Cuomo announces Community Reconstruction Zones funded by federal supplemental disaster aid to guide local rebuilding process

By WBNG News

Cuomo announces Community Reconstruction Zones funded by federal supplemental disaster aid to guide local rebuilding process

April 26, 2013 Updated Apr 26, 2013 at 12:59 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton)New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday unveiled the Community Reconstruction Zones program, a bottom-up, community driven initiative that will empower localities that were severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, or Tropical Storm Lee to develop comprehensive and innovative local rebuilding plans that will be funded by the state and federal government.

According to a news release:

The program will be funded by Federal Supplemental disaster aid fought for by Governor Cuomo and approved by Congress and signed by the President earlier this year.

“Communities across New York, from Long Island to Binghamton to Essex County, suffered incredible damage and loss from the wrath of the major storms that have hit our state over the past two years," Governor Cuomo said. "The Community Reconstruction Zone program we are launching today will empower localities to put together a team of local officials, residents and leaders who know their communities best to develop rebuilding plans that will guide the local recovery process. With the State’s assistance, these communities will identify their needs and risks, as well as identify ways to strengthen their resiliency for the future. Under this plan, New York is not just doing reconstruction work – we are building back better and smarter than before.”

The Action Plan submitted by Governor Cuomo to the federal government in April will guide the allocation of the initial $1.7 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program funding. Under the CRZ program, New York State will allocate federal planning grants approved by HUD to localities to develop comprehensive, innovative rebuilding plans – from the bottom up – that consider current damage, future threats, and the community’s economic opportunities. The amounts ultimately allocated to communities will be based on damage assessed by FEMA and the population and will be awarded for projects and activities approved by HUD once the community’s plan is complete and meets established criteria. For most communities, grants will range from $3 million to $25 million if approved. Eligible communities will be provided with initial planning grants to produce CRZ plans.

New York State Senate Co-Leader Dean G. Skelos said, "Today's announcement is another important step in helping the thousands of families affected by Hurricane Sandy and other major storms rebuild their homes and reclaim their lives. I commend the Governor for his determination in ensuring that New Yorkers get the help they need and deserve, and thank Secretary Donovan and the administration for standing with New York as we continue to recover from these catastrophic storms."

CRZ List and Funding Allocation

Area Communities eligible

Binghamton eligible up to  $ 3,000,000
Conklin, Union, Vestal, Johnson City eligible up to  $ 5,424,276
Margaretville, Sidney eligible up to    $ 3,000,000
Nichols, Owego  eligible up to  $ 4,398,730

The planning process is expected to take approximately eight months and will include the following important steps:
 

•Asset Inventory: Completing a detailed inventory of the community’s social, economic, and natural resource assets and systems that have been, or will be, affected by coastal or riverine hazards.
 

•Public Engagement: Offering opportunities for public input and involvement at key milestones in the planning process.
 

•Risk Assessment: Assessing risk to key community assets and systems based on the three factors contributing to risk:
o Hazard: The likelihood and magnitude of anticipated hazard events.
o Exposure: Local landscape characteristics that tend to increase or decrease storm effects.
o Vulnerability: The capacity of an asset or system to return to service after an event.
 

•Needs and Opportunities Assessment: Determining needs and opportunities to improve local economic growth and development and enhance resilience.
 

•Strategies for Investment and Action: Developing strategies and identifying funds to repair, reconstruct, or relocate essential public assets and protect vulnerable persons. Identifying management measures, projects, and actions needed to implement the strategies.
 

•Implementation Schedule: Preparing a detailed implementation schedule of the actions the community will take to implement the CRZ Plan.
 

