Tag Archives: Build it Back program

SANDY ONE YEAR LATER: Houses spring up in Breezy Point ‘fire zone’

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Rebuilding photos by Melissa Chan/Fire photo by Alexa Altman

Nobody can keep Breezy Point down, not even Sandy.

A year after the storm wiped away longstanding houses and an electrical fire burned down 135 residences, the framework for dozens of homes have appeared, particularly in a once vacant, ash-filled lot, in what residents have called the “fire zone.”

“The level of activity is mind boggling. Houses are up all over. It’s a major construction scene,” said Arthur Lighthall, general manager of the Breezy Point Cooperative. “I’m just overwhelmed that we’ve seen so much activity, as I was overwhelmed the two weeks after the storm thinking we’d never see this community come back to the way it is.”

The co-op office sees building applications coming in daily. As of October 17, the management team had seen 117 from home and business owners looking to rebuild.

Lighthall estimates they see two to three applications a day and said they are doing their “best” to gauge whether the building-design submissions fit the co-op’s limits.

Those limits reflect the city’s, Lighthall said, which require a base height of two feet, plus an additional foot. Each home’s height requirement depends upon the flood zone as well as the current sidewalk or land height of the area.

The building of 30 to 40 houses is underway and an additional 12 to 15 plans are in the final stages of being approved and can soon start rebuilding, according to Lighthall.

Building design applications are typically “identical” to what was there before.

“People just want their houses back,” Lighthall said.

The majority of residents are paying for the construction costs with FEMA grants, insurance money, or help from family. Roughly 1,700 homeowners applied for the city Build-it-Back program, but are waiting to hear what, if any, funds they will be granted.

“The people are doing it themselves in the community,” Lighthall said.



Howard Beach residents urged to sign up for Sandy Build it Back program before deadline

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder's office

Laura DeMarie continues to repair her Howard Beach home nearly one year after Sandy.

“The storm was very scary,” she said. “We saw the water pouring down our avenue. We had a sewer in our basement, it came halfway up our staircase.”

DeMarie, like the majority of her neighbors, needed to replace things both inside and outside of her 157th Avenue home.

She stayed the whole night that fateful Monday in October, “under a blanket, in the cold.”

Once the rain and wind subsided, DeMarie needed a new roof, new kitchen cabinets, furniture, appliances, garden tools, car and more in the home she shares with her elderly mother and sister.

She additionally had about six feet of water in her basement, but said she still hasn’t done anything to repair it because “it’s too much money.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

For the repairs thus far, DeMarie has used home insurance money, FEMA grants, Catholic Charities donations and roughly $5,000 of her own money. Most recently, she and her sister signed up for the city’s Build it Back program.

The recently designed program is meant to assist storm-affected homeowners, landlords and tenants by providing different pathways to help them return to permanent, sustainable housing by addressing unmet housing recovery needs.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder went door-to-door throughout Howard Beach to educate the unaware about the program and help them sign up before the September 30 deadline.

“Having been through this process personally, I know how many scams are out there and how many programs families have received,” Goldfeder said. “I understand the skepticism, so I wanted to personally go out and erase some of that fear.”

DeMarie signed up for Build it Back in July and has yet to see any results.

“We’d like some funds to help us along,” she said of the program. “I don’t know why they’re taking so long.”

Goldfeder said the program is “going slowly,” but credits the city with “trying to get all of their ducks in a row” to determine “families who need it the most” before they start handing out recovery funds.

“I understand and appreciate that people need the money right away. I also understand the need to get the program right,” he said.

He added that the percentage of homeowners in Howard Beach who signed up for Build it Back was significantly lower than the rest of the affected region.

“I think it’s important for every family that is in need of the money to make themselves whole again or to recover from the storm to sign up for the program,” he said.

As for DeMarie and her family, the waiting game continues.

“We’re just expecting a little help, not much,” she said.




Queens pols hopeful about Build it Back Sandy recovery program

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

NYC Mayor's Office Flickr/ Photo by Spencer T Tucker)

Federal money is here.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new plan to distribute $648 million for New Yorkers trying to rebuild more than seven months after Sandy.

The Build it Back program offers four options for homeowners as the city shifts its focus to long-term repairs in the wake of the storm. Homeowners can use a city contractor to make minor or moderate repairs, rebuild their homes based on a city model, be reimbursed for out-of-pocket payments or sell their home to the city, which will then redevelop the site.

Affected city residents can begin applying next year and will be contacted by a program specialist, Bloomberg announced.

The city included homeowner reimbursements in the plan at the behest of elected officials, who made their case in April.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, whose own home was damaged by Sandy, said he is hopeful the project will be a success.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the chances of this program’s success,” he said. “I’m very excited that the federal funding is going to be put to use. However, I want to make sure that the money goes to the families who need it most.”

Councilmember Donovan Richards said the plan offered enough options for homeowners dealing with damages, and ensures the money will go to the right people.

“With the thousands of different situations people find themselves in, we need a variety of resources,” he said in a statement. “There is no one fix for every situation. This is why I am very happy about the new Build it Back program. I believe this is a big step in the right direction of a comprehensive recovery effort.”