Three weeks after appointing a new leadership team to head Hurricane Sandy recovery, Mayor Bill de Blasio released a report Thursday outlining what he called a major overhaul of the rebuilding effort, and in the process, set ambitious goals for himself. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Hurricane Sandy victims say the city's Build It Back program is slow, burdensome and ineffective. Mayor Bill de Blasio seems to agree.
"Let's be blunt. It's been overly complex, and it's been confusing for homeowners over the last year and a half," de Blasio said. "We know we have to do things differently, better, faster."
De Blasio said progress is already being made, with nearly 1,000 homeowners accepting award offers since January 1, totaling about $40 million.
Flanked by leaders from affected areas Thursday, the mayor set an ambitious new goal of 500 construction starts and 500 reimbursement checks issued by the end of this summer.
Among the many changes announced to help cut the red tape included Department of Buildings inspectors assigned exclusively to Build It Back, expanded eligibility, so that in most cases, homeowners will qualify regardless of income, and a web portal that will allow applicants to track their status online.
The 33-page report itself does not once mention the former mayor, but administration officials made clear they inherited a mess from Michael Bloomberg.
"When we came in here, not a single home was in design. Not a single home had been chosen as optioned. Nobody was certainly in construction. Not a single reimbursement check had gone out," said First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris. "That was the intolerable situation."
De Blasio's putting a heavy emphasis on engaging local communities, in particular, connecting local residents to local rebuilding jobs, and he promised to personally come check on the city's progress."
"I will be coming back here personally to Staten Island to update you," he said.
Local elected officials said actions will speak louder than words.
"We need the sole-minded, laser-like focus that we've seen this mayor demonstrate on some of the victories he's had in the first few months, on this issue," said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.
Also Thursday, City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced that he'll audit Build It Back.
While de Blasio's report also covers resiliency projects, it details no major new initiatives and does not specify how much additional funding may be sought.
NY1 Web Extra: Watch the mayor's full news conference
TWC News: Mayor Announces 'Major Overhaul' to City's Sandy Rebuilding Efforts
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