Mayor Bill de Blasio, marking the second anniversary of superstorm Sandy's landfall in still-recovering neighborhoods, said Wednesday the city is better protected from storm and flooding disasters than it has ever been.
With many homes and businesses still rebuilding and displaced residents still reeling, he highlighted progress made in a $20 billion resiliency plan.
"The people of New York City are safer than they were two years ago when it comes to resiliency and our ability to withstand storms and natural disasters," he said at a Staten Island news conference. "And we have a lot more to do. But I can say with assurance, when we gather a year from now, we'll be safer still."
De Blasio spoke from the boardwalk in Ocean Breeze, where $400 million in "armored levees" will be built to withstand storm surges. Additionally, five miles of sand dunes have been reinforced in Staten Island, where Sandy caused 23 deaths.
Forty-four people died citywide in what de Blasio called "the worst natural disaster in the history of New York City."
De Blasio, first lady Chirlane McCray, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others earlier in the day helped Habitat for Humanity paint and apply varnish to the Coney Island home of Margurie Batts, 80, a retired postal worker.
Batts has been living on the second floor of her row house. The first floor had been inundated by storm water.
"Nothing's super about Sandy, but Sandy was a godsend, because she brought us together," Batts said. "We might fall back apart, but we are going to work and we are going to work until we all come together again."
In Staten Island, Borough President James Oddo reflected on an "extremely difficult two years" after the "hell" of the night Sandy struck and pointed to more work ahead.
"The progress to date . . . doesn't reflect the energy and the commitment and the hard work that a lot of people have put into this," he said. "And that tells us we have to do more. We have to be better. We have to be smarter."
The $20 billion initiative was funded by the city and federal governments and was begun under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It includes such improvements as 10,500 linear feet of bulkhead repairs, updated building codes, coastal protection in the Rockaways, upgrades at hospitals, and elevated boilers and emergency generators in public housing.
De Blasio created the Office of Recovery and Resiliency and also overhauled the Build It Back program to expand eligibility for applicants. As of Jan. 1, when de Blasio took office, Build It Back had begun zero construction projects and issued no reimbursement checks. As of Wednesday, it had made 762 construction starts and sent out 1,090 checks.