NEW DORP BEACH — More than 50 homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy will be put on the auction block next month, and Staten Island elected officials are pushing a plan to shape how they look in the future.
Borough President James Oddo and Minority Leader Steven Matteo are working on legislation that would incentivize developers who win homes in the auction to follow a set of design guidelines when they rebuild, which they hope will create a more cohesive looking neighborhood.
"Just to ensure that the house that's rebuilt on the sold property is a better quality, is a better aesthetic," Oddo said, they're hoping to implement "some guidelines that could end up making a better product."
The plan, which they are working to get through the City Council for the May 10 auction, would waive certain fees for developers in exchange for them using the guidelines developed by the borough president's office.
The guidelines, which Oddo said his staff looked to the redevelopment of Breezy Point as a model for, will help give the rebuilt neighborhoods a cohesive, beach community look.
"We don’t want to see the hodgepodge development that has occurred in other areas that have been devastated by natural disasters occur in our borough," Matteo said in a statement.
"It is really important that the houses that will eventually be built on these properties up for auction maintain some of the traditional seaside character of our communities, and I am optimistic we can make that happen by providing substantial financial incentives."
Earlier this month, the Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (GOSR) announced that 62 Sandy-damaged properties around the city acquired through the NY Rising Acquisition for Redevelopment program would be put up for auction on May 10.
The auction includes 55 homes from Staten Island, six in Queens and one in Brooklyn that had pre-storm values between $136,000 to $565,000, with starting bids as low as $14,650, according to GOSR.
"Through the NY Rising Acquisition Program, we can offer properties at a fraction of their pre-storm value, while instituting measures to improve the resiliency of the State," Lisa Bova-Hiatt, executive director of GOSR, said in a statement announcing the auction. "During our first two auctions on Long Island, we have seen the enormous popularity and success of these undertakings."
The homes would have to stick to local zoning requirements and be completed within three years or they would return to the state, according to GOSR.
After Sandy, then-Councilman Oddo went on a fact-finding trip to New Orleans and saw how some neighborhoods that were rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina had an assortment of discordant or shoddy designs, with some homes collapsing when they were finished.
Oddo and then Councilman Vincent Ignizio tried to push through a set of guidelines for homeowners raising their homes to avoid the same problems, which eventually failed. The city and state were left with an "ad-hoc" process for redeveloping these neighborhoods, Oddo said.
"We lost a lot of Staten Islanders and their lives should've been honored by ensuring government got the rebuilding of these communities correctly," Oddo said. "That could’ve been done by having more of a vision and sadly, despite really our best efforts, you have this ad-hoc process and it’s beyond frustrating."
While the auction is scheduled for May 10, the pair still have time to get the legislation to pass afterwards because of the city's long approval process to build a new home.
The hope is that developers would agree to the program and future developments would want to adhere to the same design choices in exchange for potentially avoiding fees ranging up to $10,000.
"The needle we are trying to thread now is to have these guidelines in place for people to build a better product and creating a certain threshold that the market place will say ‘yeah, I want that,’" Oddo said. "So that every other private home has to build to that pleasing aesthetic because that's what the marketplace wants."