Build it Back, the city program established after Hurricane Sandy to help people who lost their homes to the storm, has so far done anything but.
The numbers tell the story of complete and utter failure. Approximately $1.5 billion has been allocated for the program, and so far less than 2 percent of that money has actually been released. Nearly 20,000 people have applied for assistance, and the number of homes rebuilt is zero.
That’s right. Zero. And the storm hit 486 days ago.
No wonder the head of the program, Kathryn Mallon, resigned last week — though according to South Queens officials such as state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and City Councilman Eric Ulrich, she was not the problem. Regardless, we hope her departure and the ascension, at least on an interim basis, of her deputy, Benjamin Jones, can mark a new era for Build it Back — like one in which the program will actually live up to its name.
People in South Queens and the Rockaways have been critical of just about every major entity that has played a role in the recovery from Sandy, from the Red Cross to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But while they all had problems, none has performed so poorly as Build it Back.
Take the case of Jean Ferrera-Rodriguez, a resident of Hamilton Beach. Her home still lacks a kitchen, dining room and living room. It used to have them. It should have had new ones by now. But Ferrera-Rodriguez hasn’t seen a penny from Build it Back, due to red tape. She has pretty much given up on the program. Luckily for her, the Red Cross and Catholic Charities did provide assistance so she has at least been able to get something done. But not the biggest things she has to do.
That seems to reflect one key problem with Build it Back, that the people it has helped are not the ones facing the worst situations. Goldfeder and Dan Mundy Jr., president of the Broad Channel Civic Association, said that was one subject addressed during a recent meeting with Mallon.
Now the ball is in Mayor de Blasio’s court. The mayor said Monday that he’s committed to addressing problems with Sandy recovery that cropped up under the Bloomberg administration, but he didn’t get into specifics. He also said federal rebuilding aid came with regulations that complicated efforts.
Now de Blasio needs to cut through that red tape and build Queens back.