The Year in Review and Going Forward: ERASE Racism’s Superstorm Sandy Work in 2013 and Next Steps for 2014

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ERASE Racism was very busy working on issues relating to Superstorm Sandy in 2013 and will be monitoring the situation very carefully in 2014.

"With New York State set to receive an additional $2 billion in the coming months, we will also be monitoring the State’s Action Plan Amendment to ensure that our concerns are adequately addressed."

ERASE Racism has been busy on the Superstorm Sandy front. After the storm hit the New York area on October 29, 2012 Congress passed the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act in early 2013, which provided for the distribution of funds to areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.

On March 5, 2013, HUD issued a notice about the first allocation of recovery funds, which included $1.7 billion for New York State. The New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal (“NYSHCR”), the agency responsible for drafting the Action Plan, published a draft plan in March 2013, which called for the distribution of $888 million to Nassau County and $282 million to Suffolk County. After reviewing the State’s Action Plan, ERASE Racism was concerned that it did not adequately address the needs of low-income and minority residents, and feared that the response to Superstorm Sandy would follow in the footsteps of the response to Hurricane Katrina, which left minority and low-income communities behind in the recovery process. ERASE Racism submitted comments highlighting our concerns that the Action Plan did not address the racial and ethnic composition of areas affected by Sandy, did not address how low-income residents would be affected by the Action Plan, did not assess the need for additional affordable housing in the affected areas, and did not ensure compliance with the HUD requirement to affirmatively further fair housing.

In April 2013, New York State issued a final Action Plan which addressed some of our concerns but still left others unaddressed. The updated Action Plan included some assessment of how low-income and minority communities were affected by Sandy and created programs to assist homeowners with repairs and reconstruction and for the buyout of homes in the highest risk areas. The Action Plan also created programs to assist municipalities affected by Sandy by establishing Community Reconstruction Zone planning grants for communities to rebuild and increase their resiliency to future storms and by allocating money to assist municipalities that have lost property tax and sales tax revenue as a result of the storm. The Action Plan for the first disbursement of funds did not include any money for the development of new affordable housing.

ERASE Racism has also attempted to obtain information from the State and from direct services providers on Long Island on the numbers of low-income and minority clients who have been assisted during the recovery process. We have recently submitted a request to the New York State Division of Homes and Community Renewal under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”), which provides for access to records from New York State or local agencies. This FOIL request asks for demographic information for applicants to Sandy-related housing assistance programs, documents relating to outreach about such programs, and documents relating to analysis and monitoring done by the State with respect to any of its Sandy-related housing assistance programs, among other items. We are also reaching out to direct services providers for additional information about the demographic breakdowns of their clients.

There are several additional opportunities for intervention ahead. First, in the coming months, a second round of recovery funds will be distributed, with New York State set to receive just over $2 billion. ERASE Racism will be monitoring the State’s Action Plan Amendment to ensure that our concerns, and HUD’s requirements for the submission are adequately addressed. We will be examining the Action Plan Amendment, which we are expecting by mid-February, for analysis of the effect of Sandy on low-income and minority communities and for a commitment to the construction of new affordable housing. In addition, we will review the adequacy of the response to our pending FOIL request. We will determine what subsequent actions are required after this analysis has been completed. Stay tuned!

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Elaine Gross
ERASE Racism
+1 (516) 921-4863 Ext: 14
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