And thanks to the way the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program works, Cozine said, he will never see that money again. Any work he does now to try to get him, his wife and two kids back into their home will not be eligible for reimbursement under the FEMA grant, and even if he had chosen to wait, that money is not guaranteed.
“What are homeowners supposed to do, wait years before they start to rebuild for money that they may or may not be granted?” he said.
That’s exactly what is happening to residents on New Hampshire Street. Anita Daly described her neighborhood as a “ghost town,” with many houses remaining empty. She said she is still displaced while her home is under construction. But many of her elderly neighbors don’t have a choice but to stay, she said. And, on fixed income, many of them are unable to pay out of pocket for repairs. Some of them, she said, are just walking away.
Five houses on her block have already been sold, Daly said, for “almost nothing.” She is worried about what real estate agents will turn her neighborhood into, fearing that “McMansions” will pop up around her home.
“I’ve seen advertisements [on my block] for ‘prime realty property.’ I think it’s disgusting,’ said Daly. “We’re middle-class people living on that block, and these people are being priced out of their homes. They can’t rebuild.”
Daly and Cozine agree that lawmakers must do more to get their constituents the help they need. Cozine said he doesn’t think legislators are putting enough pressure on FEMA to re-evaluate its process. Daly said that when she called the state’s Sandy aid number, she got passed around many times, and ended up being transferred back to the first person she spoke with.
“I think they forget they’re dealing with New Yorkers. We don’t take no for an answer,” she said. “If we don’t start making noise, we may be the forgotten people.”
Kemins said he thinks the way the HMGP is set up is “asinine,” and that his department is looking into ways that the non-reimbursement clause can be waived. He said he plans to address that issue next Wednesday at a FEMA forum the city will be hosting, a meeting he hopes will be more helpful than the last one.