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FEMA OKs $3 billion in Sandy funds for NYC public housing

Sandbags are viewed on a street in Red

Sandbags are viewed on a street in Red Hook, Brooklyn as superstorm Sandy began to affect the area on October 29, 2012. Credit: Getty Spencer Platt

The federal government is allocating about $3 billion to help rebuild Sandy-ravaged public housing projects in New York City and stormproof them against future natural disasters, officials announced Tuesday .

Construction is to begin as soon as this summer, and is expected to last between 18 and 36 months, said Shola Olatoye, chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority.

"They say God works in beautiful and mysterious ways, and we had the devastation of Sandy. But it gave us the opportunity to provide the kind of capital to rebuild . . . better than before," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer, Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials announced the allocation of the money at a development in Brooklyn's Red Hook neighborhood whose residents suffered in the 2012 superstorm.

The men called the funds the "largest payout ever" by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Half the FEMA money will fund repairs at the 200 buildings in 33 developments damaged in many parts of the city -- from Red Hook to Coney Island to the Lower East Side to the Rockaways. The rest of the money will go toward "resiliency measures."

Olatoye said the work would start soon, beginning with a housing project in Coney Island.

She said that work across the city would include renovating flooded lobbies, installing up-to-date security and fixing antiquated electrical systems.

In half of the city's housing developments, she noted, the buildings are more than 50 years old.

Surge flooding from Sandy-damaged basements and first floors at those developments, including boilers and mechanical and electrical equipment. Some residents lost heat and power for weeks and some buildings are still not back to where they were before the storm.

"Today is a real answer to the crises that we experienced," de Blasio said. He added: "This will affect tens of thousands of people. This will protect them. This will make their lives better."

He said that the city would try hard to speed the repairs and fortifications, mindful that there could be one or more hurricane seasons before work is complete.

De Blasio said the fortification was especially important because "the jury has come back on the question of climate change and extreme weather. It's part of our lives."

Separately, a panel of scientists said earlier this year that the city's resiliency plan to protect against future natural disasters citywide has a $20 billion price tag.

The money will also fund deployable anti-flooding barriers that can be put up in the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, as well as damaged doors and roofs, the mayor's office said in a statement.

Schumer and de Blasio announced in September that $108 million in FEMA money would pay for storm-resistant boilers, emergency generators, flood-protection systems and cameras at the Coney Island project.

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