Storm Victims Testify At City Council Superstorm Sandy Recovery Hearing
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Members of the de Blasio administration and victims of Superstorm Sandy spent Monday morning testifying at a City Council oversight hearing about post-storm recovery efforts in New York City.
Seventeen months after the storm hit, hundreds of homes across the city still haven’t been repaired.
“All I want to do is have my home,” Breezy Point resident Roland Gorton said. “I’m hoping they can help me get back into my house so I can be whole again.”
Gorton testified Monday at a hearing on the city’s “Build it Back” program that is supposed to help Sandy-impacted homeowners repair and rebuild.
But elected officials said the program has instead fallen far short.
“Poor communication, endless bureaucracy, inadequate resources have thwarted the rebuilding of even a single home,” Councilman Mark Treyger said.
“This administration may not have made the mess,” added Councilman Jumaane Williams, “but this administration has to clean it up.”
A year and a half after the storm, city officials said work has begun on only three homes and none have been completed.
“We have been frustrated and heartbroken in every step of this process. We are financially ruined,” a disabled firefighter said. “We have done everything asked of us and more.”
“You know what, I don’t know what to believe,” Rocco Bresh of Coney Island said at Monday’s hearing.
Amy Peterson, who has been in charge of the mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery for two days, addressed the frustrations of homeowners at the hearing.
“Early missteps, unrealistic assumptions and overly complicated processes have hindered rebuilding,” she said.
Checks are in the mail to three homeowners, Peterson said, noting the recovery effort has to start somewhere.
On Saturday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the “Build it Back” program has $1.45 billion in funding and that checks have finally started going out to homeowners.
De Blasio, along with Sen. Charles Schumer, said the city is reallocating $100 million towards the program and has added additional staffing.
The mayor promised no one will be left behind.
“Anyone who has lost their home, anyone whose home has been destroyed, we’re going to reach them,” de Blasio said. “Doesn’t matter what priority level. We’re going to reach them, period.”
Tim Gilman shared pictures of his battered Red Hook, Brooklyn home with CBS 2’s Alice Gainer. He said he’s had to uproot his family to upstate New York while he lives with a neighbor in Red Hook during the week to make it in to work in Midtown.
“We haven’t been able to do anything on the house in 10 months,” Gilman said.
Other elected officials are also vowing that Sandy victims will get the aid they need.
“My promise to them is help is on the way and this is why we’re doing this hearing today,” Councilman Donovan Richards, Jr. said.
Approximately 20,000 people have registered for the program. The de Blasio administration said the city will still need $1 billion in federal funding to help everyone.
Officials said the city is waiting for the final installment of a federal Housing and Urban Development block grant.
Gilman told Gainer that money can’t come fast enough, especially since he made a promise to his children.
“I promised them that they’d be back home and in their school in September of this year,” Gilman said.
The city will be reaching out to homeowners, but stress if anyone has any questions, to call 311 or click here for more information.
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