Build It Back said the agency had to wait for funds to be released first, and that the agency knows they could have done better in getting help to residents.

"Things have moved much more slowly than people would have liked, much more slowly than we have liked," Ryan said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the program needs "to do better releasing Sandy funds." In February, the mayor said he was reviewing the city's current plan and would release a new one, but hasn't announced details of it yet.

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