Editor’s Note: AdaptNY’s Community Editor Sebastian Auyanet recently completed a resilience reporting program that tied together his interests in climate change adaptation with his interests in new ways of conducting journalist. He shares his experience in this report. Continue reading
Mar 26, 2015 — More than two years on and David Velez’s battle with Hurricane Sandy is far from over. But, thanks to some help from the Attorney General’s office, Velez’s fight with his mortgage lender may soon be coming to an end.
The first floor of the retired NYPD officer’s home in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn was destroyed by flooding during the hurricane, and without help from insurance he and his wife used their savings to rebuild.
Unfortunately, after the construction was complete an architect from the City’s Build it Back program deemed the residence structurally unsafe. Velez and his family moved out of the home this past October and were told that demolition would begin in November. Now March, Velez is still waiting for Department of Housing Preservation and Development contractors to begin construction of his home. While the program has gotten a shot in the arm under Mayor Bill de Blasio, the pace is still too slow for many.
Even living out of his home there is another reminder of the damage Sandy has done: Velez gets regular calls from Citibank representatives asking when he will catch up on his mortgage. “They even called me the day I had cancer surgery to remove a tumor,” said Velez who was advised like other Sandy victims that he could stop mortgage payments while his home was being rebuilt, only for his lender to demand missed payments immediately after the forbearance was over.
It is a call increasingly familiar to homeowners across the state who are behind on their mortgages, whether from unexpected disasters like Hurricane Sandy or thanks to the economic downturn of 2008 and subsequent recession. Even in 2014, New York City saw a 33 percent increase in first-time foreclosures compared to the year before, according to one recent study.
New Jersey Public Radio’s Scott Gurian and WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman’s report that New Jersey has gotten less than half as much Sandy aid from the Department of Housing and Urban Development as New York State and New York City combined. Their report, “How Did New York Get So Much Sandy Money?” Plus, see detailed interactive charts and tables of expenditures here.
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a new report April 17 in an effort to revitalize the Sandy home reconstruction and recovery program Build It Back. That followed a City Council hearing last month where council members and homeowners affected by the storm criticized the lack of rebuilding progress. AdaptNY reporter Matt Surrusco curated news coverage and social media commentary on the news. Watch for further updates.
Lower Brooklynites are still struggling to find normalcy more than a year post-Sandy. Just one example: Continued temporary boiler breaks are said to be leaving hundreds of residents, many of them immigrants, helpless and cold this winter.
But now the community’s representative on the City Council is pressing hard to do something about it. “There are a lot of questions that have been unanswered in regards to the Sandy recovery,” AdaptNY was told by Councilman Mark Treyger (D-47), who represents Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend and Sea Gate. “I believe we have to do our part, at the local level, to have better coordination, and to provide the public with as much information as possible.”
Treyger, who was recently named chair of a new City Council Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, has something in the works he hopes will shed light on the problems. On Thursday, Feb. 27, he will chair the first ever City Council meeting in Coney Island, where his committee will look at provisional heating systems, as well as discuss where government relief funding has gone, and how the area can prepare for future disasters.
Councilman Treyger spoke with AdaptNY about his concerns and plans for the future. Watch our exclusive interview here.
WNYC Editor Matthew Schuerman discusses Build it Back, New York City’s troubled Sandy recovery program. Listen via the audio player above, or read text of the reporting. Plus, check out a report from the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding and Faith in New York showing that no homes in the city had been repaired with money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development so far.
A public radio investigation has found irregularities in how New Jersey Sandy-related state grants were allocated to communities, including Hoboken, which has been the center of accusations about political retribution using Sandy aid. Listen to the WNYC clip below, or read the full story on WNYC or partner NJ Spotlight. And from the governor’s office, here’s a list of what each muncipality received.
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden spoke at a press conference in Albany Jan. 7 about infrastucture investment in the wake of Sandy. Below, view the best of the coverage in our Storify curation, plus view video of the full press conference.