Tag Archives: Build it Back

Build it Back looking to speed up and localize Sandy recovery process


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The new Build it Back program is adding staff and hiring new construction managers in a bid to speed up the Superstorm Sandy recovery process.

The program is now hiring up to three new construction management firms for Sandy-stricken areas, hoping to increase the number of rebuilding projects getting underway. Along with hiring new managers, Build it Back is also looking to hire a local workforce of low-income residents who were affected by the storm to be part of the rebuilding process.

“This new procurement hits two of the city’s recovery goals: expanding our construction capacity to meet the needs of homeowners as quickly as possible and expanding our local workforce initiative to keep construction jobs within Sandy-affected communities,” said Amy Peterson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. “Since the mayor’s overhaul, this has been a year of significant progress, and we expect the onboarding of new construction firms – who will deploy new strategies to target entire neighborhoods – will continue to accelerate the city’s Sandy recovery.”

There will be separate competitions for the new construction managers in the three boroughs hit by Sandy: Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens. The city will hire up to three new firms, one for each borough if possible, that will focus on specific neighborhoods within each borough.

Once hired, the construction managers will sign a contract with a clause that will encourage them to have at least 20 percent of employees be Sandy-impacted residents. They will have to provide the city with full-time staff member tracking to make sure it is in compliance with the Sandy Recovery Hiring Program.

For the possible Sandy-impacted workers, they will be given job training and then have a chance at an apprenticeship to work on the construction team.

As the process moves along, construction managers will be asked to “bundle” homes that have much of the same structural damage in a particular neighborhood to deliver a higher volume of completed projects.

When the new system came in at the beginning of the year, there was no construction started. Now, there have been 933 rebuilding projects started and over 1,951 reimbursement checks given out totaling $34 million throughout the city.

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Real estate roundup: City and Astoria Cove developers at odds ahead of Council vote


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Old Politics Hamper City’s New Approach on Affordable Housing

“The 2.2-million-square-foot project is at risk of being voted down by the City Council’s land-use committee, which must vote by Wednesday on it, according to City Council officials and the developer. The full council is expected to follow the committee’s lead.” Read more [The Wall Street Journal]

Residents told to repay aid funds given to them two years ago

“The disabled, elderly and mostly poor residents of an assisted-living center in Queens spent four miserable months in shelters after Hurricane Sandy, and now they’re getting hammered again — by the federal government.” Read more [The New York Post]

Quiet Island, With Change Coming

“When Yarin and Talia Katz first came to the United States from Israel, they spent a year sampling various parts of New York City and New Jersey with monthly rentals. In 2011, when they were ready to settle down, Mr. Katz said, ‘We pretty much knew we wanted to move to Roosevelt Island.’” Read more [The New York Times]

 

 

Sandy vigil held in Hamilton Beach to mark two-year anniversary


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Hamilton Beach was one of the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy and two years later, some residents are still not back in their homes.

On the storms’s anniversary Wednesday, the neighborhood came together for a candle light vigil to support those who are still displaced and give thanks to all those who helped during the harsh times.

“In our community, Sandy brought out the best of our people,” said Roger Gendron, president of the Hamilton Beach Civic Association. “Groups that came into help two years ago are still here helping today. It has been a constant flow of generosity.”

The vigil was held at the West Hamilton Beach Fire Department, a group that was and is “a vital life line to the community,” Gendron remarked. Over 50 residents, and local and city officials were present to take a moment of silence for all those who are still affected by the aftermath of the storm.

“If anything good came from the storm it was that it showed the strong sense of community,” Councilman Eric Ulrich said. “We will be here every year lighting candles until everyone in this community that was displaced is back in their home.”

The ceremony was led by Father Anthony Rucando of Our Lady of Grace Parish. He led the residents of the neighborhood in a tearful prayer ceremony that was joined by the director of Build It Back, Amy Peterson.

