FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2012
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES NEW PROGRAM TO REPAIR DAMAGED HOMES AND UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON CITY RESPONSE TO HURRICANE SANDY
New NYC Rapid Repairs Program to Quickly and Efficiently Fix Damaged Homes
The following are Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's remarks as delivered this afternoon at City Hall:
"Well good afternoon everyone. Our recovery work in the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy is going forward on three tracks simultaneously, and I wanted to talk about all three.
"The first is getting emergency help to the people who need it the most. That's why over the past eight days, distribution sites we've established have provided nearly two million prepared meals, nearly a half-million bottles of fresh water, 110,000 blankets, and other essential supplies to the people who need them most.
"We've also, as many of you know, deployed mobile medical vans in the communities Sandy struck hardest, and we're now sending medical assistance teams door-to-door in high rises on the Rockaways and in Coney Island to check on the elderly and homebound.
"The second track is returning life in these communities to normal.
"That's why we're working around the clock to deal with the devastation Sandy left on our streets; so far Sanitation crews have collected nearly a of a quarter-million tons of debris - and they'll keep working 12-hour shifts to finish the job.
"We have gotten a big boost from private contractors who are working alongside our Strongest to get the debris that Sandy left in its wake cleaned up. What happens is after somebody comes home and decides they will strip everything out of their flooded basement, they put it out on the street and our Sanitation Department who's just cleaned the street has to do it again. But that's exactly what we want to do. You put things out, it's our responsibility to take it away.
"Many private contractors are on the job, and I would like to thank Denise Richardson and the General Contractors Association for answering our call for assistance.
"We've also made big progress in clearing the storm sewer system in those neighborhoods, and in repairing the traffic signals, fire hydrants, and other vital equipment that Sandy damaged or destroyed.
"We're also making a big push to restore basic services to the public housing where Sandy knocked them out.
"Using an army of 600 extra private contractors, the City Housing Authority is working hard to get power restored to more of these public housing buildings - including in Coney Island, Red Hook, and the Rockaways.
"We expect all but a handful of public housing buildings that lost power during Sandy will have the lights back on tonight or tomorrow. And by the middle of next week, all but a handful should also have heat and hot water.
"The third track is the one I wanted to stress today: Getting New Yorkers who've been displaced by Sandy back in their homes. That's the task that we assigned to Brad Gair. On Monday, we named Brad the Director of Housing Recovery Operations.
"And just let me provide some context. Many thousands of New Yorkers have been impacted by Sandy, but I think the severity of that impact differs depending on where people live.
"The first group - initially three-quarters of a million New Yorkers who had lost power, whether due to a downed tree, or the damage that Sandy's surge did to the electric grid.
"Con Ed has been hard at work for the last 10 days, and they now estimate that 50,000 of their customers are still without power. At one point it was as high as I said, three-quarters of a million, 750,000 different homes.
"Con Ed believes based on current data, about 20,000 will be restored - 20,000 of the 50,000 remaining - as they continue to work their way through its service territory. The rest of their customers, about 30,000, have power running down their streets, but cannot be connected until repairs to their saltwater-damaged electrical wiring are made.
"In the Rockaways, where you don't have Con Ed service, you have Long Island Power Authority service, they provide power there, estimates are that as many as 40,000 customers are powerless.
"For a majority of the total of 90,000 customers without power, that's both LIPA and Con Ed together, simply bringing back the power, however, isn't enough. Because of damage in their homes - to electrical equipment, the gas line, a boiler, and other equipment - they won't be able to go home - or get back to normal - until repairs are done to get them light and heat, or to fix windows or repair a roof.
"Until today, homeowners would have largely been left to fend for themselves to get an electrician or a contractor to get this work done. And while FEMA offers assistance to pay for these repairs, it was still up to the homeowner to arrange for the work and carry it out.
"And let me remind you that most of these people in these trades have plenty of business, so for a homeowner to go off on their own and find somebody who is available and willing to show up is a daunting task.
"Now, thanks to Brad's close work with FEMA, however, we're changing the game. Today we're launching a program that will start returning people to their homes as early as next week.
"We're calling it, 'NYC Rapid Repairs.' Its goal is to get as many New Yorkers as possible back in their homes by the end of this year, and I want to describe how it will work.
