As those in recovery can attest, the first step is admitting you have a problem. Mayor de Blasio did that big time with the city's Build It Back program yesterday, saying that the program which is designed to help Hurricane Sandy victims is woefully inadequate.
Mayor Bloomberg had initially resisted creating a pot of money to help homeowners who rebuilt on their own – and that resistance has been evident in the glacial pace of the program.
About 20,000 New Yorkers have enrolled in Build It Back – and most all them are still waiting for an inspection visit from the city – let alone a check to help reimburse them for repairs.
As our Bobby Cuza pointed out in his report for NY1, members of the de Blasio team never directly pointed their fingers at Mayor Bloomberg yesterday in a press conference about Build It Back but it's clear they're unhappy with the state of the program that they inherited.
Calling it an "intolerable situation", Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris noted: "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."
It's ironic that the often-tardy occupant of City Hall is now tightening up the timetables on city workers but hopefully it will work.
De Blasio yesterday noted that 1,000 homeowners have already received checks – and he hopes that another 500 will be awarded by the end of the summer. That's still far too long for people who shelled out tens of thousands of dollars almost a year-and-a-half ago but at least it's a start.
The mayor should also double down on the city's own rebuilding efforts. Not a single piece of boardwalk has been replaced in the Rockaways – with the project not scheduled to be completed until more than three years from now. Meanwhile, the adjacent city of Long Beach has already replaced its entire two-mile boardwalk which was destroyed in the storm.
People in faraway places like Staten Island and the Rockaways are often cynical about government; City Hall is more than an hour away and most New Yorkers have never been to their neighborhoods, even after the hurricane. The city's sluggish response has only played into the fear and loathing of residents'; so it would be ironic if a Park Slope hipster – as the mayor would be called in the Rockaways – could start to make things better, one step at a time.