“I am inspired everyday by the strength of communities like yours,” Peterson said. “We are doing everything we can and are committed to moving you forward in the process.”

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Sandy rebuilding still progressing two years later


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

Throughout the city, repair efforts from Superstorm Sandy have been slow, but with a recent overhaul in the Build It Back system many residents are finally seeing progress.

“What has made Build It Back work since the mayor’s overhaul is increased flexibility for homeowners, increased communication with homeowners and an increased presence by our staff in Sandy-impacted communities,” said Amy Peterson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. “We have expanded our outreach to Queens, as we have to all affected neighborhoods, and have made over 2,800 offers to Queens residents.”

Throughout the city, there are 14,000 applicants in the Build It Back program.

In Queens, 2,800 offers have been made, 1,790 have been accepted and 652 homes are in the design phase as of Oct. 28. There have also been 247 construction starts with 54 completed and 356 checks offered totaling $7.3 million.

These numbers are promising, said state Sen. Joe Addabbo, but he added that recovery is nowhere near finished.

“The Build It Back system can’t work fast enough for my constituents,” Addabbo said. “I will continue to work with the program and help individuals recover. It is moving but we have a long way to go.”

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder also said that he is encouraged by the commitment to Sandy recovery and that it will remain a top priority until everyone who was displaced from the storm is back in their homes.

“As we approach the second anniversary of Sandy, many families are still not home and struggling to put their lives back together,” Goldfeder said. “No one is going away and we have a lot of work left to do but the city is committed to it.”

There are also some residents who have traveled down the long road of recovery and are finally seeing action.

“After Sandy, my house was red stickered [deemed as unlivable] and later demolished,” said Jayme Galimi, who has been a resident of Broad Channel for 22 years. “It’s been a long road since then but my new home is finally going to be constructed with the funding from Build It Back.”

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Build it Back numbers improve in Howard Beach


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Even though residents of Howard Beach have been frustrated with the Build it Back process, numbers are moving in the right direction for the neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that there have been 535 construction starts and that 543 reimbursement checks have been distributed to Hurricane Sandy victims in the city, thus exceeding his Labor Day goals of 500 constructions starts and 500 checks handed out.

On a smaller level, numbers in area code 11414, which includes Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach, are also on the rise.

Out of the approximate 1,200 active Build it Back applicants in 11414, 95 have received checks and 60 have started construction, according to a representative from the mayor’s office. There are also 139 applicants who have finished construction plan consultations and 564 who have formally been made an assessment offer, the representative added.

These numbers were at zero in the beginning of the year.

Over the past few months, the mayor’s office has overhauled the Build it Back process, allowing applications to move more fluidly through the program.

This overhaul includes putting senior city staff members in charge of Build it Back centers and case management, and allowing homeowners to consult with designers and architects earlier in the process, making construction scheduling easier, the representative said.

“It was simply unacceptable that not a single homeowner had gotten relief as of the beginning of this year,” de Blasio said. “We know there’s much more work ahead — and we’re committed to continuing to speed up recovery so that every homeowner gets the relief they need.”

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Sandy rebuilding summit sees huge turnout


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE QUEENS COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

SALVATORE LICATA

An energized crowd of about 1,000 people gathered for a Faith in New York summit at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in Jamaica on Tuesday to learn about the progress and priorities of Hurricane Sandy rebuilding.

“This is a time for us to remember what was promised,” said the Rev.  Floyd Flake, pastor of the Greater Allen A.M.E. and a former Queens congressman. “Our people should not still be suffering the way they are, 21 months after the storm.”

Much of the meeting focused on families in Far Rockaway where suffering from Sandy is still the most prevalent issue, according to residents.  Many people are still suffering from leaking roofs, mold, no heat and no jobs as a result of the storm.

Amy Peterson, director of the Housing Recovery Office under Mayor Bill de Blasio, and other city officials listened to these concerned residents and assured them that things are changing.

“We are committed to working with all of you,” she said. “We are going to eliminate the red tape from Build it Back and everyone who has applied for it will get the support they need.”

