Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the City has approved the start of construction for 535 homes and sent 543 reimbursement checks through the Build it Back program, exceeding the Mayor’s goals that were set as part of the Sandy recovery overhaul earlier this year.
Launched in 2013, Build it Back is a city program designed to help homeowners affected by hurricane Sandy to rebuild their homes.
Homeowners had been stalled in the intake process when the de Blasio administration came into office, with not a single one having started design or construction or received reimbursement.
This spring, Mayor de Blasio overhauled Build it Back and appointed Amy Peterson as its new director, while specifically committing to 500 construction starts and 500 reimbursement checks by Labor Day.
The 535 construction starts include 68 homes that are fully complete, and reflect significant progress on all program pathways, including full rebuilds, elevations and repairs. The 543 checks reflect over $9 million in reimbursements that has gone out to homeowners who completed repairs themselves.
“It was simply unacceptable that not a single homeowner had gotten relief as of the beginning of this year,” said Mayor de Blasio.
“We committed to putting Build it Back back on track, and that’s exactly what we’ve done, exceeding our Labor Day goals with 535 construction starts and 543 reimbursement checks. But we know there’s much more work ahead—and we’re committed to continuing to speed up recovery so that every homeowner gets the relief they need.”
Approximately 3,000 homeowners have signed Option Selection Agreements, and over 1,200 homeowners have started design since January.
“The over 500 construction starts and reimbursement checks sent to homeowners shows that Mayor de Blasio has done exactly what he should: prioritize Sandy housing rebuilding. This is precisely what the federal Sandy recovery bill intended, and I look forward to continued work with the City on smart, efficient Sandy recovery,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer.
In addition to this continued progress, the de Blasio administration announced today significant changes to its case management and inspection contracts that will result in nearly 45 percent savings, while expanding Build it Back’s capacity to deliver relief.
The administration recently renegotiated its case management contracts, held by URS, Solix, and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods.
The contract changes being submitted by the de Blasio administration will result in $61 million in savings that can now go back into relief efforts, with the renegotiated contracts valued at approximately $77 million, compared to the $138 million that had been negotiated by the prior administration.
The contractual services provided by URS, which covers Customer Operations, Project Management, and Facility Management, were renegotiated to provide the City flexibility to further ramp up case management capacity to meet applicants’ needs, while ensuring that dedicated senior City staff will continue to manage day-to-day operations at the Centers (a significant improvement made by the administration earlier this year).
The services performed by Solix, which covers Eligibility Review, were negotiated to secure additional field and project management staff—allowing the City to increase capacity in the Centers, while expediting the review process for homeowners.
The services provided by the Center for New York City Neighborhoods, which covers counseling, were renegotiated to ensure continued counseling opportunities directly in Centers, while adding outreach capacity, such as for low-income populations.
Additionally, the administration is amending its contract with Dewberry, which covers damage assessments, environmental reviews, and appraisals, to remove the cap on damage assessments established under the prior administration. To date, Build it Back has completed nearly 10,400 damage assessments, the vast majority of which were done since January; this contract amendment will allow the program to finish the remaining assessments.