City Council members vent Sandy frustrations

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A frustrated group of City council members liberally peppered officials from the mayor’s Office of Management and Budget with questions during a Wednesday hearing about the pace of spending of Superstorm Sandy recovery money. The members urged the agency, if nothing else, simply to comply with a recently passed law that requires the city to track where the cash is going.

“There are people suffering,” said City Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resiliency, which held a joint hearing with the Committee on Finance. He noted that delays in repairing homes and businesses are sapping the last financial wherewithal of residents in storm-affected areas.

The city spent more than $2.3 billion on the recovery efforts, according to the latest figures from the end of 2013, which it hopes to fully recoup from federal funding sources. But additional billions of dollars coming from the Department of Housing and Urban Development has yet to make its way to individual homeowners.

While the administration notched up several victories with the Federal Emergency Management Agency-including launching the successful Rapid Repairs program and recouping the maximum reimbursement on several initiatives-there have also been a host of programmatic and management challenges.

Those challenges have proven more acute with the HUD money, which must be allocated according to a laundry list of specific regulations that lawmakers have blamed for delays.

“We are in conversation with senior staff at HUD and at FEMA about how best to streamline the federal coordination issues,” Mr. Grathwol said, indicating that the city hoped the talks would result in a quicker approval of federal funding.

And on a city level, Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to announce a comprehensive reforms to Sandy spending Friday, though the administration has already retooled programs like Build it Back, which has helped thousands of residents reach the final steps of beginning work on their homes.

Councilmembers also chided the office for not posting all of the information required by a recent law to an informational website called the Sandy Tracker.

“It’s not a suggestion,” said City Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), who was a cosponsor of the legislation. “It’s a law of the city.”

Mr. Grathwol said issues of privacy for individual homeowners and businesses, for example, have hindered the office’s efforts to provide all of the information outlined in the law, but that the Office of Management and Budget would work with the Council on the sticking points.

Source: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140409/REAL_ESTATE/140409861/city-council-members-vent-sandy-frustrations

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