The deadline to sign up for the city’s post-Sandy Build it Back program is in less than two weeks and according to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), the vast majority of eligible residents in Howard Beach have not signed up.
Less than a third of residents in the 11414 ZIP code who meet the requirements to take part in the program are registered, which Goldfeder said may be the lowest number in Sandy-damaged neighborhoods in the entire city. Other harder hit places like Staten Island and Belle Harbor have seen higher registration rates.
In response to the low turnout, Goldfeder and his staff went door-to-door in Howard Beach this week, ringing doorbells of homes that are eligible to take part in the program and have not in order to implore them to sign up by the deadline, which is Sept. 30. Some residents told Goldfeder that they didn’t know much about the program, or were skeptical that they would get caught up in red tape. Others told them they had already paid out of pocket for repairs and didn’t think they were eligible.
“When you have a situation where money is available and ready to give out, you don’t want to miss anybody,” he said.
The Built it Back program allocates $648 million of federal Sandy relief money to homeowners who need repairs done on their home, a complete reconstruction of their house or want to sell their home and allow the city to redevelop it to meet the new flood criteria.
Though most homes in Howard Beach were not destroyed and did not need to be completely rebuilt, a number of homeowners are still paying for repairs or fighting with insurance companies to get the money for post-Sandy work.
The Build it Back program also allows reimbursements for repair work already done, that was not covered by insurance — which the city’s previous post-Sandy program, Rapid Repairs, did not.
To qualify, the damaged structure must be one- or two-family homes, which serves as the owner’s primary residence or are rented to year-round tenants; buildings with three- or four-unit buildings that are owner occupied; rental residential buildings, co-ops, and condos with 5 or more units or buildings with 3 to 4 residential units that are not owner occupied.
Goldfeder said the program had more applicants than the city suspected and the Mayor’s Office warned there would be a delay in getting the money out, but praised the Bloomberg administration on the outreach it’s done for the program.
“I think the city is doing a good job ensuring that they’re keeping people informed and they’re being methodical in how they get the money out so it gets to the people who need it the most,” he said.
To find out if your home qualifies for Build it Back and register with the program, visit nyc.gov or call 311.