Volunteers help Sandy victims move home by Christmas

Tim Flesicher reports from Staten Island
December 19, 2013 3:52:13 PM PST
A volunteer group is helping a Staten Island couple get back in their home that had been ruined by Sandy by Christmas.

Repair work goes on at the home of Nancy Fisher and Ruben Vazquez with the hope that it will be finished so they can spend their first Christmas there since being forced out by Superstorm Sandy.

"It's been a grueling year and a half," said Nancy Fisher, a homeowner.

They wanted it to be ready sooner with the help of reimbursments from the city's Build-it-Back program for which they signed up in June.

"I just don't think they are working fast enough to get everybody back in their house," Nancy Fisher said.

That seemingly long 7-month wait is now drawing sharp criticism from Congressman Michael Grimm who blames the Bloomberg administration for not prioritizing reimbursement funds.

"The people of Staten Island, once again this year, they have empty stockings. There's no check coming in the mail for them. And worse they don't even know if they are going to receive anything at all," Rep. Michael Grimm said.

The mayor defended the program.

"We cleaned up and got people back in their homes, back on their feet faster than anybody else. If you were hurt you are going to say it wasn't fast enough, I understand that, but we've done a very good job," Mayor Bloomberg said.

But while waiting for a first call from Build-it-Back officials, Nancy and Ruben's home was vandalized.

"They broke her appliances. There were holes all over the house. Urinated everywhere, they left just a mess," said Ruben Vazquez, a homeowner.

Because there was still no word from the city, the volunteer group "Yellow Boots" has come in and started making repairs and helping to pay for them.

"We have the resources. Thank God we have the hands and feet and some funding right now. Not enough but we can help out," said Farid Kader, Co-founder of "Yellow Boots".

Yellow Boots promises to finish so Nancy and Ruben can move in for Christmas as they still wait for reimbursement.

"It's a lot of worrying, a lot of waiting, and not enough action," Kader said.

For more information please visit: www.yellowboots.org