•The State will facilitate the CRZ planning process in each participating community and will be available throughout the process to provide:
o Guidance and technical assistance to help complete a CRZ Plan, including information workshops, webinars, and training;
o Assistance from experts and facilitators during the planning process;
o Identification of risk assessment areas;
o A regional context to develop large scale infrastructure projects and address State, regional, and county assets;
o An optional risk assessment tool to allow communities to estimate relative risk and test management measures ; and
o A website containing information related to plan development and implementation, as well as other useful resources.
The State will host a Kickoff Conference in June to begin the CRZ planning process. Planning Committee members will attend a technical assistance orientation and workshops on issues such as resilience planning, economic development, and coastal protections.
To qualify for grants to implement the CRZ Plan, the plan will be required to address the following:
 

•Assessment of risk to key assets and systems. As the bedrock of the plan, an inventory of the vulnerabilities of key assets and systems is necessary to prioritize various projects and actions.
 

•Projects and actions to restore and increase the resilience of key assets. The CRZ Plan should address both the restoration of key assets and actions that will make them more resilient to future threats. Examples of such projects and actions include restoration or mitigation of natural infrastructure (e.g. wetlands, oyster reefs, dunes, and other green infrastructure), changes in land use regulations (e.g. changes in use, increased setbacks, and transfer of density) to encourage sound development, and investments in transportation or other improvements in community systems to prepare for future threats.
 

•Protection of vulnerable populations. The CRZ Planning Committee should develop new measures to protect vulnerable persons (people with disabilities, low and very-low income populations, elderly, young children, homeless and people at risk of becoming homeless) through housing decisions and other services. For example, site new facilities in lower risk areas, provide backup power systems for critical facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals, and improve communications systems to ensure that vulnerable persons are not left without aid.
 

•Projects with economic growth co-benefits. Projects that will improve the future of the local economy may also enhance the resilience of the community. For example, investments in new transportation infrastructure may facilitate the growth of Main Street business corridors; and investments in new recreational assets (e.g. new green space that serves as a buffer against coastal flooding) may protect against storm damage or serve as redundant protection in critical areas, while also drawing tourists or facilitating the growth of new businesses.
 

•Regional coordination. CRZ Plans must be consistent with regional objectives to serve the community’s long-term objectives. Long Island communities must participate in a regional planning process.
 

•Detailed implementation agendas. Each CRZ Plan must include a clear and detailed description of the tasks it will take to implement the plan.

The State has also put together a comprehensive Planning Toolkit to provide guidance for the Planning Committees, which can be found at: http://nysandyhelp.ny.gov/community-reconstruction-zones

The $1.7 billion in CDBG funding approved by the federal government today also includes critical support to help New York's homeowners and businesses recover:

HOUSING

Single Family Housing: $663 Million:
 

•Recreate NY Smart Home Repair and Reconstruction Grants - $233 million: Homeowners located in the counties affected by Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, whose cost to repair or replace their home exceeds the funding they received from other sources may be eligible for Recreate NY Smart Home Repair and Reconstruction Grants. These Grants will cover the difference between reimbursements received and the amount of loss suffered by the homeowner. For example, if a homeowner that suffered $110,000 of damage has already received $50,000 from FEMA and her insurance company, she may be eligible for an additional $60,000 grant for qualified repairs under this program. Repair and rehabilitation may be required to meet green building standards and to improve energy efficiency, where applicable.
 

•Recreate NY Smart Home Resilience Grants - $259 million: A homeowner whose partially damaged property is located in the 100-year flood plain or whose property located outside of the floodplain was substantially damaged may be eligible for funding to support mitigation projects that reduce the risk of future damage to their homes. Projects supported by the grants will make these homes significantly less vulnerable to future storm damage, and will save owners substantially through lower flood insurance premiums. In most cases, the grants will cover the full cost of such mitigation that has not been covered by other assistance. Building mitigation may be required to meet green building standards and to improve energy efficiency, where applicable.
 

