Tag Archives: HUD

Co-op owners still fighting for FEMA money months after Sandy


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Newly proposed legislation aims to make co-op and condo associations eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

“A storm does not discriminate where it hits, and FEMA should not be discriminating what type of homeowners it helps,” said Congressmember Steve Israel, who penned the bill.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in March it would allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery assistance to help with repairs.

But leaders and local co-op presidents said the fix was just temporary.

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations.” The title makes them eligible for federal loans, but not grants.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, Israel said. But there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

“It seems clear that FEMA’s policy is the result of not understanding the role of co-ops and condos in our community,” Israel said. “I am introducing this legislation to allow co-op and condo associations to apply for federal grants from FEMA so we can right this wrong and ensure that these homeowners are eligible to receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its pier.

Glen Oaks Village sustained more than $250,000 in infrastructural damage, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

“To deny co-ops the ability to obtain FEMA grant money simply because of the type of housing choices their residents have made is shameful and should not have taken this legislation to correct it,” Friedrich said.

The cost for repairs have fallen “squarely upon the shoulders of middle class owners,” said Warren Schreiber, co-president of Presidents Co-op & Condo Council.

New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of the total $5.4 billion allocated by HUD earlier this year.

However, leaders said co-op and condo owners will have to battle it out with other retail developments, towns, villages and cities for the competitive grants used to repair common areas in the building like lobbies, boilers and elevators.

The proposed law, slated to be introduced in Congress soon, would better define housing co-ops and condos in the Stafford Act. It would also call for the rulemaking process to determine a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

 

Cuomo files proposal for spending Sandy aid


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Governor Cuomo's Flickr

BY ANTHONY O’REILLY

Governor Andrew Cuomo became the first state leader to file a proposal for federal aid to houses and businesses that were damaged during Sandy.

Cuomo’s state action plan, available for public review at nyshcr.org/Publications, outlines how the state intends to spend its first $1.7 billion dollars allocated by the Sandy aid bill signed into law by President Obama in January.

“Superstorm Sandy was the worst storm to hit New York State and our region in recorded history, and its impact devastated homes and businesses across Long Island and the metro area,” said Cuomo. “This plan was put together with the input of homeowners and small businesses in affected communities, and it will serve as a blueprint to guide our housing and private sector recovery.”

The proposal now awaits approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Development, the agency designated with supervising the federal government’s response to Sandy.

“We have worked closely with the State of New York to identify areas of unmet need and ensure that this first round of CDBG-DR funding helps families and small businesses get back on their feet,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “I look forward to building on the partnership we have created with Governor Cuomo to help communities in New York rebuild in a way that makes them stronger, more economically competitive and better able to withstand the next storm.”

Under the proposal, $663 million will be allocated for relief to single family housing, $124 million to multi-family housing and $415 million to bringing back businesses affected by the storm.

If the proposal is approved, the state would also create several programs to help distribute funds. Twenty million dollars would be used in an infrastructure bank, where eligible infrastructure projects can apply for assistance. A community restructuring program would receive $25 million, benefitting communities that have been severely damaged following the storm. Energy related projects would receive $30 million, to help develop critical backup power systems.

“We have been working hand in hand with our federal partners since the day Sandy struck and every day since,” Cuomo said. “The state will provide whatever assistance and collaboration necessary to see that HUD approves these plans as quickly as possible so we can get this aid to the New Yorkers who need and deserve it.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Schumer pushes for co-op, condo Sandy relief


| mchan@queenscourier.com

New York’s senior senator has joined the ranks of leaders pushing for relief to storm-damaged co-ops and condos.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last Wednesday asking the agency to establish Sandy relief program guidelines for co-ops and condos.

Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations,” according to elected federal officials. The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.

“After Sandy, FEMA was able to help many communities. However, due to inflexible bureaucratic rules, co-op and condo homeowners were left in the wake,” Schumer said.

The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, according to Congressmember Steve Israel. But there is no statute that purposefully bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

Schumer called on HUD officials to use Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery funds to help co-op and condo owners repair and rebuild.

HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program early last week. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total.

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its shambled pier.

More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” according to Bob Friedrich, the co-op’s president. The co-op will have to shell out $250,000 for infrastructural damage.

And nearly 3,000 Mitchell-Lama co-ops in the Rockaways are forced to shoulder repair costs, said Dolores Orr, co-op owner and president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“It is astonishing to me that residential co-op buildings are not being afforded any financial assistance in the recovery from Sandy,” she said. “We are homeowners just like those who live in … family houses.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Affordable housing for seniors


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

Some seniors may soon have an affordable place to call home.

