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Sandy recovery official leaving key state post

Seth Diamond, director of the NY Rising Housing

Seth Diamond, director of the NY Rising Housing Recovery Program, left, and Jon Kaiman, special advisor for Long Island Storm Recovery, address the Long Island Regional Planning Council to give an update on the NY Rising program at Molloy College in Farmingdale on Nov. 19, 2013. Credit: Barry Sloan

Seth Diamond, a New York State director of Storm Recovery, will resign July 18 to become chief operations officer for MetroPlus Health Plan, a state spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Since May 2013, Diamond has run New York Rising Housing and Small Business programs created to speed repairs and improvements needed due to superstorm Sandy and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee.

"Under the Governor's leadership, New York Rising has been able to provide assistance to thousands of homeowners to allow them to rebuild their lives and I am proud to have been a part of this outstanding effort," Diamond said in a statement.

His new employer offers low- or no-cost health insurance to qualifying city residents.

Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, said: "He did a great job running the NY Rising program, and we wish him well."

Diamond, a lawyer, went to work for Cuomo after serving as Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services in New York City. He also oversaw evacuation locations.

His many years of public service for the city include overseeing its public assistance and food stamps programs at the Human Resources Administration. And he was a policy coordinator for Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

New York Rising has met with heated criticism from some Long Islanders grown weary of waiting for grant applications to be approved. Others are frustrated that they still cannot return home because they need more government aid to begin or finish repairs.

However, program supporters note federal dollars were not approved until some six months after Sandy struck in October 2012.

Further, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds New York Rising with about $2 billion, stiffened controls after some Hurricane Katrina aid was mismanaged, the supporters say.

"To date, we have issued $346 million in reimbursement and reconstruction checks to 6,926 homeowners" said Barbara Brancaccio, a spokeswoman with Cuomo's storm recovery office.

"Most people understand the challenges in a program like ours and appreciate getting the assistance they will receive," said Jon Kaiman, Cuomo's special adviser for Long Island storm recovery.

Benjamin Rajotte, director of Touro Law School's Disaster Relief Clinic, said the "root cause" of many of his clients' problems is inadequate flood insurance.

"I view New York Rising as a very positive part of the solution of their recovery and the FEMA flood insurance program as unfortunately placing undue pressure on the New York Rising program."With Sid Cassese

State & Region