BY ANGELA MATUA
Queens residents who have not fully completed Build it Back applications have until Tuesday, June 30, to submit any pending paperwork needed to receive funds for construction on new homes.
State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo is urging homeowners to schedule their damage assessment and complete the application process. The initiative, which began in 2012 to assist homeowners whose property was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, is responsible for rebuilding 262 Queens homes since 2014.
Another 461 houses are authorized to begin construction in Queens and 1,428 reimbursement checks have been sent to Sandy victims from Queens.
Though some residents have expressed frustration with the program, Addabbo said Build it Back is getting better at handling the volume of requests and the processing of paperwork and reimbursements. He said it still remains the best way for homeowners to deal with the devastation.
“It is truly one of the only mechanisms we have to get financial assistance directly to the homeowner who was affected by Superstorm Sandy,” Addabbo said. “Eventually Build it Back will fade into the sunset. While it’s still around we want people to work through the process so they can [receive] any financial assistance they can get.”
Homeowners have the option of choosing their own contractor or using the city-selected developer, Arverne by the Sea LLC. Homeowners who choose the city-selected developer option will have pre-approved designs, architects and contractors chosen for them by the developer.
If homeowners choose their own contractor, they will need to seek out designs from an architect and submit budgets and the proposed architect and contractor to the city for approval before any funds can be provided.
Several changes have been made to the program in the past year, according to a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, and these changes should make it easier for homeowners to rebuild their homes.
Three new construction managers have been added to the rebuilding effort, including Tishman Construction in Queens. They will focus on elevations and will deploy block-wide and neighborhood-wide reconstruction plans to resolve problems like the elevation of attached homes.
Temporary rental assistance is also now available to homeowners who have been displaced because of Built it Back construction and is meant to encourage people who might have decided against using the program because of prohibitive rental costs.
“When overhauling Build it Back last year, Mayor de Blasio recognized the two keys to pushing the pace of construction: first, eliminating red tape from the intake process so that homeowners could select their program pathway more easily, and second, adding enough design and construction capacity to ensure we are reaching every homeowner in the program,” said Amy Peterson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery. “And in the past year we have made both things happen, making an offer to almost every homeowner and delivering relief to thousands, and quadrupling our design and construction capacity to get relief to many more.”
Homeowners who need help with any step of the process can call Senator Addabbo in his Howard Beach office at 718-738-1111 or in his Rockaway office at 718-318-0702. They can also reach the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery at 212-615-8329 or email them at email@example.com.