$10 million for Sandy-aid paper-pushers while homeowners get bupkis

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

The city’s much-maligned Build It Back program is working great — for is contractors.

The hundreds of caseworkers subcontracted to help thousands of storm victims get aid through the Hurricane Sandy recovery scheme have pocketed more than five times more money than the residents have received.

Nearly $10 million in federal relief funds have gone to pay the caseworkers, while just $1.63 million has gone to stricken homeowners, according to the city’s own figures. Add in the money paid to contracted architects and inspectors — some flown in from out of state and put up in hotels — and the program’s total back-office expenses tally at least $20 million.

Comptroller Scott Stringer is preparing to audit the program — particularly its infamous case-management system — but Brooklyn storm victims and community leaders are already declaring Build It Back a bona fide boondoggle.

“It’s a crock,” said Gerritsen Beach resident and recovery advocate Jim Donovan of the vast gap between aid checks and consultant compensation.

Stories of mismanagement and tone-deafness have dogged the program almost since its inception.

At a recent hearing convened by Stringer, one Manhattan Beach resident said that the program wasted thousands of dollars on her case before realizing she was not eligible for Build It Back funds.

“Most of the cost associated with my case appears to be sheer waste,” said Phyllis Cion, a Wall Street financial advisor.

Cion took out a Small Business Administration loan in early 2013 to rebuild her basement, which she disclosed in her initial paperwork when she applied for Build It Back aid last July, she said.

In December, an engineer — flown in from Georgia — came to inspect her home. Then Build It Back paid a lead paint specialist to inspect her home again in March.

But on April 1 — April Fool’s Day — Cion’s caseworker told her the small-business loan made her ineligible for Build It Back aid — and that she actually owed $6,800 to the program.

That figure was later reduced to just $38.25, but the whole process amounted to a waste of time and money, said Cion.

“My case should have been thrown out in January,” she said.

The caseworkers who took so long to realize Cion was ineligible — and have lost paperwork and given incorrect information to hundreds of infuriated storm victims — are the subcontractors that have received $9,226,487 so far from Build It Back, through a $50 million, two-year contract the city signed with Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management, Inc. last July to vet applicants.

About 100 city staffers work for Build It Back, but they are far outnumbered by a menagerie of contractors and subcontractors, so tracking where the program’s money has gone is difficult, according to Deputy Comptroller Lisa Flores.

The Comptroller’s audit will try to sort out those layers of contracts, said Deputy Comptroller for Audits Marjorie Landa.

“A fundamental part of what we’re going to be doing is looking at where this money was spent — where those consultants are from, who those contractors are — we will be looking at that,” she said.

The Mayor’s office, which is responsible for Build It Back said that it was reevaluating its contracts.

“Following the housing recovery overhaul announced last month, the City is exploring changes to contracts,” said a spokeswoman.

Public Financial Management did not return calls for comment.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook

Don’t miss our updates:

Reasonable discourse

Epiphany from Ex-Brooklyn says:
Hey, it's Brooklyn. Considering the profound roster of rotten pols representing you, do you really expect public funds not to be stolen, misused or used for exorbitant personal expenses? Come on!

For instance, while people were struggling with damage from a hurricane, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery was living high off the hog. Over a three and 1/2 year period, taxpayers shelled out more than $77,000 for her lodging and meals. That's $22,000 a year for meals and hotels. When challenged about her higher than normal spending, here was the intelligent explanation to her constituents: “I’m not talking to you about that. Bye,”

May 15, 2014, 1:49 am
Tammy from Ft. Greene says:
Many poor delusional and angry individuals fixate on a public figure to avoid addressing their own inadequacies. Sometimes it's sad. Sometimes, like now, it's just ridiculously hysterical!

Now talk some more about Eric Adams! C'mon, you can do it! Bark! Now roll over! There's a good girl!
May 15, 2014, 2:48 pm
Epiphany from Ex-Brooklyn says:
"FBI had eye on nine Democrats"

Albany Times Union

Full article:
May 16, 2014, 12:19 am

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: