An emergency vehicle following Superstorm Sandy. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

A city vehicle following Superstorm Sandy. (Photo: Daniel Maurer)

Three years ago, Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New York with high winds, heavy rain, and a 13-foot storm surge that plunged downtown Manhattan into darkness. Today, on the anniversary of the storm, Mayor de Blasio touted the success of the city’s troubled Build it Back program, and the New York City Housing Authority reported progress in overhauling three of its flood-afflicted developments. 

The Build It Back program was set up by Mayor Bloomberg to offer aid to residents to rebuild their damaged homes or apartments, but it was criticized as a web of red tape that ultimately stood in the way of funding. By the end of the first 10 months, no households had been helped in the program.

Mayor de Blasio and his supporters repeatedly criticized Bloomberg for not doing enough and promised an overhaul of the program. But this past July, federal housing officials said de Blasio, too, was moving too slow to repair and rebuild homes.

“When Build It Back started in 2013, more than 20,000 New York City households applied for help. Two years later, 10,000 remain in the program,” the Wall Street Journal reported in July. “City officials say those who dropped out may have found help elsewhere—some benefited from insurance payouts—or have been deemed ineligible. Local officials and homeowners familiar with the program say many of the applicants, stymied by the process, gave up.”

Three months later, de Blasio is declaring victory. Today, during a speech on Staten Island, one of the areas Sandy most damaged, he announced that the Build it Back single-family home program will be complete by the end of 2016, and that 100 percent of reimbursement checks have now been sent out to homeowners. According to figures released by the mayor’s office, there have been 2,015 construction starts (including 1,217 construction completions), 5,319 reimbursement checks totaling nearly $104 million. Sixty-three percent of applicants have now seen a check or construction and over 5,000 homes have entered design. 

“Last year, we were fixing Build it Back and now we’re finishing it, committing to completing the program and getting families home by the end of next year,” de Blasio said. “Even as we work to get every family home, we are also aggressively moving to address the risks of climate change. We’re already safer today than we were three years ago, and we will continue to implement our comprehensive $20 billion resiliency plan across the five boroughs.”

One of those resiliency projects is the East Side Coastal Resiliency project, a series of berms, floodwalls and barriers set to run from 23rd Street to Montgomery Street. The City has already successfully allocated $335 million from the federal government, which will be devoted to the first phase of the project. However, during a meeting reported on by the The Lo-Down, officials reminded residents that the City would need to allocate more funds in order to full execute the plan. 

“The city is now competing with applicants from across the country for another $1 billion that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is set to award,” writes The Lo-Down. “New York is asking for $500 million for flood protection below Montgomery Street. The spokesperson from the mayor’s office said a final cost estimate for the first phase of the project hasn’t been determined as of yet.”

Other Sandy-related repair projects underway in the East Village and Lower East Side include construction at NYCHA’s Lower East Side Rehab 5 building, located on Avenue C between East 6th and 7th Streets, where workers will install a permanent standby generator and replace boilers.

Additionally, Riis II is currently undergoing boiler demolition, asbestos abatement, electrical feeder line replacement, and crawl space and boiler room restoration. Further permanent repairs are scheduled for the first half of 2016. With full roof replacements to six buildings, back-up power generators, CCTV installation and other upgrades, the project is estimated to cost $51 million.

Finally, the New York City Housing Authority will select a private developer in November to restore four of the most damaged Smith Houses buildings. About $56 million will be allocated to fund a full roof replacement, renovations to damaged first floor apartments, installation of back-up generators, stairwell lighting and more. NYCHA estimates work will start in the beginning of 2016.