"We are bringing in contractors who will be given responsibility for an area hard hit by Sandy. These contractors will be responsible for repairing the homes of anyone who wants to take part in the program.
"Each will select the sub-contractors - the electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and others - needed to make a home damaged by the hurricane once again safe, sanitary, and functional. So we have these different areas, we've hired general contractors, you can think of them, to be responsible - one for each area. They in turn will go a subcontract out the work and manage it and schedule it and make sure that it is done right.
"Beginning Tuesday, you'll be able to go to one of our restoration centers, where you'll be able to get a FEMA ID number and sign up for NYC Rapid Repairs. You can find out the locations of the restoration centers at nyc.gov, or by calling 311.
"Once you've signed up, a contractor will come to your home, assess the damage, create a work order, and within a short time the work will be done. You can also sign up through nyc.gov or calling 311.
"So what you've got to do is you have to have a FEMA ID number. The FEMA ID number will be given to you regardless of whether you have insurance, regardless of how much damage you have, regardless of whether you have a mortgage - just call FEMA, they will give you a number, and then you have to just ask for the assistance and we'll tell you how to do it.
"Remember, the one piece of critical information you need is a FEMA ID number, and you can get it by calling FEMA. You can register, incidentally, at DisasterAssistance.gov or you can call the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 1-800-621-3362. Any of those three ways will get you a FEMA ID number.
"New York City Rapid Repairs is an innovative and unprecedented program, and President Obama, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Director Craig Fugate deserve a lot of credit for making it happen.
"Of course, as a homeowner, you can always choose to have repairs made through your insurance company, or by getting a standard FEMA reimbursement. But if you choose NYC Rapid Repairs, we'll be helpful in getting the contractor in and getting the work done.
"So if you do have a friend who's an electrician and wants to do the work, that's great, you don't have to go through this program. But assuming you don't, and most of us don't, then this is the right thing for you.
"In addition to being easier, NYC Rapid Repairs will save the City, State, and Federal government a lot of money. That's because contractors will be able to work on multiple buildings at once and not just one house at a time.
"NYC Rapid Repairs will be managed by Kathryn Mallon - Kathryn, thank you very much for doing this. You should know, her day job is running the $14 billion capital program at the Department of Environmental Protection so she has lots of expertise and we're lucky to have her taking on this great responsibility.
"I've asked her to take on this special assignment to ensure that it gets off the ground quickly and that we start fixing homes next week.
"People understandably want to move back into their homes - and the more of them who can, the fewer there will be who need either alternative, temporary housing, or a new permanent home later on. That's going to save them money, and eliminate many of the costs of providing emergency, temporary accommodations which we would have to pay for.
"Brad can answer some questions, but before leaving this subject, let me just say that over the weekend, the contractors on this project will work with our City Buildings Department to identify the homes and that can be in the first wave of this project.
"They're the ones that meet these two conditions: They've been given a green light - or more specifically, a green placard - by the building inspectors that have visited them since Sandy, which indicates that they're structurally sound. 60,000 the other day and they were still going, probably about 80,000 homes they've already gone to and put either a red, yellow or green placard. If you've got a green placard, you can go right away in this.
"The second thing is you have to be located on a street where power has been restored
"In most cases, getting homes ready to re-occupy isn't going to involve much more than a little light electrical work, and a certification that that work has been done satisfactorily. And as I said earlier, you'll be able to sign up for NYC Rapid Repairs beginning Tuesday, and work will begin soon after that.
"So the two conditions to get going is you have to have a green placard and you have to be located on one of the streets where there is already electricity.
"Getting the faster projects done first will be our first priority. Then we'll turn to properties where more extensive recovery work will be needed.
"But through this program, even bigger projects will be done efficiently and thoroughly and to make New Yorkers homes safe, sanitary, and functional as quickly as possible.
"NYC Rapid Repairs we think will go a long way in our recovery, but I will say it won't fix everything. In the hardest hit places like Breezy Point, homes were completely destroyed, and some of the buildings that are standing will need major structural work before they can be lived in again.
"For those families, we're working on housing options that we'll have more to say about next week.
"But our approach in all of these programs will be guided by a simple philosophy - the best temporary housing is permanent housing. That means we want to get as many people back into their homes as we can, and it starts today."
Marc La Vorgna/John McCarthy (212) 788-2958
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