City has repaired just two of 35 NYCHA developments damaged by Hurricane Sandy

October 30, 2019

Red Hook after Sandy; Photo by Michael Fleshman on Flickr

Seven years after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, a majority of the city’s public housing developments damaged by the storm have not been repaired. Of the 35 NYCHA complexes wrecked in 2012, totaling roughly 200 buildings, upgrades have been completed at just two of them, THE CITY reported Tuesday. The slow recovery at sites in Red Hook, Coney Island and the Lower East Side stems from a lack of federal funding and shady contracts.

The Red Hook Houses; Photo by Tdorante10 on Wikimedia

In March 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would give NYCHA $3 billion to repair the housing developments damaged by Sandy, lauded as the largest single grant from FEMA ever. The mayor said the grant would fund new, elevated boilers, floodwalls, standby generators, and flood-proofing in undamaged buildings within the Sandy-affected developments.

“This investment of $3 billion, the largest in FEMA history, won’t simply bring NYCHA developments back to pre-Sandy conditions,” de Blasio said in a 2015 press release announcing the grant. “It will allow us to fortify buildings and utilities so that they’re resilient–and residents are much better protected–next time extreme weather hits.”

But FEMA said it would not pay some of these upgrades. “FEMA determined ultimately that if a building was not directly damaged from Superstorm Sandy, it was not eligible for funds,” a spokesperson from NYCHA told THE CITY in a statement.

Although four years ago de Blasio said the rebuilding effort would begin immediately, NYCHA did not receive the funds from FEMA until December 2015, delaying the start of necessary rehab work. Projects at 31 of the 35 developments in need of repairs missed start dates, many by a year or more.

At Brooklyn’s Red Hook Houses, where many residents were left without power and basic necessities for nearly three weeks, work was scheduled to begin in April 2016. Construction did not begin until August 2017, with officials now estimating a completion date in 2022.

The city tapped architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (KP) to rebuild Brooklyn’s largest housing development. Released in 2017, the firm’s “Lilly Pad” design calls for 14 “utility pods” to deliver heat and electricity to the building, as well as raised mounds of earth as flood barriers. According to THE CITY, the Red Hook houses remains one of the developments still using a temporary boiler put in place after the storm.

De Blasio has focused on the Red Hook development, even announcing the $3 billion FEMA grant there in March 2015. The mayor paid so much attention to the work there, NYCHA approved a $512,000, 40-week proposal from Jacobs Project Manager to restore the development’s senior center over one that called for just $89,000 for 15 weeks of work.

The decision to select the more expensive proposal drew interest from the Department of Investigation who looked into the two plans. A manager hired by NYCHA to oversee the work told the DOI that his team approved the funding “due to the immense amount of focus on this project from Mayor de Blasio,” according to an internal DOI memo obtained by the website.

As of today, just two developments, Lower East Side Rehab and Ocean Bay in the Rockaways, have been restored. Rehab of Rangel Houses in Harlem is nearing completion and a contract for the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem has been awarded by NYCHA. THE CITY reports that seven more developments will be completed by the end of the year.



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