Creator of NYC's Build It Back Says, 'Everybody's Mad'

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Lost paperwork, extensive delays, contradictory instructions: New York City’s program to help owners of Sandy-damaged properties became a bureaucratic nightmare for many of the people it was supposed to be helping.

But it was the type of nightmare, according to the man who created the program, that unfortunately has plagued almost every other place that has attempted to rebuild after a hurricane: New Jersey, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc.

“Everybody’s mad. Everybody’s dissatisfied, just like they are in every one of these disasters,” Brad Gair, the city's former director of Housing Recovery Operations who is now vice president of emergency management and enterprise resilience at NYU Langone Medical Center.

In one of the few media interviews he has given since leaving city government, Gair told WNYC the problems stem from a lack of a national strategy that can rebuild people’s homes quickly, while at the same time minimizing waste and fraud.

“I think if we had an existing, off-the-shelf program that the federal government funded, preferably that we could turn on right after the disaster, we wouldn’t have the same kinds of challenges,” Gair said.

He said federal regulations were lengthy and time-consuming, such as one requiring the city to notify American Indian tribes in case repairs disturbed ancestral remains, and another that forced the city to check with insurance companies to make sure homeowners had not already received sufficient award amounts. 

In the audio player is a condensed version of a 35-minute interview conducted July 2, before revelations that Bloomberg’s successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, removed a lead contractor as part of an overhaul of the program, called Build it Back, and a critical report on its early months by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.