Council Member Eric Ulrich harshly condemned the City’s Build It Back program Monday, calling for the resignation of Amy Peterson, the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations who oversees Build It Back. Speaking at a press conference on Beach 117th Street in Rockaway, Ulrich described Build It Back as hopelessly failing with little visible prospect of success.
The owner of the home Ulrich spoke in front of has been displaced since February, having moved out in anticipation of substantial work through Build It Back. Shortly after the owner relocated Build It Back erected a fence, effectively locking out the homeowner and preparing the property for that work. According to Ulrich and the daughter of the homeowner that work has not yet begun, however. Ulrich further described this homeowner’s experience as common, saying that many of his constituents are in similar circumstances.
It’s a topic with dual benefits for Ulrich. Representing the Sandy-damaged western half of Rockaway and neighborhoods of Broad Channel and Howard Beach, Ulrich has many constituents whose homes are not yet repaired 3 1/2 years after the storm. There’s a widespread view among those constituents that Build It Back has, despite some progress and success when the de Blasio administration first focused on it in late 2014 and early 2015, ground down into a bureaucratic nightmare largely incapable of making broad progress in repairing and rebuilding Sandy-damaged homes. Helping constituents obtain City assistance in repairing and rebuilding their homes from a City program is precisely what a council member should do in these circumstances. To the extent Ulrich succeeds in doing so he should benefit politically.
It also provides Ulrich with an opening in the early stages of his 2017 mayoral campaign. Focusing on what he paints as gross mismanagement provides an opportunity to go directly, and concretely, at Mayor de Blasio. de Blasio has had a series of problematic episodes in recent months but the City’s continuing decreases in crime and increases in jobs and the economy weaken the generalized complaints of Ulrich and other de Blasio opponents. Drawing attention to what he sees as poor management of a multi-billion dollar effort which concretely harms many individual New Yorkers offers Ulrich a potentially effective attack on a mayor who’s widely viewed as having modest management abilities. Successfully making that argument offers Ulrich the prospect of increased visibility across the City.
Ulrich Remarks – here are excerpts from Ulrich’s remarks:
Press Q&A – here is video of Ulrich’s press Q&A: