Sandy Victims Dismayed; Disaster Relief Moving at “Snail’s Pace” as Second Anniversary of Superstorm Closes In
September 25, 2014
by Mark Scheerer
(LONG BEACH, N.Y.) Next month, the second anniversary of Superstorm Sandy arrives. Many displaced homeowners in New York are dismayed at what they call the snail’s pace of New York Rising, the state agency disbursing federal disaster funds.
Sherry Graber says her flood-damaged house in Long Beach has been elevated to the newly recommended height, but paperwork, lost files and bureaucratic delays are keeping her family from moving in and finishing the job.
She’s worried other rehabilitation aid may go by the wayside because of the delays.
“All these charities and all of these organizations came out of the woodwork to try and help people,” she says. “But because we can’t move forward with New York Rising in getting the house livable, all of those are starting to go away, too.”
A spokesperson for New York Rising strongly disputed the notion that it is moving slowly.
She pointed out 1,540 Long Beach homeowners have been awarded $84.7 million so far for repair and reconstruction, and New York Rising has made 47 offers to purchase homes through the Acquisition program totaling more than $23 million.
Graber says lost and misplaced files and turnover in caseworkers have contributed to delays in getting her house rebuilt.
She says she understands the frustrations that have homeowners and caseworkers sometimes screaming at each other.
“The wait time to get something and then seek clarification and get the answers back and stuff is just, you know, and I’m told I have to keep making phone calls,” she relates. “I have to be very proactive because they have over 350 cases each.”
John Siebert is a program consultant with Friends of Long Island, a group that helps act as a liaison between storm victims and government agencies. He says the problems aren’t confined to Long Beach and they aren’t intractable.
“Anywhere on Long Island, people are facing the same issues,” he stresses. “They are acquiring the houses, paying people for the houses and everything. So it is moving forward, but at a snail’s pace.”
Siebert adds after fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the government has to be cautious with its disaster relief money.
But he says other natural disasters in other areas of the country have seen better-run relief programs.
“So, by utilizing some of their best practices in other regions, I don’t see why a year and a half later there’s still such a wait for these people to get home,” he says. “We’re going into our third winter here.”
Hurricane Sandy came ashore in New York on Oct. 29, 2012, damaging or destroying an estimated 100,000 homes in the state.
Almost two years since Superstorm Sandy slammed into New York, many displaced homeowners are dismayed at what they see as a snail’s pace being maintained by New York Rising, the state agency disbursing federal disaster funds. Map credit: Cyclonebiskit/Wikimedia Commons.
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