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Schumer: $5M needed from FEMA to replace complex damaged by Sandy

The Moxey Rigby public housing project on Buffalo

The Moxey Rigby public housing project on Buffalo Avenue in Freeport is seen on Aug. 22, 2013. Officials say federal funding is needed to replace the complex, which was damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide $5 million to relocate 101 apartments in a Freeport public housing complex damaged by superstorm Sandy.

Local officials and Schumer (D-N.Y.) said FEMA funding is needed to build new Moxey Rigby apartments on Buffalo Avenue and Merrick Road, out of the floodplain and across the street from the current 60-year-old complex.

Freeport officials and the Freeport Housing Authority unveiled plans last year to build a new low-income apartment complex, funded and supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The current complex houses 500 residents.

Schumer sent a letter last week to FEMA Acting Administrator Robert Fenton urging the agency to disburse the funding.

The village has been working with FEMA since November to try to secure the $5 million needed to supplement New York State tax credits, housing authority officials said.

“The Moxey Rigby redevelopment project is dependent upon low-income housing tax credits, and time is of the essence in obtaining the tax credits in order to make this project a reality,” Schumer wrote. “Therefore, I urge FEMA to review FHA’s proposal as expeditiously as possible in order to keep this project on track.”

Moxey Rigby residents sustained $6.4 million in damage during superstorm Sandy in October 2012, Freeport officials said. The building’s mechanical systems were located in the flooded basement.

The authority has filed an alternative use permit with FEMA to relocate the buildings rather than make repairs to the existing dilapidated complex.

Freeport Housing Authority Director John Hrvatin said the project is in danger of losing tax credits if funding isn’t secured by the end of the month.

“The life and safety of individuals is in peril on a daily basis,” Hrvatin said. “This property could never withstand another storm.”

Hrvatin said the village housing authority created a private housing development corporation in order to receive tax credits. But FEMA officials have raised legal concerns about giving federal emergency funding to a private corporation.

The Housing Authority addressed FEMA concerns by eliminating a clause that could have turned over ownership of the property to the corporation in 15 years. Housing officials also said the Housing Authority is the only member of the private development.

FEMA spokesman Don Caetano said the agency received paperwork from the Housing Authority in March requesting the funding and is trying to fast track the application in the next several weeks to review the ownership structure using public funds.

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