A Major Step Forward for Rebuilding with Justice

For over a year, ALIGN and the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding have been working in the communities hardest hit by Sandy to make sure the needs of low-income residents, immigrants and people of color are in the forefront of the rebuilding. We’ve been out in the streets and at City Hall, advocating for a recovery that rebuilds our city’s crumbling infrastructure – and also strengthens communities that have too long been on the frontlines of climate change and economic inequality.

We’re now seeing signs of real progress. Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that several of our recommendations will become part of his plan to jumpstart the city’s sluggish rebuilding process, including:

  • A major commitment to ensuring the rebuilding process creates good local jobs and training programs through community partnerships in Sandy-impacted neighborhoods
  • An overhaul of the flailing Build It Back program, starting with the appointment of a new leadership team and a commitment to rebuild every home that Sandy destroyed
  • Faster access to benefits for Build It Back applicants, and full rental support to homeowners displaced while their homes are being rebuilt and repaired
  • An investment of $100 million in FEMA funds towards the replacement of unreliable, inefficient, and highly polluting temporary boilers in 110 NYCHA buildings
  • Rental assistance for undocumented immigrants displaced by Sandy through a new Temporary Disaster Assistance Program (TDAP-Private)

These recent announcements are a great step toward making New York City a model for rebuilding with justice, and a sign that our hard work is beginning to pay off. After winning greater transparency and accountability in how our city spends its Sandy rebuilding dollars late last year, we’ve been keeping pressure on policymakers to ensure we create good local jobs, invest in truly affordable housing, and build environmentally sustainable infrastructure for all New Yorkers in the recovery.

In February, we exposed the slow pace of the Build It Back housing recovery program, issuing a report, How Sandy Rebuilding Can Reduce Inequality in New York City. At an energetic press conference with faith, community and labor allies on the steps of City Hall, we highlighted the continued needs in storm-ravaged communities and our recommendations to improve the Build It Back program, create good jobs and affordable housing, and invest in the resiliency of public housing.

In March, we highlighted priorities for public housing residents through releasing a report, Weathering the Storm: Rebuilding a More Resilient NYCHA Post-Sandy. The report was a major collaboration with Community Voices Heard, Faith in New York, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality (FUREE), Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), New York Communities for Change, the Red Hook Initiative, and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. Based on 600 surveys, it revealed how NYCHA can address persistent mold and backlogged repairs and connect residents with jobs that expand economic opportunity. We continued building momentum with an Opinion Editorial in City & State and in getting a powerful reporter at New York Times to pay attention to the ongoing plight of the most low-income of Sandy survivors.

Post-Sandy rebuilding represents an enormous opportunity to tackle inequality and make our city fairer, stronger and more sustainable for all residents and communities. Moving forward, we will continue to lift up the voices and needs of Sandy-affected communities to ensure that recovery programs are inclusive, equitable and responsive to their needs.

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