Tag Archives: rapid repairs

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.”



FDNY: Rapid Repairs not behind Howard Beach house blast

| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence M. Cullen

A gas explosion that destroyed a Howard Beach house last week was not caused by fixes from the city’s post-Sandy repair service, an FDNY spokesperson said.

The May 29 blast sent resident Theresa Pepitone to New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center with severe burns. Witnesses said the burns took skin off of her face and scalp.

Firefighters responded to the blast shortly after 2 p.m. and had to battle with flames caused by the gas. The home partially collapsed in the process, according to Deputy Fire Chief Robert Maynes.

Maynes said National Grid workers were able to stop gas flow to the home, which helped efforts to extinguish the fire.

No one else was injured in the blast, but a pet German shepherd inside suffered minor injuries, Maynes added.

Fire marshals are still investigating what exactly caused the gas line to go.

Department of Buildings (DOB) has listed the home as unlivable. The center of the home was destroyed by the time the fire was extinguished.

A gas furnace and a water heater had been replaced in the house through Rapid Repairs, according to a permit filed with DOB. It was approved less than a week earlier, on May 23.



Rapid Repairs fixes more than 20,000 Sandy-damaged homes

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo


Five months after Sandy damaged thousands of residences in New York City, the NYC Rapid Repairs program has completed work on more than 20,000 homes,  Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The program was launched last November in the aftermath of the storm in order to provide heat, power and hot water to those homes affected.

Queens has benefited the most out of any borough, with more than 5,000 buildings repaired.

“In the four months since it launched, Rapid Repairs has restored essential services to more than 20,000 residences, allowing nearly 54,000 New Yorkers return to their homes where real recovery can begin,” said Bloomberg speaking at the American Legion Post in Broad Channel , which served as a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center following Sandy. “It’s a new model for disaster recovery that we proved can work.”

All scheduled repairs are expected to be finished by next week.

“The milestone that Rapid Repairs reached today in servicing over 20,000 families is significant towards showing that our community is making major progress following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy,” said Councilmember Donovan Richards said.

Bloomberg also announced the city’s plans for $1.77 billion in federal aid to assist residents and businesses affected by the storm.

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is also putting aside $10 million in private donations to assist one and two-family homes in need of repairs.



Rapid Repairs program draws criticism

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Noreen Ellis registered for the NYC Rapid Repairs program the first day it became available. Her home on Beach 122 Street in the Rockaways swallowed seven feet of water, blowing out its electrical, plumbing and heating systems during Sandy. The program promised contact within 48 hours of registering. For six days, her phone went quiet. After reaching out to her local politicians, Rapid Repairs officials scheduled an appointment with Ellis for Tuesday, November 20. They never showed up.

Many residents waiting for assistance from the Rapid Repairs program have reported missed appointments by the city-hired contractors selected to restore services to those in New York City’s Sandy affected neighborhoods. The few whose homes that were inspected said no follow-up visits were made to begin construction.

“Maybe the checks and balances within the system aren’t there,” said Ellis. “I understand there’s a lot of chaos but you don’t reach out to someone and tell them you’ll be there in 48 hours and not go. They have to hold up their end of the bargain.”

According to the mayor’s office, nearly 7,000 homeowners have enrolled in the Rapid Repairs program, more than 4,500 assessments have been scheduled and over 2,000 assessments have been completed. The city allocated $500 million and partnered with FEMA for the no-cost incentive, hiring several private contractors to oversee construction in various locations.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said his office has received dozens of calls from constituents waiting for call-backs and appointments with representatives from the Rapid Repairs program. According to the official, locals suffer from an overall “bad taste about the progress of the program.”

“The program wasn’t announced until two weeks into the storm. We’re now at five weeks,” said Goldfeder. “The number of people who have gotten back into their home is essentially next to nothing.”

The assemblymember said relying on community feedback and utilizing a “bottom-up” approach instead of hiring elite Manhattan contractors, unfamiliar with the outer boroughs, could make the program more viable.

“I want this program to work, but it has to be severely adjusted,” said Goldfeder.

Ellis believes issues with the program stem from disorganization rather than a lack of compassion.

“I can’t even foster in my mind that someone who sees the devastation doesn’t care,” she said.

Ellis’s husband Stephen, a retired FDNY member, ruptured his patella tendon during the storm, rendering him bedridden with an ankle-to-hip cast and unable to help with repairs. Ellis says that even with its problems, the program may be her only option.

“I can’t say it’s been the smoothest ride but we have to take the ride because unfortunately we don’t have the money to hire an electrician and a plumber. This program is a saving grace because when you’re looking at and electrical system and a heating system — you don’t know how much you’re going to get,” said Ellis. “It was a hard decision to wait rather than put down money we don’t have out of our own pocket.”

NYC Rapid Repairs program begins today

| brennison@queenscourier.com

Superstorm Sandy destroyed the homes of thousands of New Yorkers and left multitudes more temporarily displaced. With the goal of assuring all residents have a roof over their heads as quickly as possible, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Brad Gair, a former deputy commissioner for operations at the Office of Emergency Management, as director of housing recovery operations.

Gair worked at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) between 1999 and 2006, serving as the highest-ranking federal executive in aiding the city’s recovery post-9/11.

“His extensive, hands-on expertise, I think, makes him exactly the right person to tackle this job,” Bloomberg said.

Gair, who most recently served as president of a private emergency management firm, Good Harbor EM, will coordinate with city, state and federal agencies to relocate displaced New Yorkers into temporary and transitional housing. Bloomberg has estimated that approximately 10,000 residents will require housing as a result of the storm.

“Post-disaster housing is usually one of the most complex and challenging issues to be dealt with in any catastrophic disaster like this,” Gair said. “We know it will take a while, it will be difficult, there will be bumps along the road, but we believe we have the resources to get this done.”

In his more than a decade in the field, Gair said he’s learned lessons from recoveries done well and others done not so well.

The keys to finishing the job, he said, was using innovative methods, utilizing every resource available and being tenacious in getting New Yorkers back to their homes again.

One of the first steps Gair and Bloomberg took to returning residents to their homes was NYC Rapid Repairs.

The program, which is a partnership between FEMA and the city, allows for quicker and more efficient repairs, Bloomberg said. Whereas in the past homeowners were required to arrange for repair work, contractors will now be given responsibility for specific areas affected by the storm and will handle the repairs for any homeowner who enrolls in the program.

Homeowners can sign up for the program by going NYC.gov or by calling 3-1-1. Residents will need a FEMA ID number, which they can get by registering at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 800-621-3362.

“The best temporary solution is always a permanent solution,” Gair said. “One way to limit the number of temporary housing needed is to get homeowners back in the places they already live.”

While the first concern is finding a place for every displaced New Yorker, the long-term plan is securing permanent housing for those expelled by the storm, Gair said.

“We cannot call our recovery complete until every New Yorker has a place to call home again,” said Gair.