Sandy 5 years later: Families still waiting to go home

Monday, October 23, 2017
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Jim Hoffer has more on the ongoing issues with the Build it Back program.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Drive along some of the streets in New Dorp in Staten Island, or Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn, or the Rockaways in Queens and it becomes apparent that for many families, Super Storm Sandy is not a distant memory rather a never-ending bureaucratic nightmare.

The Build It Back initiative was the city's answer to getting the thousands of displaced families back into their homes after Storm Sandy in 2012.

Then Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched Build it Back, promising quick repairs with an army of contractors.

One year after the launch, not a single home had been rebuilt by the program.

When Bill de Blasio became mayor, he promised to revamp Build It Back by streamlining the red tape and speeding up the repairs.

Fair to say that under de Blasio, the program has made progress rebuilding, repairing and, in some cases, elevating more than 4,000 homes.

But the mayor failed to make his own deadline of completing all construction by the end of 2016.

As of Monday, nearly 1,000 families are waiting for construction to be completed, that's one in five homes still unfinished.

Marc Alverz is one of those homeowners who moved out of his Staten Island home after the storm.

Build It Back made repairs and the Alverz's moved back.

Then a year ago, the family moved out again so the home could be elevated.

They were told that elevating the home would be quick.

One year later, they are still waiting to return.

Their house up on stilts but the work is unfinished and Alverz says Build It Back won't give him a date as to when it will be completed.

Build It Back says they are hoping all 1,000 homes still in need of repair will be finished by the end of this year.

The Build It Back Director Amy Peterson tells Eyewitness News that while the program had problems in the beginning it has quadrupled construction capacity finishing 1,700 homes in the last year.

Peterson says, "What we're doing for these communities and what we're doing for these homeowners is pretty amazing. No other program is fully rebuilding people's houses, elevating homes, taking bungalows and making them homes that can withstand storms."

The City Comptroller Scott Stringer who has been monitoring Build It Back says the program has had mixed results.

"I don't think Build It Back has met the standard or the aspiration that we had that New York could handle a big storm like Sandy," Stringer said.

The mayor now says the goal is to have all work done by Spring of 2018.