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FEMA: Winterized Trailers Are Not Proper Housing For NYC

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency told NY1 Tuesday their trailers will not work as temporary housing for people affected by Hurricane Sandy in big cities like New York.

Their comments came after NY1 identified more than 100 winterized FEMA trailers sitting empty in Plains Township, Penn.

FEMA acknowledged it has thousands of trailers stored and ready for disasters, but said its resources are better used contributing to the city's Rapid Repairs program and providing rental assistance in this case.

FEMA said the "temporary housing units" are much bigger than RVs and campers and will not fit in people's front yards or driveways.

"These won't fit. These are much too big put on somebody's front lawn," said Mike Byrne, a FEMA coordinating officer for New York State. "These are not the type of thing you can put on your front lawn or in on your back yard"

Officials also said the trailers need a base built under them, and the government only sends them out when it establishes a location outside of a flood zone where it can build a trailer "city" of sorts.

According to Gerritsen Beach Cares, which helps to head up the recovery effort in the Brooklyn neighborhood of the same name, it could take as long six months for more than 400 families to rebuild their homes.

Mike Taylor, the group's chairman, told NY1 many Gerritsen Beach residents are staying with family or friends, while others are receiving FEMA money for hotels or short-term rentals.

"People down here are definitely going to lose years off their life, you know. Some of these seniors, they don't know what to do," said Taylor.

He said he gave up asking FEMA for the temporary housing units and is now trying to get the public to donate campers and RVs.

FEMA says while it can can put single wide trailers on individual lots, there needs to be enough space and the existing infrastructure must include 220 amp service, sewage hookup and a propane tank for heat.

According to FEMA, those conditions are not usually available and local ordinances would have to be changed.

"I know Gerritsen Beach. I've been there a number of times since the storm," Byrne said. "The types of solution of bringing in trailers and things like that, it's time-consuming. There is no infrastructure for this. There are no trailer parks or prepared sites in Brooklyn. We would have to come in, put in infrastructure, put in sewers, put in electric, put in gas and those types of things. That's going to take months to do."

A common complaint from some of the displaced who receive rental help is they now have to commute to work and for their kids' schools after they lost their vehicles.

FEMA said if it built one of these trailer "cities" of sorts, the families would still have to commute because it would not likely be close to their homes.

The agency's focus remains on Rapid Repairs program and housing assistance for hotels and rental.

As of Tuesday, almost 500 homes were made liveable through Rapid Repairs and of the $738 million given to New Yorkers affected by Sandy, $678 million has been for housing assistance.

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