City's Sandy Aid Program for Homeowners 3 Months Behind Schedule

Alison Kase, in her Broad Channel, Queens, home that was heavily damaged by Sandy.

Nine months after Sandy, thousands of homeowners in New York City are growing frustrated as they wait for government funds to make long-term repairs to their properties.

The Bloomberg administration first said the money, from the federal Sandy aid bill approved by Congress in January, would make its way to individuals in May or June. But now, aides are saying contractors aligned with the program will not begin making repairs until early September, with preference given to low-income households who have extensive damage.

“There’s certainly a lot of people seeking this program, but I will not lie and say I am not frustrated that appointments could not have been earlier,” said Alison Kase, a homeowner in Broad Channel, Queens. “We’re now at the 9-month mark and living in this level of limbo is challenging.”

The city’s program “Build It Back,” promises to supplement settlements that eligible homeowners receive from their flood insurance companies with federal aid to repair or even reconstruct their homes. In a few cases, the city may acquire the property if the homeowner wants to move somewhere else.

Brad Gair, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations, says the delay has been caused by the lengthy environmental approval processes required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“There are a lot of hoops to jump through,” Gair said, “and a lot of things that have to be done just very carefully, because if we don’t do environmental right, and we don’t do procurement right, HUD will not reimburse us.”

To be fair, parallel programs run by New York state and New Jersey are also just getting up and running. Gair added that part of the delay also was due to lining up the contractors that will do many of the repairs. The city, rather than the homeowner, will pay those companies directly, and supervise them, to minimize the risk of not getting the work done correctly.

Build It Back was launched June 3. So far, more than 14,000 people have applied out of about 20,000 who are expected to be eligible. The registration deadline is Sept. 30. So far, $519 million has been allocated to single- and multi-family homes under the program, though more money will be added if the federal government awards the city additional funds, which may happen later this year.

To apply for the program, call 311 or visit the Build it Back web site.