Sandy Survivors Urge Mayor de Blasio to Take Immediate Action on Rebuilding and Recovery in Hardest-Hit Areas of the City
Growing Sense of Humanitarian Crisis, Despair, and Abandonment in Low-Income Areas Hit Hardest by Sandy. #RebuildaJustNY
***Sandy Survivors Revealed Big Problems with the Build it Back Program, and Offered de Blasio Recommendations for Reform that Don’t Require Any Albany Approval***
Sandy survivors from the hardest-hit low-income communities gathered Monday to urge Mayor de Blasio and his administration to take immediate action on rebuilding, amid mounting evidence that city government has not done enough to help the most vulnerable residents still reeling from the Superstorm.
On the steps of City Hall, they released a major new report, How Sandy Rebuilding Can Reduce Inequality in New York City (http://www.rebuildajustny.
org/how-sandy-rebuilding-can- reduce-inequality/). It highlights concrete
ways in which Mayor de Blasio can use billions in federal recovery dollars to
fix the broken Build it Back Program and strengthen low-income communities that were struggling
the most prior to Sandy. It shows how city government can combine climate
sustainability with the creation of family-sustaining jobs, deeply affordable
housing, and improved public housing.
“We are standing at the edge of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle inequality and make our city fairer and stronger for all residents and communities….New York City can become a national model for transforming post-disaster rebuilding and recovery into shared prosperity and greater economic opportunity. While other aspects of Mayor de Blasio’s agenda require Albany approval, this vision for Sandy rebuilding can be pursued quickly and aggressively at the level of city agencies,” the report says.
Today’s event and report release was organized by Faith in New York and the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding (AJR), the citywide coalition of Sandy survivors, which held a Sandy rebuilding tour with then-mayoral candidate de Blasio in September 2013.
During that rebuilding tour, de Blasio toured the Sandy-ravaged home of the Bennett family in Far Rockaway. Bennett Davon Bennett was one of the key speakers at City Hall today. He reminded Mayor de Blasio of promises that were made to his family months ago.
"In September 2013, my family felt a sense of hope when Bill de Blasio visited our badly damaged home in Far Rockaway, Queens. That day, Mr. de Blasio made a promise to my family and my community that he would “right some greater wrongs” and help lift us out of poverty through the Sandy rebuilding effort. In the process of repairing our house, my parents have depleted their savings, their retirement account, and my college fund. Now after waiting sixth months for help from the Build it Back program, the city is telling us we need to raze our home. I am here today because I am counting on Mayor de Blasio to keep his commitment to put my family and thousands of others on a clear path to prosperity and resiliency after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy,” said Bennett Davon Bennett, a member of Faith in New York, a Rockaway-based organization that has been a leader on Sandy rebuilding.
Another Sandy survivor who spoke at City Hall today was Staten Island resident Felipa Campos, who used to live in Midland Beach but was displaced to St. George.
"I lost the place that I lived in Sandy and was moving from one place to another for nearly a year. I finally have place to live but it's not affordable. Many people in my community went through the same as me and worse. More than anything, what we need in our community so that we can recover the life we lost in Sandy, is new affordable housing. We ask the mayor etc. to listen to us and give priority to creating affordable housing in the areas affected by Sandy," said Felipa Campos, a member of Make the Road New York, a top immigrant advocacy organization in New York.
Several City Council members who have been vocal and visible leaders on Sandy rebuilding also participated, and endorsed the recommendations in the report.
“We are still a long way from achieving a just, equitable, and sustainable recovery after Sandy. In low-income communities like Coney Island, the basic needs of residents are not being met. City government should re-open registration for Build-it-Back immediately, and enact the recommendations for reform offered today by Sandy survivors and the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding. We need to ensure that Sandy rebuilding efforts reduce inequality instead of perpetuating it," said Councilmember Mark Treyger, who is Chair of the new Resiliency and Recovery Committee, which is focused on Sandy oversight.
“I am proud to stand with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding to draw attention to the crisis that remains in Sandy-affected communities like Red Hook. We need swift action from the de Blasio administration to ensure that federal recovery dollars promote resiliency and capture the synergies between rebuilding and economic empowerment for low-income and immigrant communities,” said Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Immigration Committee who proposed with Councilmember Treyger the creation of the new Council Committee on Resiliency and Recovery.
“I am proud to stand with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding and Councilmembers Treyger and Menchaca in support of recommendations that can ensure an equitable and effective recovery for communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy. Sandy exacerbated the economic situation for low-income communities. This report provides a pragmatic vision for ensuring that the Build it Back program reaches our city’s hardest-hit residents, and that NYCHA buildings become more resilient and better-funded in the future,” said Councilmember Ritchie Torres, a Deputy Leader in the City Council and Chair of the Public Housing Committee, who will hold a City Council hearing later this week on NYCHA and Sandy in a Coney Island NYCHA building.