There was good news and bad news for some Hurricane Sandy victims today: while the mayor announced a record infusion of federal funds to help repair public housing, City Comptroller Scott Stringer knocked the city’s Build It Back program, citing poor oversight, and saying problems continue despite a major overhaul the de Blasio administration hails as a success. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed this report.
Darrell Mitchell’s house on Jamaica Bay is still a construction zone, more than two years after Hurricane Sandy brought the flood waters in, four feet high. He says he’s gotten nowhere with the city’s Build It Back program.
“We was submitting everything they wanted us to submit. And still, we was getting no resolve. We weren’t even getting phone calls,” says Mitchell.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer says he now has a better idea why, releasing an audit Tuesday that found the city exercised lax controls over the contractors running the program.
As a result, he said, $6.8 million were paid to two subcontractors, URS and Solix for incomplete work; $245,000 were double-billed; and $1.2 million was paid to subcontractors for work unsupported by any documentation.
“The recovery effort was a field day for contractors making money. It was a nightmare for victims,” says Stringer.
Stringer’s audit looks at the program’s performance from June 2013 to August 2014, a 14-month period that spanned both the Bloomberg and de Blasio administrations.
Tuesday, the mayor, alongside Senator Charles Schumer, announced the largest FEMA grant in history—three billion dollars to repair and insulate NYCHA facilities damaged during Sandy. As for Build It Back, he said the city has already taken action, including taking more direct management of the program.
“The comptroller has made a series of recommendations, the vast majority of which are already being acted on,” Mayor de Blasio said.
The mayor’s office also released figures showing progress on Build It Back, including offers made to almost 9,000 out of about 10,000 active applicants, more than 3,100 reimbursement checks sent out and more than 1,100 construction starts, compared to zero reimbursements or construction starts when de Blasio took office.
“We recognize that there has been progress made. But nobody should be celebrating where we are at this point,” said Stringer.