Officials from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the MET Council celebrated the opening of Council Towers VI in Pomonok.

Located at 71st Avenue between Kissena and Parsons boulevards, the building is the sixth in a series of completed senior housing buildings designed to serve as supportive affordable housing for New York City residents 62 years of age and older.

Council Towers VI was developed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), a multibillion dollar initiative to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing for half a million New Yorkers by the close of the 2014 fiscal year. To date, the plan has funded the creation or preservation of over 129,200 units of affordable housing across the five boroughs, with 12,500 of those units in Queens.

“HUD has no higher mission than improving people’s lives and strengthening communities, and this wonderful senior development does just that,” said Mirza Orriols, deputy regional administrator. “The latest statistics indicate that one in five New York City residents live in poverty, many of whom, unfortunately, are the elderly living on meager pensions or income.”

Council Towers VI is an eight-story building with 77 one-bedroom rental units and one unit reserved for an on-site superintendent. Twenty-five percent of the units have a preference for existing NYCHA tenants. All units have a senior preference for tenants age 62 and older. The units will be available to tenants earning no more than 50 percent Area Median Income (AMI) or $28,650 for an individual. The tenants’ rent will be set at 30 percent household income.

Residents of Council Towers VI have access to a variety of on-site services. Management staff will provide case management, benefits and entitlements advice and advocacy, as well as on-site education and recreational activities. An experienced social worker will serve as a support service coordinator. Staff will be equipped to refer tenants to off-site licensed health care agencies to provide home care, adult daycare, hospital services, medical education and nursing home options. Additional on-site services include Meals-On-Wheels, housekeeping assistance, counseling and recreational trips. Through the New York State Department of Transportation, Met Council provides transportation for the elderly to essential appointments and recreational outings.

 

Seniors fight relocation at Pomonok


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Pomonok Press Conference15w

The “golden” residents of Pomonok Houses are refusing to let the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) send them off into the sunset.

Senior citizens, many of whom have lived in Pomonok for multiple decades, are furious after they say NYCHA sent them threatening letters demanding they move into a different apartment or an entirely new housing complex.

“I think this is terrible and a travesty,” said Carolyn Ledogar, 71, who has lived in Pomonok for 52 years. “It is terrible that people in their 70s and 80s are getting letters that we have to vacate or relocate. We are supposed to be in our golden years. What golden years?”

Residents like Ledogar, who live in apartments deemed to be under-utilized based on the number of people occupying them, began receiving letters last month informing them they may have to move into smaller units to make room for larger families.

Initial letters offered $350 to offset incurred moving expenses and requested residents visit the Pomonok management office within 10 business days to discuss their living situation. A second, sterner letter followed, notifying recipients they had to visit the office or their lease would be terminated.

“NYCHA faces a real crisis with more than 161,000 people on its waiting list for public housing,” NYCHA officials told The Courier. “There are nearly 50,000 people in NYCHA housing units who are not living in apartments properly sized for their needs – meaning they have too many rooms for their family size.”

According to a NYCHA spokesperson, the letters were sent in compliance with a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirement, and that each resident’s lease includes notification of potential relocation. To facilitate seniors, NYCHA is partnering with Met Council, which is developing new senior housing adjoining Pomonok, located at 67-10 Parsons Boulevard in Flushing.

“NYCHA is not bullying residents out of their apartments,” said Monica Corbett, president of the Pomonok Residents Association. “On the lease, it says that when you become under-occupied, NYCHA sends you this letter. People complain to me but I have two sides – people who need and people who don’t need. I have mothers who are in one-bedroom apartments with five kids, and they have been on a waiting list for over 10 years. Then I have other apartments which are under-occupied, because the resident’s children have moved out.”

Upon receiving the letters, many residents flooded the offices of Assemblymember Michael Simanowitz with phone calls, complaining about the possibility of eviction.

“It is unfair what the housing authority is doing,” said the assemblymember. “No one denies that there is a need for larger sized families, but to threaten people that if they don’t move they would be in violation of their lease is completely unfair. We are talking about senior citizens. A lot of these seniors are living alone and the only safety nets and lifelines they have are their neighbors.”

Simanowitz claims NYCHA has known for years that some residents have been living alone, and choosing to send the letters now is “inhumane” and “selective enforcement.”

Ledogar, who has lived in the same two-bedroom apartment for the past 40 years, has osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and two herniated discs.

“All of us in Pomonok are very angry,” she said. “The seniors don’t want to move. If they try and force us to move then we go to court. I’m not going to cater to them, and none of the other seniors will. If we have to go to court, at least we’re going down fighting.”