The City Council has unanimously passed a resolution calling for Congress to make co-op and condos eligible for federal storm recovery grants.
“Condo and co-op owners are homeowners too,” said Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. who brought forth the measure. “Yet, right now, the federal government is denying them Sandy relief. That needs to change.”
The resolution, introduced September 12, comes after many citywide co-op and condo owners found they could not receive FEMA grants for Sandy-inflicted damages.
The measure sailed through the City Council less than two weeks later on September 24. The Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings moved the resolution forward earlier that morning.
It would push the passage of an already proposed federal law that aims to fix a glitch keeping co-op and condo owners from disaster aid.
The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, officials said.
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.
Congressmember Steve Israel introduced a law in 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 proposed legislation currently sits in a subcommittee on the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Warren Schreiber of the Presidents Co-op & Condo Council said the resolution would be used as a bully pulpit to boost federal efforts.
“They can send that on to the congressional delegation,” he said. “That would make a big difference.”
Some Queens co-ops, like Glen Oaks Village, sustained more than $250,000 in damage to infrastructure, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.
Councilmember Eric Ulrich, who represents some of the most Sandy-devastated areas, said co-op and condo communities in the Rockaways are facing “astronomical” renovation costs that exceed $250,000.
Ulrich was the sponsor of another resolution passed by the City Council this week that calls for Congress to amend a federal act to minimize the burden of flood insurance premium rate increases on homeowners.
Vallone will now urge Congress, in a letter, to enact the federal bill.