Peterson said that since the de Blasio administration came to office, rebuilding is on the rise. But she said the fight is nowhere near over. Her office promised 500 checks to Sandy-affected homeowners by Labor Day. As of this week, 457 checks have gone out. She said that once Labor Day comes and they hit their goal, a new one will be made.

This was welcome news to Sandy survivors like Aracelis and Erik Cabrera who are still displaced from the storm.

“We applied for Build it Back but are still waiting to find out if we will receive the funds we desperately need,” Aracelis said as she wiped  tears from her eyes. “We are glad that Mayor de Blasio is focused on fixing Build it Back so that families like ours can rebuild our lives and our home.”

Peterson said that within the next 60 days she would host a large job fair that will prioritize those people who were affected by the storm. When advocates for rebuilding asked Peterson whether they can have a meeting with de Blasio himself about the recovery effort she chuckled but gave a reassuring answer.

“Well, I don’t know his [de Blasio's] schedule,” she said. “But yes, we will try to work it out.”

Source: Mayor’s Office of Management and Budget

 

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Build It Back finally building momentum


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SALVATORE LICATA

More than a year after Superstorm Sandy ripped through Queens, the efforts to repair damaged homes and businesses are finally starting to pick up speed, officials said Friday.

There has been a marked increase in every category of the relief process, including the issuance of 227 reimbursement checks totaling $3.4 million, according to a new report from the mayor’s office. There were no checks issued during the last administration, the report says.

The first 42 construction starts of the relief effort occurred this year as well, officials said.

“Five hundred construction starts by labor day and 500 reimbursement checks in the hands of the people, who have been waiting for a long, long time. That will show people that every level of government is working for them. So things are working- and every one of us is going to push each other to keep going further,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Build It Back event last month.

Homeowners are still skeptical of the Build It Back process.

“The old commissioner let it get out of hand,” Howard Beach resident Anthony DeRisl said.  DeRisl suffered $77,000 in damages from Sandy and said he has been to numerous Build It Back events but has yet to see any compensation.

“We want to know where all the money is,” DeRisl said. “We’ve had the same experience everywhere we go.”

With the third round of Sandy relief funds coming to the city, totaling about $639 million, “Everyone in Build It Back program will get their assistance,” said mayoral spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.

“Until every home is rebuilt and all the money is allocated,” Spitalnick said, “our job isn’t done.”

 

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Government officials to host Build It Back reps


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

SALVATORE LICATA

The long, dragged-out process of filling out applications and following up with Build It Back may finally get a little easier.

In an effort to better accommodate residents who were affected by Superstorm Sandy, Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. will host Build It Back representatives in their local offices, so residents can meet directly with Build It Back officials and learn exactly what they have to do to finalize their applications for the government-subsidized grant.

“There is a lot of confusion surrounding the Build It Back program,” Goldfeder said.

The representatives will file paperwork, investigate individual cases and provide a case manager for each resident. Making an appointment is strongly encouraged but walk-ins are welcomed.

“I am thankful Build it Back has people in the Rockaways, but residents off of the Peninsula were affected as well, and they should be able to get help in their own neighborhood,” Addabbo said.

At Addabbo’s office, located at 159-53 102nd St., representatives will hold meetings every Thursday beginning June 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can made by calling 718-738-1111.

At Goldfeder’s offices, located at 2-14 Beach 96th St. and 108-14 Cross Bay Blvd., representatives will alternate between offices beginning with the Rockaway office on Thursday, June 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. Appointments can be made by calling 718-945-9550.

 

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De Blasio announces Sandy recovery overhaul


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo: Ed Reed for the Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major overhaul to speed up Sandy recovery Thursday, along with the release of a detailed report on the city’s response to the storm.

The report includes recommendations that are expected to provide financial relief to businesses and homeowners, and revamp current recovery programs, the mayor said, as well as details on the city’s infrastructure rebuilding and storm mitigation efforts.

