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City to Pay $2M to Build it Back Contractor Despite Shoddy Work Record

By Katie Honan | November 21, 2016 4:13pm

NEW YORK CITY — The city will fork over nearly $2 million in a settlement with a Build it Back sub-contractor with a history of "flawed and incomplete" work and double-billing, DNAinfo has learned.

URS Corporation, which is based in San Francisco, was hired as a sub-contractor in the months after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as the city's Housing Recovery Office began to design its Build It Back program, officials said.

URS was paid $3.5 million in July of 2013 for its work documenting and reaching out to thousands of applicants — but a later investigation found they hired unskilled workers who didn't meet the requirements, sent along thousands of incomplete applications and sent a hefty bill for unfinished work.

In a 2015 audit, Comptroller Scott Stringer found that URS helped contribute to the mismanagement of the city's post-Sandy recovery programs, calling the entire system "a case study in dysfunction."

Yet the comptroller's office said this week that they had no choice but to settle with company on Oct. 31, 2016 — in order to head off URS's original demand for $5.4 million, according to the comptroller's office.

"That shoddy oversight and incompetent management has fundamentally exposed the city to legal claims — and therefore spawned this settlement," Comptroller's office spokesman Tyrone Stevens said in a statement.

"While families will still be in exile from their own living rooms this Thanksgiving, those running Build It Back have put the city in a tenuous legal position directing contractors to perform work off-contract.

The money issue is "emblematic" of the Build It Back program, "which has been plagued by poor oversight and a failure to effectively monitor the work of its consultant companies," Stevens said.

"We have had to clean up HRO's mess, but we did so at a steep discount — 33 cents on the dollar."

URS officials claimed they are still waiting to be paid for a host of "extra work" — like more meetings with homeowners — that the city argued was covered by the original contract payment, a Housing Recovery Office official said. The city blamed URS for having all the leftover work because of their own issues.

URS could not be reached for comment.

Raul Contreras, a spokesman for City Hall who specializes in HRO and Hurricane Sandy issues, said they objected to any additional payout to the company.

“We took a program that clearly wasn’t working and turned it around. To do that, we held consultants accountable," he said. "We do not support providing additional payments for sub-par or incomplete work.”