BY JON CRONIN
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced new Hurricane Sandy recovery stats with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro on Tuesday at Kennedy’s restaurant, a shorefront business in Breezy Point that was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy three years ago this week.
HUD has contributed $4.2 billion to the New York City program Build It Back. “You and your team have been excellent,” de Blasio said to Castro, adding that they have been creatively administering their aid to the city.
“It took a full overhaul at Build It Back,” he said. An overhaul, de Blasio noted, that allowed them, “to do the work faster and better.” He said when he took office in January 2014 Build It Back had not started a single project. “It had to be re-worked from the beginning,” adding that there have been, 1,877 construction starts since January 2014.
“We will not stop until every family is served,” de Blasio promised. “There was an incredible sense of community” that came out of it. “Three years later it’s absolutely amazing what people have achieved and we’re proud to be a part of it.”
De Blasio said that Tuesday’s press conference would be followed by another on Thursday. “Today we’ll be looking back, Thursday we’ll be looking forward,” he said.
“We’ve been learning ever since about the need to do more and do better,” said de Blasio. “The partnership with HUD has been a crucial part of this.”
Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said HUD has dispensed $13 billion to states and cities affected by Superstorm Sandy.
He noted that morning, they were happy to give a Breezy Point family, the Cunninghams, the keys to their brand new house. He said they explained that although their two daughters were in school, they had already picked out their new rooms and were excited to come home. “Those are the kinds of stories we love to hear,” he said.
He said HUD is also advocating money to infrastructure projects along the New Jersey and Long Island shores that aid vulnerable communities and turn them into more attractive safer neighbors to better weather future storms.
Castro said he wants everyone’s story to turn out like the Cunninghams. “We will not stop until that story is complete,” he said.
Build It Back worked with an initial applicant group of approximately 9,300 and now over 5,000 have been reimbursed.
As of Oct. 9 Build-It-Back has reimbursed 2,000 households in Queens, started construction on 677 projects, completed 677 and given out over $43.6 million in reimbursements.
Citywide this past year, Build It Back had 1,691 construction starts. There were 4,477 checks sent out amounting to $85.8 million, also compared to zero at the beginning of 2014. By the end of September the program could boast 1,042 projects completed. They claim, “over 50 percent of active homeowners have now been served.”
De Blasio also gave credit to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) for being on-site with the community in the days after Sandy and Amy Peterson, de Blasio’s director of Housing Recovery for going door-to-door after the storm and when Build It Back was reinvigorated.
Regarding Kennedy’s, de Blasio said, “This is a restaurant that has taken a hard hit and literally come back better than ever.” Castro said the restaurant received a $126,000 grant from Build It Back that helped them get back on their feet.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at (718) 357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin