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State legislators call for improvements to NY Rising aid to homeowners

New York State Senator Tom Croci, seen in

New York State Senator Tom Croci, seen in a July 15, 2014 photo, wants to mandate monthly reports from state offices to help speed up superstorm Sandy claims to New York Rising. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Two freshmen state legislators from Long Island want to mandate monthly reports from state offices to help speed up superstorm Sandy claims to New York Rising, a federally funded program they say is taking too long to get residents money they need to rebuild, raise and get back into their homes.

Their bill, introduced by State Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) in the State Senate on April 8, would require a monthly report to be drawn up from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the commissioner of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the executive director of the Office of Storm Recovery, detailing the status of all open disaster assistance claims, along with an account of what the storm recovery program has done in the month prior.

"This is about remembering those who still aren't back in their home," said Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who will support the bill in the Assembly. "There's nothing wrong about accountability ... this legislation is about that."

Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman for the Office of Storm Recovery, said the legislation is not needed. "NY Rising adheres to rigorous federal and legal guidelines and oversight, and publishes progress in mandated reports on our website," she said in an email.

New York Rising was formed in June 2013 by Cuomo following Tropical Storm Irene, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, and superstorm Sandy to centralize rebuilding efforts across New York State. Under the governor's Office of Storm Recovery, a housing recovery program was launched to help with home repairs and the elevation of houses.

At a news conference held Friday afternoon in the Village of Mastic Beach, Croci, along with local officials including Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, called for transparency while criticizing the state agency over its progress in fulfilling all claims.

"We have not done a good job at the Office of Storm Recovery in NY Rising," Croci said. "That office is a bit behind the eight ball ... We need to resolve these cases and get these people back into their homes."

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Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue), who attended the press conference, called the New York Rising program "abysmal," and said residents have told him tales of lost paperwork and requests for documents they say they had already submitted.A request for comment emailed to Cuomo's office was not answered.

If passed, the legislation would require monthly reports to begin Dec. 1 and to follow on the first of the month until Dec. 2, 2019.

Kevin Reilly, 46, founder of Long Beach Rising, a community group of dozens of residents who have helped each other along the recovery route, said his home in Long Beach suffered more than 50 percent damage. He said he has paid out of pocket for the second half of construction while he awaits New York Rising assistance. "The progress is less than stellar," Reilly said. "They're running without the oversight that needs to be there to make it a better program. But it's definitely not too late to make this thing work."


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