City Comptroller Scott Stringer took a tour of Coney Island on May 2 to assess post-Sandy rebuilding efforts in advance of a public hearing he will hold in the community on May 6 and said he came away feeling more determined to get to the bottom of the city’s mess involving hurricane relief efforts.
“We will hold agencies accountable. There are no excuses,” Stringer told the Brooklyn Eagle in a phone interview conducted shortly after he completed his tour of storm-damaged sites in Coney Island on Friday.
Stringer will hold a hearing on Tuesday at Coney Island Hospital, 2601 Ocean Parkway, from 7-9 p.m. to hear first-hand from residents and business owners about the problems they have faced in getting assistance to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy. “We are here to listen and learn. We expect to hear from a whole lot of folks,” Stringer told the Eagle.
Stringer is holding public meetings in several communities damaged by Sandy, including the Rockaways and Staten Island.
The comptroller, whose job is to audit city agencies to ensure proper delivery of municipal services for residents, has also formed a Hurricane Sandy Oversight Unit. The unit is responsible for auditing the city’s Sandy-related spending and programs, identifying areas where the city’s performance can be improved, and determining where waste and fraud can be prevented. Stringer also plans to issue recommendations to the de Blasio Administration on how to improve the rebuilding process for residents and small business owners.
“Superstorm Sandy changed the lives of millions of New Yorkers and we are still grappling with its consequences today. It is critical to have an accounting of how government has responded to this event, and what we can do to better prepare for the future. We will ensure government works for the people while finding ways to get New Yorkers the help they need,” Stringer said when he announced the formation of the unit on April 17.
Stringer said the audit his office is doing will take several months to complete.
Hurricane Sandy caused massive damage when it washed ashore in Coney Island on Oct. 29, 2012. Scores of buildings were flooded and the hurricane-strength winds knocked down walls and destroyed foundations.
On Friday, Stringer visited several sites in Coney Island accompanied by Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge) and Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) and met with residents and merchants who are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy – nearly 18 months since the storm hit.
“When you hear people talk about the neighborhoods they love and the struggles they’ve had, it’s very powerful,” Stringer said. “We saw rooms that still have not been fixed. People living on the shoreline have had an onerous situation. I’ve met small business owners who haven’t received help at all. People told me they can’t get their phone calls returned.”
The city’s “Build it Back” program, which was supposed to assist residents in rebuilding their homes “was botched,” Stringer said.
Among the sites Stringer visited was the Coney Island Educational Center, the first day camp to open after Sandy. The building had four feet of water during Sandy. The owners rebuilt the site themselves using their own money.
Coney Island is also getting attention from other city officials.
Treyger, who is chairman of the council’s Recovery and Resiliency Committee, took Amy Peterson, director of the city’s Housing Recovery Office, on a tour of Coney Island last month to give her a chance to see first-hand the rebuilding efforts going on in the neighborhood. The two looked at damaged buildings and spoke to neighborhood residents about their struggles.
Treyger also expressed confidence that the de Blasio Administration will put the rebuilding effort back on track. “Everyone agrees that the recovery process has failed the public to this point, but I am confident that Mayor de Blasio recognizes the urgent need that still exists in Coney Island, Sea Gate and other communities,” he said.