Treyger Calls De Blasio Out On Build It Back Program

City Council Member Mark Treyger (Coney Island, Bensonhurst), chair of the Council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, yesterday charged the de Blasio Administration with political expediency for not providing deadline extensions to homeowners registered with the Superstorm Sandy-related Build It Back (BIB) program – and without the extension some may be dropped from the program.

But the de Blasio Administration fired back that Treyger’s charges are misleading because deadlines for the program have been in place for many months and they have already been extended numerous times.

City Councilman Mark Treyger
City Councilman Mark Treyger

In a letter Treyger penned to the Mayor and Amy Peterson, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery, he also noted several recent policy changes that forces homeowners to complete the design approval process for their homes, including any adjustments which BIB makes in just two weeks. Another policy change requires that homeowners who need to reschedule an appointment must do so within two weeks of the original appointment.

“I am deeply troubled by the message that this policy shift sends: that there is an internal prioritization of meeting an ambitious completion goal over actually serving the people who have been waiting patiently for Build It Back to rebuild their homes,” wrote Treyger. “These strict deadlines give the unpleasant impression that BIB may be prioritizing, in its own words, ‘moving aggressively toward Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of program completion by the end of 2016’ over the well-being of New Yorkers who have been waiting for nearly four years for their homes to be rebuilt.”

Treyger noted these ‘strictly enforced’ deadlines will have the greatest negative impact on those who need the program the most – immigrants, low-income people, people with disabilities, and working families.

Treyger’s letter also received support across the board from local lawmakers – Democratic and Republican alike.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries

“It is of critical importance that we provide the opportunity for our city’s most vulnerable to obtain assistance from the Build It Back program,” said Central Brooklyn Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

“What’s in the best interest of New Yorkers should be paramount in the program’s rules and deadlines – if applicants need more time to make the decisions they’ve waited years to face, then they should have it,” said Republican Congressman Dan Donovan.

Other Brooklyn lawmakers supporting Treyger’s call for an extension of the deadline include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, State Senator Diane Savino, Assembly members Bill Colton, Pam Harris, Helene Weinstein and Nicole Malliotakis and City Council members Alan Maisel and Carlos Menchaca.

Also supporting Treyger’s call for a deadline extension are several non-profits that have been working with Sandy victims build back their lives and homes.

“As a nonprofit working on the front lines every day to provide free critical home repairs to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, we know that too many New Yorkers are still living in unsafe, damaged homes four years after the storm. This is particularly true for low-income homeowners who need our help the most,” said Kimberly George, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together NYC. “We support Councilman Treyger’s fight to get these families the help they need so we can ensure they have access to safe and healthy homes.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio

But de Blasio Spokesperson Freddi Goldstein said throughout the program various deadlines deadlines were established to move the program forward.  Deadlines are a necessary part of any program and throughout the program there has always been and continues to be mechanisms to deal with exceptional cases.

“Build It Back sets manageable deadlines for homeowners to ensure the City can complete the program and help these homeowners.  These include set time periods to approve designs, relocate before construction, and submit required documentation.  Many of these deadlines have been communicated to homeowners for a period of time and many have already been extended multiple times,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein also noted applicants have the right to file a Request for Review to claim a hardship if they are withdrawn for missing a deadline. Each case is carefully reviewed and the final decision is approved by the Program Director, she said.

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