On the fourth anniversary of superstorm Sandy last weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio lamented his failed promise to rebuild every last single-family home by the year’s end.
Despite the $1.5 billion in funding that’s been provided to 11,000 New York homeowners, and more than 1,000 small-business owners, nearly half of the homes that were promised to be rebuilt through the Build It Back program have not been completed. Two-thirds of the homeowners who signed up have now dropped out, and the program is already $500 million over budget, reported New York Post.
“Everyone knows we have fallen short of that goal. That disappoints me deeply,” de Blasio said on Staten Island as he celebrated the opening of a Sandy-delayed water tunnel.
Of the 4,025 city-managed construction projects, only 55 percent had been completed, and 77 percent had started, figures from the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations showed. Several thousand homeowners had opted for checks instead of leaving reconstruction to the government.
Yet the program did push recovery forward quite a bit, De Blasio said, adding that setting the goal “allowed us to move a lot of projects that were stalled.”
He vowed to review what prevented them from delivering on the promise and fix it.
“If I go back and feel that there was something that wasn’t done right that could have been done different,” the mayor said, “then I’ll evaluate whether there needs to be other consequences.”
The Oct. 28, 2012, storm had damaged approximately 170,000 housing units across the city. And when de Blasio took office in 2014 and assumed the responsibility of the rebuilding effort from Michael Bloomberg, no homes were yet under construction and no checks had been cut.
Amy Peterson, the head of the Build It Back program since 2014, said she sees significant frustration from the people who were promised that Sandy would be put behind them once and for all.
Peterson and de Blasio, who earlier in October had released a 26-page report about the progress of the rebuilding effort, attributed much of the holdup to the “tangle of bureaucracy.” Peterson explained to NBC New York that it is the stringent rules and regulations required to receive the federal funding that stalled progress.
However, those federal funds have now run out, and the administration is forced to re-appropriate funds from other city reserves to cover the $500 million in extra expenses and whatever else might be added to that amount.
On Saturday, the mayor revised his promises for wrapping up the effort. He said that by next year 90 percent of the home construction would be underway, and that 75 percent would be completed.