City Requests to Turn Damaged Hurricane Sandy Homes into Open Space and Affordable Housing

Chairwomen Dolores Orr and Betty Braton of community boards 10 and 14.

The city’s Housing Recovery initiative, the Build it Back Program, may have helped hundreds of people that suffered from damage to their houses after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but a fraction of homeowners have given up on future repairs and have agreed to instead do away with their property, according to a Casey Peterson, a resiliency planner for the Office of Neighborhood Strategies.

“Through Build it Back, the vast majority of homeowners stayed in their homes through the repair or rebuild pathway, but a small percentage – about 126 homeowners opted for the acquisition and buyout program,” said Peterson at a community board meeting at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens Monday.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development agency funded Project Rebuild, the non-profit wing of Build it Back, to purchase some of the homes for open space or affordable housing and had to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Process with representatives of community boards 10 and 14 and elected officials before moving forward on any projects with the land.

“The ULURP consists of three actions: acquisition, disposition and the site selection for 74 scattered sites,” said Peterson.

The properties within Community Board 14 were in Edgemere, Broad Channel, Far Rockaway and Neponsit, according to CB14 Chairwoman Dolores Orr.

“Four parcels are for open space,” said Orr. “The Parks Department will be using it for resilience and building up the wetlands. One of those lots is located in Arverne and three are in Edgemere.

Broad Channel has 20 properties that are being considered for yard expansion, according to Orr. Edgemere, Arverne and Far Rockaway each have one property being considered for expansion.

“The small lots adjacent to homes are being offered to other homeowners,” said Orr.

One property in Neponsit will have a private auction and sold to the highest bidder, according to Orr.

Project Rebuild has requested to use two properties in Rockaway Beach, four in Edgemere and one each in Rockaway Park and Arverne to build affordable housing, according to Orr.

“The board has asked for an additional meeting and at this time has not approved this,” said Orr. “The plan is that these lots would be lumped together with a [Request for Proposal] and housing would be built, but some of the [CB14] members have expressed concern and an inquiry as to why these lots have not been offered separate individuals at an auction.”

The remaining sites were in Hamilton Beach, Howard Beach and Ramblersville, according to Community Board 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton.

“In Community Board 10 the bulk of [the lots] would go to landlords of and some will become wetlands,” said Braton. “The others we have concerns about are for yard expansion.”

Ultimately, Braton and Orr agreed to the ULURP for the properties in question, except for the lots the city wanted to transform into affordable housing in CB10.

Council members Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), Donovan Richards (D-Far Rockaway), I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Adrienne Adams (D-Jamaica) also agreed on the ULURP.