De Blasio signs emergency order for post-Ida building repairs

Mayor Bill de Blasio.

After residents suffered damages, delays and even death, some now face the long road of repairing their homes in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Mayor Bill De Blasio signed an emergency executive order on Sept. 7 that waives fees necessary to work on major repairs. 

Some of these fees, listed in the city’s code, can be as much as $130, allowing multiple work permits to pile up on the existing burden of repairs. 

“And we don’t want to see anyone have to pay for a permit, who’s just been through a horrible disaster,” de Blasio said during a press conference. For the next five days, as families examine the electrical, structural, and plumbing damage that has been done to their basements and ceilings, securing work permits will be slightly easier. 

De Blasio called fees during an emergency such as this “unconscionable” when it comes to the struggles that small businesses and families face. 

“We want to make it free for people to do what they have to do to get back on their feet,” the mayor said. 

More free aid is available. Because many in Queens got the worst of the seven inches of rain and flash flooding, President Joe Biden showed up to the borough to assess the damage the same day that the mayor signed the order. 

The president is promising FEMA funding for Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island residents that also goes toward repairs, bolstering the recovery process. One grant that FEMA is offering, that residents can apply for right now, provides up to $36,000.

“It’s direct cash to help you to make up for what you’ve lost,” de Blasio said.

Bronx Councilman Mark Gjonaj said that the federal government could go a step further by passing crucial budget items related to infrastructure so that the city can better handle future weather emergencies. 

Addressing the mayor, Gjonaj said, “I also encourage you as you meet with President Biden to discuss long-term solutions,” and suggested burying the city’s above-ground power lines.

“The infrastructure projects and the budget that is currently being negotiated in Washington; New York City could benefit tremendously from this, as well as proactive measures as we move forward,” Gjonaj continued. 

De Blasio stressed that shelter and water pumping services are still available for free—two of the biggest struggles that Ida caused. 

“I want to affirm to anyone out there who still has water to pump that you can depend on the Department of Environmental Protection and sanitation to come over and do that for free,” de Blasio said. 

The city is working with the Red Cross to fill other needs, such as replacing lost or damaged clothing and personal items. They’re going to provide debit cards of up to $515 per household, and make one-time rent payments, “regardless of immigration status,” he said. 

As this recovery continues, the mayor’s office will launch a door-to-door campaign with community organizations, to disseminate information and services. 

De Blasio said this worked well with the census effort, and that his office would like to replicate that. “We engaged local community organizations who knew the people, spoke the language to go out and do that door-to-door work.”