Some Sandy Victims in Build it Back Program Being Told City Won't Rebuild or Elevate Their Homes

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After years of waiting for the city to rebuild or elevate their storm-damaged homes, some Hurricane Sandy victims are now being told that won't happen. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

Diane Camerada's New Dorp Beach home was one of the first to enroll in the city's rebuilding program, Build It Back.

"They tell you what your home is going to look like, what they're going to do, how your house is going to be made resilient to the next storm, God forbid it ever hits," Camerada said. "Hey, I'm all for it. I don't want to go through this again." 

Camerada worked with architects and contractors, and multiple plans to elevate her home were drawn at city expense. But the work kept getting delayed, in part because of a fight with the city over a Certificate of Occupancy.

And then she recently received a letter from Build it Back. It told her "the house does not need to be lifted" after all to protect it from future storms. 

"That's a joke," Camerada said. "They tell you you're in the program, they're elevating your house? How do they back out after four years?" 

Homeowners in the Seashell Gardens bungalow community in Rockaway Park, Queens face a similar situation. Build it Back recently told them, "It will not be able to offer rebuild or elevation assistance," citing disputes about property boundaries, their proximity to a subway line and the inability of the houses to meet new fire codes.

Residents charge the program rejected them because of Build It Back's $500 million deficit. They point to a home in Seashell Gardens that already has been elevated through Build It Back. 

"They're throwing up reasons just to get people out of the program because they spent all the money through mismanagement or something," said David Longeran, a Build it Back participant.

Homeowners say they won't go down without a fight and that they've recently filed paperwork appealing the city's decision.

Build It Back says simliar letters have been sent this spring to about 70 homeowners seeking elevation or reconstruction work. In every case, the program blamed multiple problems that it said were insurmoutable, like an inability to meet fire codes. 

The agency says it always offers homeowners alternatives, such as more modest repairs or a buyout. 

As for Camerada, she's dropped out of Build It Back and hopes a charity will help her when the city would not.

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