NY Rising, the state agency tasked with distributing federal aid funds to storm victims, will be holding a series of public meetings across the state this week to gather public input on the proposed use of the $2.1 billion the state was awarded last November.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a supplemental allocation of $2.1 billion of Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to support the state’s continued recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee. This was the second appropriation of federal funds to aid storm victims, coming on the heels of the $1.7 billion awarded in April 2013.
HUD is requiring the state to create an amendment to the original action plan, to document the proposed use of the additional funds, and publish it for public input. The agency is holding six public hearings in the most storm-ravaged regions for residents to comment on the amendment, including one on Wednesday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Theodore Roosevelt Executive & Legislative Building, at 1550 Franklin Ave. in Mineola.
According to the amendment, $1.1 billion — about half of the award — will be allocated to housing programs, including repair and reconstruction, interim mortgage and housing assistance and buyouts. It also adds $441,000 to the community reconstruction program, and $430,000 to infrastructure projects.
Residents continue to voice their frustration with the complexity of the program, its seemingly unaccountable bureaucracy and the small grant awards.
The group Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA is now advocating for homeowners struggling with the NY Rising program. The group is planning to rally at next week’s public hearing, though founder Michele Mittleman said she is optimistic about the changes that have occurred to the program since more outreach began late last year, including coverage of unforeseen construction costs and less stringent requirements for contractors.
“I am excited by the recent developments [special advisor for storm recovery on Long Island] Jon Kaiman has made to the NY Rising guidelines,” Mittleman said. “Unfortunately, Jon was not brought into the program until September, so 16 months post-Sandy, thousands remain homeless. We are working together so that the needs of Sandy victims continue to be met.”
For those who can’t attend the meeting, comments may be submitted in writing at http://stormrecovery.ny.gov, or by mail. Send letters to: The Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, ATTN: Public Comments, Church Street Station, P.O. Box 3325, New York, NY 10008-3325. The public comment period will end on March 19 at 5 p.m.