City admits mismanagement, cost overruns of “Build it Back” program

Sandy recovery effort is $500M over budget

Mayor Bill de Blasio and a destroyed Rockaway home
Mayor Bill de Blasio and a destroyed Rockaway home

The Superstorm Sandy recovery program to rebuild homes destroyed in the superstorm is a half-a-billion dollars over budget, and has helped fewer than a third of the homes initially in the program.

The federal program, known as “Build it Back,” was the topic of a City Council hearing Thursday where city officials acknowledged that they had mishandled the recovery effort. The de Blasio administration hid massive cost overruns from city lawmakers, and won’t meet the December deadline to repair homes, the officials testified, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“We failed you,” John Grathwol, a deputy director in the city’s Office of Management and Budget, said during the hearing. “We’ll do better.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio had promised to finish rebuilding homes affected by Sandy by the end of 2016, but in a report released Wednesday, he said they won’t meet the December deadline.

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To meet the $500 million shortfall of the program, which was supposed to be fully funded by federal money, de Blasio ordered the reallocation of city funds without seeking council approval. The mayor’s aides said the reallocation didn’t require council approval because it had already been approved in previous budgets.

City lawmakers were furious about the lack of transparency and that they hadn’t been informed of the cost overruns or the delays by administration officials. Lawmakers were also concerned that there was no coherent plan going forward to address the cost overruns, and that it would affect the budget in years to come.

Grathwol said, “I think you’re just going to have to trust us.”

But that wasn’t enough for one Council member. “I honestly don’t know how you can sit here with a straight face after blowing billions of dollars,” Council member Eric Ulrich, a Queen Republican said. [WSJ] — Chava Gourarie