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NY1 Exclusive: De Blasio Considers Changes to Bloomberg Program for Sandy-Impacted Neighborhoods

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Mayor Bill de Blasio is considering making major changes to a key program Mayor Michael Bloomberg set up for neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, and while the new mayor decides what's next, the $84 million fund is going unspent, even as some say there are pressing needs for the money. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

Gutted buildings in Staten Island. A vacant lot in Rockaway. Two places leveled in Hurricane Sandy, but with the right help, some see change for the better.

"It would mean many jobs for this community," said Gerry Romski of Arverne by the Sea. "This area, unfortunately, has a pretty high unemployment rate."

People from both areas applied to the city's Game Changer competition. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced it in June 2013. The goal: millions for areas still reeling, not just to rebuild, but rebuild better.

"This is urgent work, and it must begin now," Bloomberg said at the time.

Now, though, de Blasio officials may scrap Game Changers, using the $84 million for something else.

A statement says, in part, "We weren't convinced that the Neighborhood Game-Changer Investment Competition, as this administration inherited it, was set up to be the most effective way to spend these critical federal funds. We're evaluating the program to determine next steps, while simultaneously aggressively moving forward other small business-focused recovery and resiliency programs..."

Likely changes aren't sitting well for some.

"This is just another example where the Economic Development corporation is shortchanging our small businesses in southern Queens and Rockaway and in every Sandy-devastated community by not investing money that they already have," said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder of Queens.

Officials admit spending pace is slow. The chart at left shows spending pace for businesses. Blue is what's allocated and black is what's spent.

Another chart shows spending pace for housing.

On Thursday, de Blasio visited a Sandy-damaged home under repair. He said slowness dates to Bloomberg.

"But since January 1, we're on the right track," he said.

The mayor admitted that many areas still suffer. Some in the Rockaways say a U-turn could come with a hotel and marina on one plot. Another plan is for stores at a new section of the Arverne by the Sea neighborhood.

An application also went out from Staten Island. Locals want to transform an area of Midland Beach. Since Hurricane Sandy, it's become something of a ghost town.

"People are starting to rebuild, but I guess the question would be, are they rebuilding in a resilient way?" said Linda Baran of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.

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