“We can’t stand idly by as red tape and bureaucratic bottlenecks prevent far too many New Yorkers from getting the relief they need. That’s why, from day one, we prioritized more efficient recovery,” de Blasio said. “And now, we’ve laid out a blueprint to provide critical financial relief to homeowners and directly engage communities in the rebuilding process—all while continuing our work to ensure a stronger and more resilient New York.”

Part of the engagement process will involve appointing borough directors in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, who will have the authority to direct city agencies to increase community engagement and coordination, and bringing Build It Back staff directly into affected communities, according to the mayor’s administration.

“These latest announcements from the administration have brought new hope to many of our residents who have been displaced and are fighting to put their lives back together and move forward,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “My office will continue to focus resources on the issues and challenges still outstanding for these residents, so we may collectively find solutions.”

The report additionally highlights other improvements the mayor announced last month to Build It Back, a federally-funded program to assist those whose homes, offices and other properties were damaged by Sandy.

Comptroller Scott Stringer also just announced the formation of a Sandy oversight unit and an audit of the Build It Back program.

“It is critical to have an accounting of how government has responded to this event, and what we can do to better prepare for the future,” he said.

Stringer also said that he will be holding town hall meetings in affected neighborhoods during the upcoming months to get community input on what his office should be examining as it comes up with an audit plan of issues on the city’s Sandy response.

The meetings will include the following locations in Queens, with future town halls to be announced for June:

April 30, 6-8 p.m., Bay House, 500 Bayside Dr., Breezy Point

May 20, 6-8 p.m., Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, 348 Beach 71st St., Arverne

For updates on town halls, click here.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Thursday: Mostly sunny. High 51. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph. Thursday night: Mainly clear. Low 36. Winds ENE at 10 to 15 mph.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Happy Hour with QNSMADE & SingleCut Beersmiths

Come hang out at SingleCut Beersmiths in Astoria and try some locally made Queens craft beer. QNSMADE’s mission is to give a voice to the people that make up this borough and provide a space to bring together all the amazing things that are happening in the many pockets of Queens. With seven days left to go on its Kickstarter,  let’s come together and make this happen. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Police arrest man accused of making anti-Muslim statements toward teen on Queens bus

A man wanted for making anti-Muslim statements toward a 15-year-old girl aboard a Queens bus while spiting at the teen and threatening to punch her has been arrested, cops said. Read more: The Queens Courier

Bratton issues new guidelines for jaywalking stops 

Less than four months after officers started cracking down on jaywalkers in New York City, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is telling officers to use more discretion when stopping people who cross the street illegally, according to law enforcement sources. Read more: NBC New York

EXCLUSIVE: City Controller Scott Stringer launching audit of Build it Back Hurricane Sandy home re-building program

The City’s troubled Build it Back program, which has only served a handful of Hurricane Sandy victims since the 2012 natural disaster struck, is going under the microscope. Read more: New York Daily News

Plane evacuated at JFK Airport after bomb threat: officials

A plane was evacuated at John F. Kennedy International Airport Wednesday evening after a bomb threat was made, officials say. Read more: NBC New York

Contract talks heat up between transit workers, MTA

Transit workers came closer to making a deal with the MTA Tuesday more than two years after their labor contract expired, union sources told The Post. Read more: New York Post

Queens pol has high hopes for Sandy Funding Tracker


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the office of Councilmember Donovan Richards

Sandy recovery money is now under close inspection, and one Queens pol wants accountability for every dollar moving forward.

In November, Councilmember Donovan Richards introduced a bill that would track all funds related to superstorm recovery via an online database.

Before former Mayor Michael Bloomberg bid adieu to City Hall in late December, he signed the bill into law, along with 21 others. It will take effect in late March.

Richards said new Mayor Bill de Blasio and his administration will carry out the bill as it was intended, making sure local jobs are created and devastated areas are rebuilt stronger than before.

