A proposed federal law that would bring disaster aid to co-op and condo communities has not come any closer to being passed nearly one year after Sandy.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “It’s just prolonging the financial hardship on co-ops. Right now, we’re stuck footing the bill for cleanup and repair from the storm, and I don’t think this will be the last storm.”
Schreiber said his northeast Queens co-op expects to shell out up to $60,000 in repairs not covered by insurance.
More than $250,000 in infrastructure damage was sustained nearby in the Glen Oaks Village co-op, according to its president, Bob Friedrich.
The bill exceeds $1 million for some Rockaway co-ops in the most hard-hit areas of Queens.
The Breezy Point Cooperative, which saw about 350 homes in the beach community decimated by fire and flood, has spent $1.5 million out of the co-op’s reserves and contingency funds to get back on its feet, according to Arthur Lighthall, the co-op’s general manager.
“We had to do a good amount of repair and restoration to get things back in order,” including getting the water supply back and fixing sidewalks, Lighthall said. “The bottom line is it’s us, the shareholders, who have to pay for it.”
The pricey repair costs fall on the shoulders of co-op and condo communities due to a glitch in the law keeping them from getting FEMA storm recovery grants, local leaders said.
The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op,” according to Congressmember Steve Israel.
However, there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.
Co-op and condos are also categorized as “business associations,” which makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants. It also means they cannot get funds to fix shared spaces like lobbies and roofs.
Israel introduced legislation this August that would better define co-ops in the Stafford Act, allow co-op and condo owners to apply for FEMA grants, and call for a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.
The bipartisan bill has at least 14 cosponsors so far but currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, according to Israel’s office.
An aide to the congressmember said any movement of the bill was delayed by the partial government shutdown, which lasted 16 days in October.
“It’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy hit, and it’s time for co-op and condo associations to get the help they deserve,” Israel said. “Although I’ll continue to fight my hardest, it’s frustrating that this bill hasn’t been passed so these homeowners can receive the vital assistance they deserve.”
The City Council unanimously passed a resolution, which is only a formal position statement, last month calling for Congress to enact the law.
“It really shouldn’t be that difficult,” Schreiber said. “I just find it so disappointing that we have a Congress that can’t even get together on changing one line of text that will benefit constituents on the East Coast, West Coast and middle of the country.”