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City to buy derelict Hurricane Sandy homes, build ‘affordable’ housing

It never ends: Brooklynites still struggling to rebuild four years after Hurricane Sandy are now being targeted by scammers, city officials are warning.
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These digs are going from below water to below market rate!

The city wants to buy abandoned Brighton Beach homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy and turn them into so-called affordable housing and parks, officials announced.

The Build It Back recovery program has ramped up construction efforts to hit the Mayor’s self-imposed deadline to raise and repair all homes by the end of the year, but nearly four years after the storm, many still sit empty and decrepit because their owners just gave up and left. Now the city wants to develop those sites or return them to nature, a program spokesman said.

“We have to assess and have to really see what we can do with these homes. Really depends on the property itself,” said Raul Contreras. “Maybe new park land, returning it to nature, augmenting storm-water management system, and affordable housing.”

The new effort will use $3–4 million — from the program’s $15.4-billion in federal funding — to scoop up empty houses in three neighborhoods, including Brighton Beach, authorities said. Officials plan to canvass neighborhoods to find abandoned homes, then scour property records to track down the owners and make offers on the properties. It may take six to eight months before the city purchases its first homes, a spokesman said.

Buying and redeveloping the otherwise abandoned homes will keep them from falling over onto houses the program repairs, said program director Amy Peterson.

“To ignore the abandoned properties would not only negatively impact the homeowners that Build It Back strives to serve, but would ultimately endanger the investment of public dollars used to restore and improve the housing stock in these communities,” she said.

And the deserted domiciles also create a major quality-of-life problem for neighbors, said Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Brighton Beach).

“Abandoned homes and properties are an eyesore and cause rat infestations, a bad odor, overgrown weeds, and other consequences for those living nearby,” he said.

But the only Brooklyn neighborhood included in the pilot program is Brighton Beach, though Build It Back may expand the effort to others, such as Sheepshead Bay, if it succeeds, said Deutsch.

“Funding for the pilot program is limited. If the pilot program proves successful, I will advocate for the inclusion of other neighborhoods, as I did for Brighton Beach,” he said.

A neighborhood leader in Sheepshead Bay — where recovery seems to have stalled as residents of private streets hash out a recovery deal with city officials — recently suggested turning the ‘hood’s below-street-level “courts” into green space to counteract flooding, but residents met the idea with mixed reactions.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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