NEW YORK — A year and a half after Hurricane Sandy decimated New York City's coastline, a city-run program that was supposed to rebuild wrecked homes has only begun construction on three houses, and officials say they will need another $1 billion from the federal government to help every homeowner in need.
Homeowners who lost everything in the storm are furious with the lack of progress made by the Build-It-Back program, which was created by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg to primarily help New Yorkers repair, rebuild and elevate homes.
The city has been granted $1.45 billion in federal funding for the program and about 20,000 people have applied for rebuilding and repair assistance. But as of last week, checks had been mailed to just three homeowners — totaling $100,000 — to reimburse them for repair work. And construction has begun on only three homes.
Emotions ran high at a City Council hearing Monday, where Amy Peterson, Mayor Bill de Blasio's director of housing recovery, was assailed with withering criticism from politicians and homeowners in her first day on the job. Much of the blame was laid to the Bloomberg administration.
Peterson acknowledged that it has taken the city an "unacceptable length of time" to help those in need and said de Blasio's administration has moved quickly to cut through the red tape since January to get things moving.
Checks amounting to $800,000 are about to be mailed out to homeowners, Peterson said.
Build-It-Back has been plagued by long wait periods between applicant meetings, lost paperwork and other issues that city officials and homeowners complained of during the hearing.