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New FEMA Aid For Residents and Businesses In New Jersey and Connecticut, Say Governors

New Jersey home destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of mymodernmet.com.

Nearly three months after one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history, with people still displaced from their homes and businesses – if they still have any to go back to – help has been slow in coming, but at least it’s still coming.

New Jersey, one of the hardest hit states, is still working on getting displaced people back into permanent housing.

In New Jersey’s latest housing relief effort, the Christie Administration said that displaced households receiving FEMA rental assistance – currently living in hotels or motels – will now be allowed to use these funds to pay for security deposits so they can move into more permanent apartments.

The Christie Administration says that:

Households receiving FEMA rental assistance can utilize up to one month of their rental allotment for a security deposit and not have to give it back to FEMA at the end of the lease.

In general, FEMA provides an initial grant of two months of rent money to households that have been displaced due to Hurricane Sandy, but all households that receive FEMA rental assistance may ask for additional funding if they need it. They will need to show their lease and all receipts for rent and security deposits. FEMA rent money cannot be used to pay for telephone or television service or utilities.

If households have already paid a security deposit with their own money, FEMA is unable to provide reimbursement. However, if further rental assistance is needed, people can show the security deposit receipt to FEMA to support their request for additional rent money. Security deposits paid with FEMA money can cover damage by people or pets, provided they are clearly identified on the lease.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in his State of the State address earlier this month, assessed the damages to his state saying that, “Sandy was the worst storm to strike New Jersey in 100 years. 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Nearly 7 million people and 1,000 schools had their power knocked out. 116,000 New Jerseyans were evacuated or displaced from their homes. 41,000 families are still displaced from their homes.”

In a support effort, Christie’s office adds that the state and FEMA have resources that can help people find available local and regional housing.

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NYC Temporarily Waving Fees For Construction Related To Damage From Hurricane Sandy

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg just signed new legislation this week designed to give some additional financial relief to homeowners and businesses still dealing with property damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

Cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The mayor said during the bill signing ceremony that the legislation waives Buildings Department fees associated with applications, permits and inspections for demolitions and alterations, as well as the rebuilding and repairing of qualified buildings and systems damaged by the hurricane.

The legislation provides waivers for construction fees related to two distinct categories of damage.

In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, city inspectors went around and left red tags or other notations by the department on residences and buildings signifying that the damage was so severe that they were either unsafe to occupy or were completely destroyed.

These properties are now “eligible for the waiver of all fees associated with the alteration, demolition, or construction of new a buildings, including but not limited to electrical and plumbing work so long as the application is submitted on or after Oct. 30, 2012 and on or before Oct.31, 2014,” says the legislation’s fiscal impact statement.

 “For all other buildings damaged by Hurricane Sandy that require electrical or plumbing work, fees related to such work will be waived if a licensed master electrician or plumber or fire suppression piping contractor certifies to the department that such damage is the result of the storm. The electrical and plumbing waiver is available for applications submitted on or after Oct. 30, 2012 and on or before April 30, 2013,” adds impact statement.

The department is estimating that the city will lose roughly $2 million in revenues, though “there will be no impact on expenditures by the enactment of this legislation.”

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New York City Mayor Bloomberg Gives Overview of Progress on Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts

A couple empty gas from a damaged car for their generator in the Rockaways neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York November 5, 2012. Photo and caption courtesy of Yahoo! News.

Touring of some of the hardest hit areas of the storm – including South Brooklyn neighborhood like Coney Island, Seagate, and Gerritsen Beach, as well as places in Queens like the Rockaways, and much of Staten Island – as expected, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this weekend that there are still hundreds of thousands of New York City residents without power and “some of them are still pumping water out of their basements, and they’re confronting what they’ve lost and what they do next.”

Yesterday, the mayor said, “One of the greatest fears we have is with the cold weather coming, we have to make sure that people can stay warm. Among hardest hit are the Rockaways and Staten Island, where a lot of places still don’t have electricity, but are still going to experience cold.

