The slow pace of rebuilding has been an ongoing complaint of those affected by Hurricane Sandy, who’ve faulted the city’s Build-It-Back program and, more recently, the de Blasio administration for moving too slowly. Now city Comptroller Scott Stringer says he plans to hold government accountable. Bobby Cuza filed this exclusive report.
Not only was Pat Andre’s house gutted by Hurricane Sandy, she nearly lost her life. She and her family had to wade through rising waters to find safety at a neighbor’s two-story house. A year and a half later, her home is still not rebuilt, thanks in part to the thick red tape of the city’s Build-It-Back program.
"It got to the point to where when Build-It-Back came to give me an assessment, I said to myself, I’m not going to get any help,” she said.
Andre has gotten help from Friends of Rockaway, a group that helps rebuild homes at reduced costs. But city Comptroller Scott Stringer says not everyone’s been so fortunate.
“Now government’s got to do their part. And my job is to hold these agencies accountable,” Stringer said.
To that end, Stringer is launching a Sandy oversight unit. He visited Andre’s house Wednesday and said auditors will scrutinize Build-It-Back, rooting out waste and fraud and making recommendations on how to improve the program.
“It disturbs me greatly that there’s 20,000 people on a waiting list. Six homes have basically been rebuilt. This has now gone on way too long,” Stringer said.
“Everyone, everyone whose home was destroyed will have their home rebuilt,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Though he only recently named his Sandy leadership team, de Blasio is promising to get efforts on track, including redirecting $100 million toward rebuilding homes. Stringer did not the criticize the mayor.
“We have to, though, recognize what the facts are. Thousands of people are not getting help quick enough. Too few homes have been built,” Stringer said.
Stringer will also solicit feedback directly from residents at a series of town hall meetings.
“In order to do this audit, unlike other audits, it will not work unless we are in the community listening to the residents,” said Stringer.
Stringer has already scheduled the first four town hall meetings, here in the Rockaways, in Coney Island, and on Staten Island. The first of them is set for April 30 in Breezy Point.