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Report sees widespread mold after Sandy

Community groups say a survey of households affected by the superstorm found that 60 percent report visible mold. Photo by Katia Savchuk/City Limits

Reporting from CityLimits.org

Six months have passed since Hurricane Sandy struck the shores of New York, and as a recent report put out by several Sandy advocacy groups shows, many residents are now faced with mold problems.

According to “Sandy’s Mold Legacy: The Unmet Need Six Months After the Storm,” thousands of homes have developed mold since Hurricane Sandy.

The report was put out by the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding along with several other organizations including ALIGN, Community Voices Heard, Faith in New York, Make the Road NY, New York Communities for Change and VOCAL-NY. The report included a survey of residents affected by mold and analysis of the Neighborhood Revitalization NYC Program, which set out to deal with the growing mold problem.

Members from Faith in New York, Make the Road NY and New York Communities for Change conducted a survey of almost 700 households in the Rockaways and Staten Island. According to the report, at the time of the survey, 420 of the 690 households surveyed reported visible mold.

In addition, the survey found that more than one third of households that attempted some form of mold remediation were unsuccessful in completely removing the problem. The rate of success was particularly low among homeowners who attempted to clean the mold themselves.

City's efforts

The city currently has a mold remediation program in place through Neighborhood Revitalization NYC, but according to the report, only 17 percent of households knew about this program at the time of the survey.

According to the report, only 1,300 people have signed up for the program.

The city’s Hurricane Sandy After Action Report, released late last week, says the New York City Housing Authority has taken steps to reduce the mold problem in public housing, inspecting more than 24,000 units, and cleaning mold from 5,400 of those units. The city has also launched a mold awareness and safe practice-training program. Participants in this program received mold supply kits. According to the city’s report, more than 1,100 mold kits have been distributed at 54 training sessions. But the report does acknowledge that, "For homeowners, mold and water damage have been a major area of concern and confusion, compounded by a lack of direct federal funding specifically for mold remediation."

Seeking more capacity

Last month the city submitted the first part of the Community Development Block Grant plan for spending federal post-storm aid. The plan would set aside $720 million in funds for home rehabilitation, and allow homeowners to use a portion of these funds to pay for mold remediation.

The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, which criticized the NYCHA effort as inadequate, calls for a separate fund to be designated for mold removal. Their report says if homeowners are forced to choose, they may prioritize other repairs before mold remediation.

Instead of giving funds directly to households, the Alliance has proposed that federal funds go towards a community driven program called Back Home, Back to Work. BHBW would use local dislocated workers to eradicate mold by a block-to-block basis. The Alliance says BHBW will help communities by both fixing the mold problem and reducing unemployment.

EDITOR'S NOTE -- The Associated Press reported Friday that almost $1.8 billion in federal money for repairing homes, helping businesses and other Superstorm Sandy relief efforts is set to start flowing soon in New York City.

Federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced Friday that HUD had signed off on the city's plans for spending its first chunk of Sandy aid money.

The plans include up to 2 years of rent assistance for displaced residents, grants and loans for businesses and a contest for developing storm-resiliency technology.

May 11, 2013 - 1:00pm


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