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Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Sandy Rebuilding Program

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This past weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his team to head up Hurricane Sandy recovery, and on Monday, a key initiative in the city's rebuilding plan was ripped apart by the City Council, though the mayor's new housing recovery chief is promising changes. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

It was a tough first day on the job for the city's new housing recovery czar. As she was sitting in the front row of a City Council hearing, a few feet away, Hurricane Sandy victims slammed her new office's slow response.

"Not one homeowner received benefits from Build it Back as it stands today," said David Winn of the Sea Gate Civic Association.

"Build it Back has been a total disaster," said one resident.

Amy Peterson was just appointed on Saturday by Mayor Bill de Blasio. She faces one of the biggest challenges in the city's recovery from Hurricane Sandy: making Build it Back actually work.

"There's a number of things," she said. "The one is cutting the red tape. The steps have already started with that, and we're going to continue with that."

Build it Back is a city program for Hurricane Sandy-affected homeowners to get repairs, rebuild devastated homes or get reimbursed for work already done. It has been drowning in delays.

"In short, while some of these delays were the result of complex federal requirements, some were self-inflicted. Mistakes were made," Peterson said.

It's been 10 months since Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched the program. Just three homeowners have received reimbursement checks.

"A hundred thousand was sent out last week, and we expect, we have about 800,000 committed," Peterson said.

Just six homes are under construction. The city is churning through 22,000 applications.

"The fact that consultants are getting paid faster than property owners and residents is really unacceptable," said City Councilman Mark Treyger of Brooklyn.

"$1.4 billion going to Build it Back, 70 people staff, March 31, two days on the job, one house being built in the Rockaways. Completely unacceptable," said City Councilman Eric Ulrich of Queens.

City officials say that the program is still $1 billion short, which means that some New Yorkers with higher incomes may never get their repairs through Build it Back. Officials are hopeful that they will receive more cash from Washington.

As for now, there is no concrete timeline for when these repairs will be completed.

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