Thursday, December 25, 2014

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NY1 For You: Rapid Repairs' Legacy Has Room For Improvement

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The unprecedented level of damage from Hurricane Sandy led city administrators to create Rapid Repairs as a way to quickly get people back on their feet. NY1's Susan Jhun investigated how well the free emergency repair program benefited New Yorkers six months after the storm and filed the following "NY1 For You" report.

A quick fix done right: That was the idea behind the city's free Rapid Repair program after Hurricane Sandy left tens of thousands of residents stripped of essential services and their homes virtually impossible to live in.

"Everything's back on and you are living in your house," says homeowner Ellen Sautner.

"It wasn't acceptable the idea that they would be totally dislocated, we wanted to get the power back on and get them home," says Deputy Mayor of Operations Cas Holloway.

So the city hired 10 big contractors in an attempt to streamline the need for mass emergency repairs, sending thousands of skilled plumbers and electricians to the hardest hit neighborhoods to fix broken boilers, hot water heaters and flooded electrical panels.

What seemed like an ideal program for residents desperate to return home turned into an unnecessary hassle for some. Over the past six months, we heard from countless people who complained of shoddy installation jobs, delayed repairs and poor communication with contractors.

"I would've been better off being able as a homeowner to pick the service people to put in my boiler and to be able to deal with it as a homeowner on my own," says homeowner Pansy Oliver-Dones.

However, those involved with the program believe many New Yorkers would still be in the dark today without its help.

"It would have taken longer for people to get back into their homes and I think many people would still not be back in their homes. Luckily we're not faced with that," says Holloway.

Holloway says addressing the issues quickly and making constant improvements led Rapid Repairs to complete work in 20,000 residential units in five months.

"It's true, we had cases where work wasn't done as quickly as we wanted it done, and maybe there were some installations that weren't done properly but I think in the main, we made sure that the work was safe and it was done up to code," recalls Holloway.

Although Holloway calls it an overall success, many would say there's room for improvement.

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