Gerritsen Beach

Build It Back finally on track, city officials say

Mayor touts recent program successes

October 27, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Build It Back program is back on track, city officials said. The photo shows work being done at the Gerritsen Beach home of Lauren and Francis Slavin. Photo courtesy of Lauren Slavin
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Lauren and Francis Slavin survived Superstorm Sandy, but the Gerritsen Beach bungalow where they lived for 24 years was nearly destroyed.

“The front of our house fell into a sinkhole. The water was coming in so fast; we barely got out of the house. I’ll never forget the sight of my dog sitting on the couch with the couch floating across the room. We ran out with just the clothes on our backs. We got the dog out, but my parrot drowned. And everything else we owned was lost,” Lauren Slavin told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday.

After the storm, the Slavins were able to move back into their one-story house, but the place was a mere shell of its former self. “We had a house with no sheet rock. And my roof had gotten blown off,” Lauren Slavin said. “When the storm hit, we had only three months left on our mortgage. We would have had it all paid up. Talk about ironic.”

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Still, the couple wanted to stay and rebuild.

As the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy approached, city officials said the Build It Back program was finally back on track after a rough start. Officials are also vowing to speed up the process of rebuilding homes and helping New Yorkers get their lives back in order.

The storm hit New York City on Oct. 29, 2012.

Lauren Slavin told the Eagle that she has felt “a definite difference” in the Build It Back program since Bill de Blasio has been mayor. DeBlasio, who took office in January, vowed to make the program more efficient. Build It Back had been mired in bureaucratic delays, according to frustrated homeowners.

“I do feel like things are starting to move forward now,” Slavin said. “Before, it was bad — really bad. The city couldn’t get its act together. You would bring your papers down to show some bureaucrat and they would tell you everything is in order. But then the next time you went, they would tell you, ‘No, we can’t process you yet. You need more paperwork.’ There were times when my husband and I were ready to walk away,” Slavin said.

Last week, de Blasio announced that the city was making significant progress in the Sandy recovery effort.

As of this month, nearly half of the program’s active applicants, approximately 6,400 homeowners, have been made an offer by Build it Back, compared to only 451 at the beginning of the year. Nearly 4,000 have accepted an offer from Build it Back, and more than 1,500 have started design.

There have been 727 construction starts and 878 reimbursement checks sent to date. At the beginning of the year, there were no construction starts and no checks sent out. The mayor said that Build it Back is committing to hitting 1,000 construction starts and 1,500 reimbursement checks by Dec. 31.

“Nearly two years after Sandy, there’s nothing more important than getting families home, and as a result of our overhaul, that’s finally happening. When we took office, Build it Back simply wasn’t working,” de Blasio said.

One elected official who represents a Sandy-impacted neighborhood agreed that progress is being made.

“We have finally started to see measurable progress on the ground for impacted families under this administration, with effective oversight from the council, to keep the recovery moving forward,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island), chairman of the Recovery and Resiliency Committee.


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