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Co-Ops and Condos Struggle to Get Cash to Rebuild After Sandy

By Katie Honan | October 29, 2013 2:57pm
  Residents of co-ops and condos damaged by Hurricane Sandy are not eligible for certain funds for their buildings.
Co-op and Condo Rebuilding - Sandy
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ROCKAWAY BEACH — Janie Simmons and her husband, Eric Metcalf, were the first to move into the new Shoreview Condominiums nine years ago, attracted by the location just a block from the beach.

When Hurricane Sandy hit on Oct. 29, 2012, their home was decimated, with the basements of all seven buildings in their condo complex flooded. There was damage to the front of the buildings as well, and power and heat were knocked out to all 20 units.

Since then, as the leaders of the board, they've been trying to fix the damaged common and residential areas of the complex, but help hasn't arrived. 

“We waited for the insurance fairy,” Simmons, 57, said.

The Shoreview Condos, on Beach 92nd Street, are among thousands of buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy. But unlike others rebuilding their homes, residents living in co-ops or condos have faced regulations that limited their access to some federal funds to help make necessary repairs.

The Federal Emergency Management Association policy of recognizing co-ops as businesses prevents their boards from applying for federal grants to repair the common areas — and even stops homeowners from getting money to repair some residential units.

"What was unique for us was recognizing that FEMA was not going to help us rebuild,” Simmons said.

Some 8 percent of the residential units in the storm surge area were condos, and close to another 18 percent were co-ops, according to a study from the Furman Center at NYU. That's a unique situation compared to other areas of the country where disasters have unfolded.

The Shoreview board paid for emergency repairs through an assessment, and also applied for an SBA loan to cover the over $200,000 worth of damage to the building.

Through RapidRepair, the city’s emergency response program, the Shoreview units got power and heat back two months after the storm. Some individual homeowners were also given money from FEMA to relocate.

But damaged areas, including the parking lot, entranceway, storage areas and residential sections in the basement, still haven’t been fixed as they wait for the SBA loan to come through, nearly a year after the storm.

In March, after a push by Sen. Charles Schumer, the Department of Housing and Urban Development allowed federal aid to be made available to co-op and condo owners for repairs through a grant program — distributed through Build It Back in New York City.

“We have finally cleared a bureaucratic hurdle that prevented thousands of homeowners in New York City and Long Island from getting the help they needed,” said Schumer in a statement.  “We have always said that condos and co-ops should be eligible for the same assistance as single family homes, and now they are.”

Complicating the matter, though, is the fact that SBA loans reduce the amount of money that a condo is eligible through Build It Back.

“Whatever amount you have drawn down from your SBA loan will be counted as a benefit received," the spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for the SBA a year is a "typical" timeframe to receive a loan and "at this point, the figures are about accurate in terms of the ratio between loans approved and dispersed."

As for Simmons and the Shoreview condos, they still haven't received their SBA loan.

"You hear the mayor, you hear the governor, you hear the president, you hear FEMA, give us all kinds of promises that we will help you," she said.

"'We will not desert you' — and they did. Everybody did."