New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio is facing sharp criticism after the city announced a $500 million commitment of tax-funded budget money to shore up the troubled "Build it Back" program. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) broke the story on September 21 (see: "New Sandy Hit Looms for NYC Taxpayers," by Mara Gay).
Elevation in Breezy Point. pic.twitter.com/1BNvRlSFRG
— NYCBuilditBack (@NYCBuilditBack) August 22, 2016
"Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration plans to use $500 million in New York City taxpayer money to fund initiatives related to superstorm Sandy that were expected to be fully paid for with federal aid, city officials said Wednesday," the paper reported. The most shocking part of the story, for some, was the spiraling cost of rebuilding work: "The city’s plan to infuse half a billion dollars into Sandy recovery and storm-protection programs comes as the cost to U.S. taxpayers for repairing and elevating some of the houses damaged by the 2012 storm could hit about $1 million a home, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal." Typically, critics note, this elevation cost far exceeds the market value of the structures being lifted.
"Mayor de Blasio pledged to finish fixing thousands of homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy by the end of 2016 — but he’s facing increased doubts that deadline can be met, even as the program costs half a billion dollars more than expected," reported the New York Daily News (see: "De Blasio says city needs $500 million more in taxpayer funds to cover Hurricane Sandy home rebuilding efforts," by Erin Durkin). "Fixing single family homes enrolled in Build It Back was expected to cost $1.7 billion, but the budget has now ballooned to $2.2 billion, housing recovery director Amy Peterson said. The budget has surged even as the number of homeowners in the program, originally around 22,000, has fallen by more than half as people withdrew their applications. Some were not eligible, but others gave up after years of struggling with bureaucracy."