To help rebuild New York in the post-pandemic era, Mayor Bill de Blasio is turning to one of his administration’s biggest construction experts to help get the job done.
On Monday, de Blasio named President and CEO of the New York City School Construction Authority and Commissioner of the Department of Design and Construction Lorraine Grillo senior advisor and “recovery czar” tasked with “supercharging” New York City’s rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We want a recovery that is strong, that vibrant, that brings New York City back to where it was and then some in terms of economic activity and people’s livelihoods,” said de Blasio during a Monday press conference. “Every single city agency must be a part of the recovery effort. Recovery for all of us is about everything.”
As the city’s new “recovery czar” Grillo will now lead weekly “war room” meetings which will include all deputy mayors as well as leadership from city agencies, businesses, and nonprofits and plans to “cut through the noise to get things done.”
“I build, I build things. That’s what I do and together we are going to build a recovery for all of us,” said Grillo. “While there is pain in crisis, there is also an opportunity to do some things better.”
Grillo headed the effort to improve school ventilation systems ahead of last fall’s system-wide reopening which involved deploying 100 teams of experts and engineers to exam airflow in all 1,600 New York City public schools. Inspection methods came under question after pictures of an SCA-contracted engineer using a piece of toilet paper tapped to the end of a yardstick to a school vent’s airflow were posted to Twitter.
Grillo also oversaw the city’s school rebuilding effort after Hurricane Sandy and helped in finding space for pre-k programs as part of Mayor de Blasio’s Pre-K for All initiative.
“In my years serving New York City I’ve built schools for over 80,000 students. I’ve led nearly 4,000 capital improvement projects and management budget totaling $28 billion,” said Grillo.
The New York City School Construction Authority, along with the Department of Education and Department of Youth and Community Development, was also placed in charge of finding space for the city’s Learning Bridges program which was created last September to provide free child-care for public school parents.
Initially, the city pledged to offer 100,000 seats by the end of last year but so far only 56,000 seats have been offered to families, according to the Department of Education.