BY LUIS GRONDA
The progress made on Superstorm Sandy recovery will allow some residents like John and Jayme Galimi to move back into their homes sooner rather than later.
Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Broad Channel on Monday to tout significant progress made on the recovery from the storm that destroyed many coastal areas throughout the City, including Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach and the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.
The Mayor announced that almost half of the approximately 6,400 homeowners who have applied for money to Build It Back have been made an offer by the agency, compared to 451 at the start of 2014. About 4,000 have accepted an offer from Build It Back and more than 1,500 have started design, both compared to zero at the beginning of this year, according to de Blasio’s office.
“Days like this remind us that there is hope after the storm, there is a way forward, but we can never rest until everyone who was affected is served, it’s as simple as that,” de Blasio said as the sounds of construction workers hammering nails at a nearby home could be heard.
Part of the announcement also focused on setting new goals for the Build It Back program, which now aims to hit 1,000 construction starts and 1,500 reimbursement checks delivered by Dec. 31 of this year.
The Mayor said progress has been made on both fronts because they revamped the entire Build It Back system.
“When I came into office, and before this team was assembled, it was quite clear that Build It Back was failing homeowners,” he said. “There had been no construction starts, no reimbursement checks. A program that was supposed to help people in need literally produced a zero and a zero.”
The press conference was held steps away from the Galimis’ home, which was being rebuilt. The Mayor spoke with the couple and toured the construction site prior to the event.
John said that as soon as they got in contact with Amy Peterson, the director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, it got the ball rolling on rebuilding their property.
“It was a long process. We would keep going down there time after time, we got no answers from them. It was a lot of bumps in the road, a lot of curves, but eventually it worked out,” he said.
John and Jayme, along with their five children, are expected to move back into their newly rebuilt home by Christmas this year.
The Mayor’s visit to southern Queens also brought to light another issue affecting the area: the Rockaway Ferry.
There was a small group of protestors standing on the opposite side of Cross Bay Boulevard, yelling for the Mayor to restore the Rockaway Ferry. The ferry, which runs from Rockaway to Manhattan and includes a stop in Brooklyn, is set stop running on Oct. 31 due to the cost of maintaining the ferry.
One of the protestors was former mayoral candidate Sal Albanese, who said the Mayor should absolutely provide funding to keep the ferry running permanently.
“I believe in the potential of Rockaway and the residents there need this ferry. It’s an essential means of transportation,” Albanese said. “It’s unconscionable that the Mayor refuses to fund it.”
When asked about the issue at the press conference, de Blasio said they are working on a long-term plan for ferry service for Rockaway and the rest of the City.
“It’s a tough mission because of the way funding works nowadays, but it’s something that we need to think about how to take greater advantage of because of the growth that’s going to be happening in the City in the coming decades,” he said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @luisgronda.