Priscilla Dougherty, of Island Park, said that her family got permits to demolish and rebuild their home last May. They knocked the house down and put up a foundation, but construction has stalled for the past five months while they wait for funding from NY Rising. She also said that the program’s reports are riddled with errors, and after months of applications, the most recent award letter still had the square footage of the house wrong.
“They want to roll the program out and say they gave out a certain amount of money by a certain date,” said Michele Mittleman, founder of the group Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA. “They don’t want people saying that, yeah, they gave out millions, but it was all wrong and they need to redo it.”
Inside the meeting, the same sentiment prevailed, and many spoke about the numerous inefficiencies of the program. “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” one Oceanside resident said of how the rules of the program constantly change and, she said, information is not disseminated correctly.
A Massapequa Park man said that the program must separate the funding awards for repairs and elevation. The way the program is written, he said, insurance money that was meant for home repair is being deducted from the amount people can receive for elevation, leaving them without enough money to do either.
One woman from Baldwin said that while NY Rising claims it will pay to elevate a home two feet above base flood elevation, the NFIP requires homes to be raised four feet above base flood elevation to avoid massive premiums.
Additionally, NY Rising currently pays residents $160 per square foot for repairs, a figure many say is far below the industry standard on Long Island.
“Contractors won’t even get out of bed for that,” said Island Park resident Cathy Dougherty.
“They just hope we go away,” said Freeport resident Steve Parke. “That’s what they’re waiting for — they’re waiting for us to go away. Declare bankruptcy, leave our properties, and then it doesn’t cost them anything. It’s only a business decision, and I’m sure it’s been made. Stall, stall, stall, don’t pay, let them walk away.”