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Sandy victims plagued with problems four years later

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Gerritsen Beachers still recovering from Hurricane Sandy railed against the city during a town hall at PS 277 on April 6 about bureaucratic hang-ups preventing them from finally moving back into their homes more than four years later.

There has been progress, said state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Gerritsen Beach), who hosted the forum, but he said it’s unacceptable to have so many people still kept out of their homes with the fifth anniversary of the storm just six months away.

“It’s still a disaster for anybody that’s in this room and still has issues going on in their homes — that’s pretty, pretty sad,” he said. “We’re here, we’re going to stay here, and we are going to get you up and running. This has been a long, hard fight and I commend you for keeping it up. We still have quite a ways to go.”

One family who had to move out of their home more than a year ago so it could be raised through the city’s notoriously sluggish and over-budget recovery program Build it Back is help up simply waiting for the Department of Buildings to issue permits for simple things such as a window or a wall, said the homeowner.

“Why does it take so long for you, for all of your agency, to come up with an answer? They present things to you and it takes you 145 days to get back to approve something,” she said. “I’m out of my house 15 months. And half the time I’m finding out something is sitting on your end waiting to be approved, we need to move a little faster, I’m not saying skip and cut, but you have to move a little faster. This is not fair to us.”

Another couple is dealing with miscommunications between contractors and city agencies. The contractors are at a stalemate while waiting for the city to figure out how to correctly install a washer and dryer in their home. But each time they talk to someone new, they claim they get a different answer, according to Eaton Court homeowner Louis Impellizeri, who said she’s at the end of her rope.

“We are still out of the house, at this point, this is why we are coming to you Sen. Golden, because we don’t know what to do,” said Impellizeri.

Representatives from various city agencies were there to hear the complaints and answer questions. The deputy commissioner for the Department of Design and Construction — who was hired to aid the Build it Back program — acknowledged their frustration, and promised to do what he can to move things along.

“As far as I’m concerned, you have gone through everyone, and everyone has told you a billion stories,” said deputy commissioner Luis Mendes. “One thing I’m not going to do is lie to you, and I surely will push the buildings department for certain approvals for certain things.”

But it’s not surprising that so many families seem to be just waiting for things to happen — many of the problems have to do with red tape that holds up the work, said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Gerritsen Beach.)

“Bureaucratic problems — they all fall under the same category,” he said. “It has a lot to do building department regulations. It’s a complicated process.”

Gerritsen Beach has been plagued with recovery problems from the get-go. Residents felt overrun by contractors blocking the neighborhood’s famously narrow streets — in one case even preventing a child with autism from getting to school. And in June 2016, allegedly careless construction workers led to the collapse of a Beacon Court home.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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