Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference today in Broad Channel, the small island enclave in Jamaica Bay, celebrating the markedly improved performance of the City’s Build It Back program and announcing expanded goals for the program. The mayor briefly viewed a home being reconstructed by Build It Back and then moved around the corner for his press conference.
Build It Back was established during the Bloomberg administration, intended to conduct and oversee the rebuilding of thousands of individual homes damaged by Sandy. It was an ambitious goal, but the program never really started during the Bloomberg administration. Although an organization was created which began accepting applications, no actual construction or distribution of funding happened. In late March de Blasio appointed Amy Peterson as the new Director of Office of Housing Recovery, overseeing Build It Back. She is widely seen as a success, getting Build It Back moving forward. The administration initially set a goal of 500 housing starts and distribution of 500 reimbursement checks for homeowners by Labor Day. The administration reports that it met both goals and it has now expanded those goals to 1,000 housing starts and 1,500 reimbursement checks (inclusive of those already done in 2014) by year-end.
This was the mayor’s second Rockaway area appearance in five days, an area he has infrequently visited since assuming office. With the two year anniversary of the storm nine days away, Sandy recovery will be in the news again and the mayor appears motivated to be seen as actively and successfully leading. The mayor rightly claims success in getting Build It Back operational, albeit with much work ahead, and today’s press conference was centered around that notion. Many enormous challenges remain, however, and decisions and planning for addressing those challenges will require substantial resources and effort, as well as political capital.
On topic question topics included the current amount of federal Sandy-recovery funding, a possible long term ferry plan and whether the City would accept state funding if available, how the City is ensuring that it’s Build It Back efforts are spread geographically around the affected areas, the need for Build It Back that will extend beyond 2014, whether the City is attempting to contact people who dropped out of the Build It Back program, whether there’s a deadline for seeking assistance under Build It Back, the most effective change in the restructuring of Build It Back, whether there is a national design model used in the home rebuilding, how the expanded Build It Back goals were set and details about the family joining de Blasio and their relocation and construction.
Off topic question topics included the protests against the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “The Death of Klinghoffer”, the cost of the City’s storing of homeless persons possessions, use by City Hall staff of private email accounts, statements by Rachel Noerdlinger’s boyfriend, lobbying by de Blasio friend Harold Ickes on behalf of JPMorgan Chase and possible tax breaks and incentives for a possible JPMorgan Chase relocation, the proposed Astoria Cove development and evictions in rent stabilized housing.
Here is the full Q&A: