It’s been nearly four years since Sandy pushed four feet of water into Bob and Nancy Huffman’s Brooklyn home, and the couple is still grappling with the city program designed to help homeowners rebuild.
“There are no return emails and no return phone calls,” said Bob Huffman.
The Huffmans haven’t been able to get back into their Gerritsen Beach home since the storm because they’re still waiting for the city to begin work through its Build it Back recovery program. But across from Jamaica Bay, Dan and Kathleen Klohe’s basement sits completely refurbished – to the tune of $200,000.
They’re just two outcomes of the city program, which was recently allocated $500 million in taxpayer funds. The funding prompted disbelief from some city council members upset that the original $2 billion allocated to the program has helped less than half of the people who need it.
“We've blown through this money, under half the people have been helped and now we are told there are no federal resources left and many are out of the program now and still facing severe financial burdens,” said Councilman Mark Treyger, the chairman of the city Committee on recovery and resiliency.
Huffman said that he’s had to pay his mortgage and home insurance since the home. He said that even if work started right now “it will still be a year and a half until anything would be complete.”
The city told the I-Team that they can't move forward with construction until the Huffmans "sign their grant agreement and pay their transfer amount." Both the city and the Huffmans acknowledge they are in the process of negotiating that amount. The Huffmans are working with the city to resolve these issues.
Still, the Bob Huffman said it feels like “nothing moves forward,” even as work on a neighbor’s home was completed.
“It’s like groundhog day,” he said.
The Klohes, meanwhile, were sarcastic when they described the rennovated basement of their Rockaway Beach home, which the city said cost $200,000. That price tag included $38,000 in finishes $86,000 on “hard cost contingency and another $8,856 for “wood and plastics.”
"Our basement as you can see, there must be something really dazzling about it,” Kathleen Klohe told us, sarcastically. “It has a floor, walls and a ceiling--it's amazing!”
In response to the basement renovation that cost more than $200,000, the city said.
"Different factors contribute to higher construction costs including the rising cost of the overall construction market as well as regulatory requirements such as sprinklers and new foundations. however, city does negotiate or rebid work where the prices are too high," the city said.
Kathleen Klohe said the money could have been better spent.
“This was a colossal waste of money,” she said. “Money that could have been used to help others.”