Stephen Nessen, Reporter, WNYC News
Stephen Nessen reports for the WNYC Newsroom and can often be heard live on Morning Edition.
The first reimbursement checks for homeowners affected by Sandy were sent last week — three checks, for a total of $100,000. At a hearing Monday, members of the city council said the money isn't flowing fast enough.
City Councilman Mark Treyger, the Chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency called the program a failure. "Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources and other problems have thwarted the rebuilding of just a single home," he said.
To date, six homes have begun construction.
Rocco Brescia, who has owned his home in Coney Island for 30 years, testified that he replaced his first floor himself, but Build it Back told him he'll have to tear it out and elevate his home if he wants funds from them.
"I'm devastated," he said. "I've been good throughout this whole process, but when to tell me all the work that I done to put it on the first floor has to be destroyed, that I have a grant, you know what, I don't know what to believe."
The Build it Back program has a total of $1.45 billion, but officials say they need an additional $1 billion to meet the needs of Sandy victims.
Amy Peterson, the newly-appointed head of the city's Sandy Recovery team, said at the hearing that she hoped to speed up the process.
But for Sandy victims like Belle Harbor resident Joseph Palmer Doyle, who spent the last year renovating his home, the money is too little, too late.
"We have been frustrated and heart broken at every step of this process," he said. "We are financially ruined. People have told me to forget it, give up, they will never give you a dime."