Building It Back
In fact, many people, frustrated with the city’s efforts, simply chose to exhaust their life savings to return to their homes. The rest have been waiting far too long for a reason to believe that they too, could come home. Based on The Wave’s recent tour of a cluster of new projects in Breezy Point, there are real signs that the resurgence of Rockaway has reached the Build It Back program.
On June 15, The Wave was granted a walkthrough of properties in Breezy Point with Peterson, Christine Flaherty, an Associate Commissioner at the city’s Department of Design and Construction; along with several aides and contractors. Unlike some of the scripted events which are usually conducted for photo ops and political advancement, this “tour” was informal, earnest and educational.
No one was dressing up with a hardhat to fill up a pothole while wearing a suit in Breezy on this rainy and humid Tuesday. Instead, our little group trudged through the maze-like network of small homes to one of the finished 23 homes that had been destroyed in the storm surge.
“We know we have a long way to go,” said Peterson who acknowledged the frustrations of homeowners during the long process. “Things are moving forward, and things are being done, and if people start driving around in their communities, they will see the results.
In Breezy, of the 683 properties in review with BIB, 405 homeowners have selected their options, 215 design starts are underway, and 84 reimbursement checks have been issued – valued at $1,395,613.
In Rockaway, 2,820 properties are under review, 1,947 have selected their options, 731 have designs starts, and 797 reimbursements checks have been issued, totaling $16,445,192. The peninsula has 131 finished houses under Build It Back to date, compared to none at the beginning of 2014.
Much of the increased success of BIB has been the addition of the DDC in early 2015, said Peterson, who says the agency has allowed them to partner with contractors who can handle large area contracts.
“The addition of DDC’s construction expertise will build on a year of dramatic progress by quadrupling our current design and construction capacity,” Peterson said. “The construction value of new work is estimated to be $750 million.”
“We are extremely aware of the frustrations people had in the past, but we understand those frustrations and really want to help people who need it, Peterson said. “Especially those who might have given up… there’s still time.”
But not much time, as by June 30, all applicants MUST submit documents for eligibility determination and schedule a damage assessment.
If applicants are not sure what is needed to complete the application, they should contact BIB at 212-615- 8329 or by email at housing@recovery. nyc.gov. If necessary, BIB spokesperson Samuel Breidbart says the office will connect applicants with legal and financial counseling services, which provide cost-free application assistance.
Peterson added that local elected officials have been extremely cooperative as well.
“We have worked closely with the local electeds and civic associations to publicize these new program options and move cases forward.” Peterson said. “We recently partnered with Council Members Eric Ulrich and Donovan Richards, Senator Joe Addabbo, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in an outreach campaign to reengage applicants who have become unresponsive to the program.”
Peterson wants people to realize that the BIB program has changed significantly over the past year and a half and has added or amended many of their policies. Folks may now be eligible for something that they weren’t previously eligible for.
The Wave urges people to act before the June 30 deadline. It may have taken far longer to get to this point than anyone ever expected, but when opportunity knocks, answering the door is a big first step.
To hear more of this interview with Peterson, the DDC’s Christine Flaherty and the contractors, you can stream or download the “Riding The Wave” podcast beginning June 19 at www.blogtalkradio.com/ridingthewavewithmarkhealey/ 2015/06/19/bui ld-it-backs-amy-peterson-is-ridingthe wave.