More time is needed to implement New York City's latest superstorm Sandy recovery efforts, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city leaders told a community meeting in storm-damaged Staten Island Monday.
The mayor met with Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and other officials from the borough to discuss plans to speed up programs and financial aid that are supposed to go to the affected neighborhoods, particularly the city's Build it Back storm recovery program.
Last week Kathryn Mallon, the director of Build it Back, unexpectedly resigned. Very little of the program's $648 million has been doled out to the thousands of applicants, and no home damaged in the Oct. 29, 2012, storm has been rebuilt through the initiative.
The mayor acknowledged the difficulties and promised a more efficient and clear plan.
"All levels of government have to do better," he said at a Staten Island news conference following the closed-door meeting with officials.
Although de Blasio said he will release a more detailed and updated Sandy recovery plan in the next few weeks, he didn't give an exact date or details.
That didn't sit well with the dozens of Sandy victims and relief groups who separately packed the steps of City Hall before de Blasio's announcement. Many in attendance noted that de Blasio toured the Sandy-affected areas when he was campaigning and promised to make rebuilding a top priority.
Bennett Davon Bennett recalled how the mayor came to his family's home in the Rockaways last fall and Bennett now urged him to keep his word.
"We as a community are waiting for Mayor de Blasio to keep his commitment," he said.
Father Fulgencio Gutierrez, of St. Mary Star of the Sea & St. Gertrude Church in Far Rockaway, said pushing Sandy rebuilding efforts would be an asset to the mayor's fight against inequality because not only would it provide his community with better infrastructure, it would create hundreds of jobs.
"Now, de Blasio can use this opportunity to end the tale of two cities in the five boroughs," he said.
When asked about the criticism from the residents that he visited, the mayor to said be patient just a little while longer.
"I don't blame anyone who's frustrated. I would say to them, I think fairly and objectively, when our plan comes out soon, judge that," he said.