“De Blasio spent a lot of time with us during the storm, helping and bringing out supplies,” Richards said. “It’s not like we have to convince him we have a need.”

The Workforce Center recently opened in the Far Rockaway Queens Library branch is also equipped to prepare local residents for the rebuilding job opportunities.

“These things all tie into what we want to do,” Richards said. “Twenty billion dollars is going to come through New York City over the next few years. We want to make sure it’s distributed [equally].”

The Sandy Funding Tracker provides a funding summary, which gives an overview of all recovery money by funding type and funding details, broken down by borough and individual.

“You can see where this money is and where it’s going,” Richards said.

In addition to tracking federal funding, all contractors doing work locally are required to disclose everything from the wages they pay workers to the area from which they hire these workers. This is meant to encourage contractors to fulfill local hiring mandates.

The tracker also provides detailed information about projects and programs in each major category of disaster relief funds, such as Build it Back, the city-sponsored recovery program.

For more information and to see the website’s progress thus far, click here. The website will continually be updated once the law goes into effect.

 

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Prayer vigil held to rally for Sandy victims whose homes are in disrepair


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Jean Ferrara-Rodriquez is living in a construction zone 14 months after the superstorm destroyed her West Hamilton Beach home.

“We are struggling from day to day,” said the single mother of a 14-year-old girl. “It’s been way too long of a process and way too slow.”

Faith in New York, a city-based, interfaith federation, hosted a prayer vigil outside Ferrara-Rodriquez’s home on Wednesday to rally for Sandy victims still suffering from the superstorm and call upon Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and the new administration to make recovery a top priority.

De Blasio has spoken publicly about his vision to rebuild resilient communities and strengthen the city’s infrastructure following Sandy’s impact.

The floor, walls and windows of Ferrara-Rodriquez’s ground floor were replaced after Sandy, but a draft from the cold outside air can be felt close to the walls, and the windows offer little insulation, she said.

Repairs have been going on since February, but the 14-year West Hamilton Beach resident has a long road ahead. The floor and walls are still bare, wires and nails are visible and she has no appliances. Food and other items are dispersed throughout the first floor, and her refrigerated items are kept close to the wall so they can be kept cool by the draft.

She applied to Build it Back in August but said she has yet to hear anything from the city’s storm recovery program.

“It’s been two holiday seasons,” she said. “I’m just asking where are the funds we were promised, and why has it taken so long.”

Ferrara-Rodriquez evacuated her 164th Road home before the storm and moved from friends’ houses to a homeless shelter and finally to the Comfort Inn on Cross Bay Boulevard where she lived for 93 days.

She moved back to her damaged home in February, where she and her daughter lived on the second floor without heat. She said Rapid Repairs, the government-sponsored program to give storm victims immediate assistance, installed a boiler, which froze over and broke. The heat was fixed this season for the colder weather.

“We have lived in devastation, isolation and [have] seemingly been forgotten in this slow process of recovery,” said Father Fulgencio Gutierrez of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea parish in Far Rockaway at Wednesday’s vigil. “Our communities cannot wait another year.”

 

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Build it Back program extended until Oct. 31


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

The deadline for the city’s Build it Back program has been extended to October 31.

Build it Back, a federally-funded program to assist those whose homes, offices and other properties were damaged by Sandy, was originally set to be capped off on September 30. The extension came after a great influx of new customers over the last two weeks and as recently as last weekend, according to the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO).

During this time, the program received more than 3,600 new registrants.

As of Tuesday, October 1, Queens homeowners and renters signed up for Build it Back totaled close to 10,000, the most in all five boroughs, said Peter Spencer of the HRO.

“With the thousands of individual complications people find themselves facing, we need a variety of resources,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards. “There is no one fix for every situation. People are still realizing the extent of the damage that Sandy has done.”

To sign up for Build it Back, visit nyc.gov/recovery or call 3-1-1 and ask for NYC Build it Back.

 

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