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Sandy-Damaged NYCHA Developments May Not Be Fixed Until 2021, Official Says

By Katie Honan | March 1, 2017 9:00am
 Work has finished on only one of the 33 developments slated for construction.
Work has finished on only one of the 33 developments slated for construction.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

NEW YORK CITY — Repairs to more than 30 public housing developments damaged during Hurricane Sandy may not be finished until 2021 — nine years after the deadly storm tore through the city, officials said Tuesday.

The "worst case scenario" timeline was presented at a City Council hearing held to discuss long delays on recovery and rebuilding work, which will be paid for with $3 billion in federal recovery money just for NYCHA.

The 2012 storm knocked out power to 400 buildings, leaving thousands of residents without heat and hot water after boilers and electrical units were flooded with tens of millions of gallons of water, NYCHA officials said.

Sand piles as high as four feet blocked building doors. Trash compactors were sent floating down the street, and playgrounds were destroyed. 

But of the 33 developments that are slated for repair work, only one — Lower East Side Rehab V — is completed, New York City Housing Authority officials said.

Six other buildings, including the ocean and bay side of the Ocean Bay Houses in Edgemere, Carleton Manor in Arverne and the Astoria Houses, are under construction.

But 11 are still in the "design" phase, and six are still waiting for accepted construction bids, officials said. 

Joy Sinderbrand, the vice president of recovery and resiliency, told chair of the council's committee on public housing, Ritchie Torres, that each project could take between 18 to 36 months to finish.

"We've projected that if we phase the projects in the strategy we're using now, and have the latest phase beginning early next year — the worst case scenario has 18 to 36 months from the last phase starting, so that'd be 2021," she said.

She did not have a "best case scenario" when asked by Torres but noted that NYCHA is going as fast as it can, given scope of the projects.

After the hearing, Michele Moore, the director of recovery and resiliency at NYCHA, explained further just how complicated all of the projects are.

"These projects are not simple," she said after the hearing. "We're not just building new boilers, we're building new boilers and elevating structures, we're getting full backup power generators — that's something NYCHA has never had before."

But the plans weren't much comfort for residents living in buildings still damaged by the storm, who complained about the smell of mold and mildew in each building.

Heat and hot water was inconsistent from the "temporary" boilers put in place after the storm, they said.  

Lauretta Brumfeld, the president of the tenant association at Coney Island Houses, said despite a promise by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014 to make her development a model for Sandy recovery, work hadn't even started. 

"Out of a tragedy, a phoenix is rising — something that will make people's lives better," he said at the time, citing other resiliency projects throughout Coney Island that would help residents.

"There's so many pieces that we need to do for the long haul, just keep building on our resiliency efforts. I've said resiliency is a work that never stops. We just have to keep doing more each year, and we will."

The development is now awaiting permits for construction.

"We still have nothing, and I'm still there, and I'm still speaking, so I know for a fact that nothing has happened," Brumfeld said.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story misattributed the quotes given by Joy Sinderbrand.