Mayor Bill de Blasio asked frustrated New Yorkers for patience on Monday as the city labors to reboot its efforts to help those hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.
“It is self-evident that the pace has been a profound problem. … I think everyone who experienced the effects of Sandy by nature should be frustrated with government,” the mayor said after a Sandy-recovery meeting at Staten Island Borough Hall.
The remarks came four days after de Blasio announced that the head of the city’s recovery program, Build It Back, was stepping down. The program has been criticized for failing to distribute hundreds of millions in federal funds to homeowners who are struggling to rebuild after the devastating 2012 storm.
While Borough President James Oddo repeatedly suggested using acquisition for redevelopment to purchase larger swaths of land and rebuild it smartly, de Blasio said he wasn’t ready to commit to that idea specifically.
De Blasio acknowledged that those seeking help had encountered too much paperwork and bureaucracy. The city is conducting a review of the city’s approach to the rebuilding efforts that should be completed in the next few weeks, he said.
“This is going to be years of work,” he said. “Our first obligation is to help people who right now don’t have a place to live, who right now don’t have a stable income. But going forward, we have a whole series of very complicated things we have to address.”
Earlier Monday, a coalition of community activists, union leaders and clergy staged a rally on the steps of City Hall to call attention to the plight of badly damaged Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods. Some demonstrators agreed with the mayor’s position that Sandy relief funding should be used for other purposes, like affordable housing and jobs programs.
“I live in the Rockaways and I need a job in the Rockaways,” said Emily Respass.
Another Rockaways resident, Bennett Bennett, recalled how de Blasio visited his family’s badly damaged home while campaigning for mayor, giving him hope that help was on the way. But so far, none has come, and the family’s savings have been wiped out during the wait, he said.
“We are counting on Mayor de Blasio to help this community,” Bennett said.