Ulrich supports Sandy money monitor

Ulrich supports Sandy money monitor

Councilman Eric Ulrich (r.) is calling on the city to implement a watchdog in regards to Superstorm Sandy relief money.  Photo courtesy Councilman Ulrich

Councilman Eric Ulrich (r.) is calling on the city to implement a watchdog in regards to Superstorm Sandy relief money. Photo courtesy Councilman Ulrich

Lawmakers have spent months trying to comprehend the ins and outs of distributing relief dollars as communities like Howard Beach and the Rockaways recover from Superstorm Sandy. So much so, that City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) called on the city to install a monitor to oversee that money.

Ulrich, along with City Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn), introduced legislation this week that would require the city to inject a monitor into the Department of Investigations to make sure taxpayer dollars go the right way in regards to Sandy relief.

“Whether it’s holding Build it Back more accountable, or making sure the city properly investigates cases of fraud and abuse, I am introducing this bill to ensure that every penny is spent wisely and honestly,” Ulrich said. “This is commonsense that will increase transparency and I look forward to its passage.”

This monitor, similar to the one Ulrich opposed in regards to the Police Department’s stop-and-frisk questioning methods, would investigate fraud and abuse in order to maximize the amount of money going towards the most vulnerable residents, he said.

Days later, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation into law on Tuesday allowing the Buildings Department to waive building fees for New Yorkers still recovering from the devastating 2012 storm through the Build It Back program. Projects like Build It Back have been under intense scrutiny over recent months as those who needed money reported long waits and inefficient red tape holding them back.

“By speeding up the rebuilding process and waiving these fees, we are bringing coastal communities throughout the city one step closer to full restoration,” Ulrich said of the measure. “The day when people can finally move back home cannot come soon enough.”

So while the city moved forward with speeding up the Build It Back access, Ulrich and Treyger argued there was no better time than the present to have a watchful eye overlooking the Sandy dollars.

“With so much money at stake, we have an obligation to prevent fraud and abuse so that storm victims can have full confidence in our ability to help every victim rebuild their homes, businesses and lives,” Treyger said. “This law is an important step towards making sure that all funding is used in an appropriate and efficient manner and goes directly to the many storm victims who are still waiting for help nearly two years after the storm.”

The legislation, de Blasio said, was only one part of the greater effort to overhaul Sandy recover programs. Under the new law, the mayor said Build It Back no longer needed to pay the Buildings Department on behalf of homeowners until they are reimbursed.

“Allowing New Yorkers to more quickly rebuild from damages caused by Hurricane Sandy is crucial to the recovery process,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We’re grateful that the de Blasio administration shares this priority with the Council, and we look forward to continuing a productive dialogue about measures that will best serve New Yorkers still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.”

By Phil Corso


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