FAR ROCKAWAY — Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the city’s decision to bulldoze houses in danger of collapsing after Hurricane Sandy, but said the city will only act if the buildings are deemed an immediate safety risk.
Between 800 and 900 buildings have been flagged by the city as structurally unsound and unsafe to enter. But Bloomberg said that the vast majority of those buildings, which were marked with red stickers, are not at immediate demolition risk.
“Most of those buildings will not fall down and we're certainly not going to do anything with them until we talk to the owner,” he told reporters at an unrelated news conference at P.S. in Far Rockaway, known as the School by the Sea — one of a dozen shuttered schools that re-opened Monday.
“The only houses we would bulldoze without talking to the owner is if it was in danger of falling down on people or the houses next door. In that case, we have the legal authority to do it, and I think a moral obligation to do it," he said.
“But other than that case, we don’t bulldoze anybody’s house down. Period. People shouldn’t worry about that,” he said.
News that the city was planning to demolish hundreds of houses had left many home owners on edge.
Bloomberg estimated that about 200 to 300 buildings will probably be knocked down because of the storm, but said that will be because owners will decide that it’s not worth it to rebuild.
He did not say how many properties the city was considering knocking down for fear the buildings could topple over onto other buildings or passersby-by.
In the case that police do believe there is a risk, he said, the city will act immediately.
“We’d do it instantly. As soon as we can get somebody out there to cordon off the area. But short of that…” he said.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich, who represents some of the hardest-hit parts of Queens, said he met with Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway and the Department of Buildings commissioner Monday morning and had also received assurances that what’s left of most residents' homes is not immediately at risk.
“The bulldozer’s not at the gate at Breezy Point right now. The bulldozer is not going to come unless and until people are notified about that,” he said.
He said the DOB is will be working over the next 24 and 48 hours to contact each and every home owner that received a red sticker to discuss their options so they can eventually move back home.
Still, he said that, when it comes to homes that have burnt down or been demolished, debris will eventually have to be cleared so that neighborhoods and families can begin to "rebuild their homes and rebuild their lives”.