Superstorm Sandy destroyed the homes of thousands of New Yorkers and left multitudes more temporarily displaced. With the goal of assuring all residents have a roof over their heads as quickly as possible, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Brad Gair, a former deputy commissioner for operations at the Office of Emergency Management, as director of housing recovery operations.
Gair worked at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) between 1999 and 2006, serving as the highest-ranking federal executive in aiding the city’s recovery post-9/11.
“His extensive, hands-on expertise, I think, makes him exactly the right person to tackle this job,” Bloomberg said.
Gair, who most recently served as president of a private emergency management firm, Good Harbor EM, will coordinate with city, state and federal agencies to relocate displaced New Yorkers into temporary and transitional housing. Bloomberg has estimated that approximately 10,000 residents will require housing as a result of the storm.
“Post-disaster housing is usually one of the most complex and challenging issues to be dealt with in any catastrophic disaster like this,” Gair said. “We know it will take a while, it will be difficult, there will be bumps along the road, but we believe we have the resources to get this done.”
In his more than a decade in the field, Gair said he’s learned lessons from recoveries done well and others done not so well.
The keys to finishing the job, he said, was using innovative methods, utilizing every resource available and being tenacious in getting New Yorkers back to their homes again.
One of the first steps Gair and Bloomberg took to returning residents to their homes was NYC Rapid Repairs.
The program, which is a partnership between FEMA and the city, allows for quicker and more efficient repairs, Bloomberg said. Whereas in the past homeowners were required to arrange for repair work, contractors will now be given responsibility for specific areas affected by the storm and will handle the repairs for any homeowner who enrolls in the program.
Homeowners can sign up for the program by going NYC.gov or by calling 3-1-1. Residents will need a FEMA ID number, which they can get by registering at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.
“The best temporary solution is always a permanent solution,” Gair said. “One way to limit the number of temporary housing needed is to get homeowners back in the places they already live.”
While the first concern is finding a place for every displaced New Yorker, the long-term plan is securing permanent housing for those expelled by the storm, Gair said.
“We cannot call our recovery complete until every New Yorker has a place to call home again,” said Gair.