“In the Rockaways, I talked with many concerned residents. I assured them that we’ll do everything possible to get power back on. Our team has been working with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which provides electrical service on the Rockaways.”

As of yesterday, there were still about 19,000 homes in the Rockaways without power. The mayor said that LIPA agreed to add more crews to the job in the Rockaways, adding that they have already also delivered 10 generators to Hammel Houses, a local housing development.

Residents living in public housing have been among the most effect by the storm. The mayor explained that, “Some 45,000 public housing residents live in the coastal areas designated as ‘Zone A,’ and many of them live in the Rockaways,” further saying that over the weekend, the city has “been going block-by-block to identify the issues that are blocking power from being turned back on.”

The mayor also cautioned though that, “Even when power can be turned back on, some of the buildings are going to be out of commission for a long time because of damage to boilers and electrical systems,” adding that, “It’s not just public housing; it’s private apartments and individual houses that have been impacted as well.”

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System Glitches Delaying Launch Of NYC’s Much Anticipated Bike Share Program To March 2013

Photo courtesy of Gothamist.com.

After a lot of disappointment that New York City’s Citi Bikes bike share program didn’t roll out last month as promised, we now know that technology glitches in the network were to blame.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg alluded to software problem as to the reason for the delay earlier this month on his morning radio show and told the New York Times that, “The software doesn’t work” and that they weren’t “going to put it out until it does work.”

The mayor’s office further announced that the “system will launch in March 2013 with an initial phase of 7,000 bikes implemented at 420 stations. The timeline, agreed to by all parties, does not affect the Citi Bike sponsorship structure.”

The sponsorship will provide $41 million in private funding from Citi to underwrite the system for five years. Citi will benefit by having exclusive rights to branding all of the bikes and docking stations.

The mayor’s office says the Citi sponsorship will allow the bike share program to operate at a low cost to consumers and at no expense to taxpayers.

While nothing is set in stone, as we have seen, the city also says that with regard to user costs, “Membership in New York’s bike share system will be affordable, with an annual membership cost of less than $100 – less than a monthly unlimited–ride Metro Card. Day and weekly membership will also be available.”

“Membership will entitle users to an unlimited number of free short duration trips, potentially as long as 45 minutes, while longer trips will be charged according to a small graduated usage fee. Exact rates will be determined after a contract is finalized,” added the mayor’s office.

When the bike share service finally does fully roll out, the city says there will be “approximately 10,000 bikes distributed at 600 locations in parts of Manhattan as well as in neighborhoods spanning northwest Brooklyn at locations to be determined on consultation with community boards, elected officials and local stakeholders. Options for additional stations in other boroughs will also be explored.”

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Plans To Redevelop London’s Olympic Park Next Year To An Expansive Eco-Focused Community

The London Legacy Development Corp. (LLDC) has just unveiled its plans for redeveloping the area encompassing the Olympic Games this month to what will later be known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park district.

The London Legacy Development Corp. (LLDC) has announced its redevelopment plans for what will be known as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park community district. Photo courtesy of the LLDC.

The new park district - which will begin re-opening its gates next July - will combine new neighborhoods, upscale sport and entertainment venues, park areas, and waterways.

The LLDC says it wants to get people back into the park as soon as possible, so the park will open back up again in phases.

The first part to re-open will be the North Park in July 2013, which will have a nature-themed community hub, including acres of green parklands, a community events lawn for picnics, footpaths, and play areas for children.

The LLDC says the community area “will be centered around a hub building with a café, reception area, offices, toilets, and a flexible space that can be used by schools and community groups. It will be timber clad to fit in with the natural environment with solar panels added to its roof for green energy.”

The North Park will also have a multi-use indoor entertainment venue (for sporting events, concerts, and other activities), with a 7,500 person capacity.

Visitors to the North Park will be able to come in through the entrances in Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and Waltham Forest. In addition, pedestrian will have access through Eton Manor. The LLDC says that the remainder of the North Park will re-open at the end of 2013, and will include other visitor entrance points including Lee Valley VeloPark.

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