•Recreate NY Smart Home Buyout Program - $171 million: Certain areas are at high risk for repeated flooding, causing damage to homes and risking the lives of residents and emergency responders. To reduce those risks and provide residents with an opportunity to leave their properties, New York State will offer homeowners the option of selling their homes that were:
o substantially damaged or destroyed inside the highest risk areas, or
o located within designated buyout areas where damage occurred and where property may be susceptible to future damage due to sea level rise and other factors. These enhanced buyout areas will be selected in consultation with county and local government officials.
o In very high risk areas, there will be a prohibition on rebuilding and these areas will be used as buffer zones. Under the State’s proposal, and subject to approval by HUD, re-development of property outside of the highest risk areas that is acquired through a buyout would be permitted, so long as the new structure is built to mitigate future flood impact.
Homeowners eligible for a full buyout in the highest risk areas will receive the full pre-storm fair market value for their home up to the FHA loan limit. An incentive of up to 5% will also be offered to families that relocate within their home county or borough.

Multi-family Housing: $124 Million:
 

•Small Multi-Family Repair and Reconstruction Grants - $31 million: Grants will be available to help repair rehabilitate and/or reconstruct 3 -7 unit properties that have suffered storm damage. In all cases, such grants will cover those losses that are not compensated by other sources. Repair and rehabilitation may be required to meet green building standards and to improve energy efficiency, where applicable.
 

•Small Multi-Family Mitigation Grants - $62 million: Grants will be available for 3 -7 unit properties located in the 100-year flood plain to support mitigation projects that reduce the risk of future damage. To receive grants under this program, property owners for rental properties will be required to rent a minimum of 51% of the units in the property to New Yorkers with low- and moderate-incomes. In all cases, such grants will cover the costs of such mitigation that are not compensated by other sources. Building mitigation may be required to meet green building standards and to improve energy efficiency, where applicable.
 

•Large Multi-family Mitigation Grants - $31 million: Multifamily housing property owners, with property containing 8 or more units, are expected to maintain appropriate insurance coverage that will compensate them for storm-related damages. Recognizing that such owners may not invest in mitigation-related projects on their own due to the up-front costs involved, New York State proposes to provide incentives to encourage them to take measures that reduce risks for New Yorkers living in their properties. Mitigation grants may be made available for select projects that demonstrably improve the building's resilience against future storms, such as moving electrical systems from basements to higher levels inside the building. Eligibility is limited to buildings that have incurred damage from Sandy and are located within the 100-year floodplain. Individual building grants will be subject to a cap for each building. Building mitigation may be required to meet green building standards and to improve energy efficiency, where applicable.

BUSINESS ASSISTANCE

Bringing Back Business: $415 million
 

•Small Business Grants – $232 million: New York State will direct grant funds to help businesses, including farming and agricultural operations, and non-profits that suffered physical damage or inventory loss, as a result of Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, or Tropical Storm Lee. Grants of up to $50,000 to cover eligible, uncompensated losses are proposed to enable an affected business to purchase or repair needed equipment, repair or rebuild facilities that were damaged or destroyed in the storm, and/or provide the working capital necessary to sustain and grow the business. The State may extend grants up to a total grant amount of $100,000 to businesses that suffered physical damage and are at risk of closure or significant employment loss without an increase in grant size. Special Business Mitigation Grants of up to $100,000 are also proposed to cover expenses such as installing back-up generators or elevating key equipment, to help prevent damage to these businesses in future disasters.
 

•Small Business Loans - $130 million: New York State will create a low-interest loan program to help small businesses, including farming and agricultural operations, and non-profits that are at risk because they suffered losses of inventory, or physical assets as a result of the storm. Loans of up to $1 million may be available to help these businesses purchase or repair needed equipment, repair and rebuild facilities that were damaged or destroyed in the storm, and/or provide the working capital necessary to sustain and grow the business. Loans of higher amounts may be offered to eligible businesses that are at risk of closure or significant employment loss. Terms will be flexible, with interest rates held below 2% for borrowers.
 

•Legal Assistance, Business Consulting, & Other Services – $3 million: New York State will support legal assistance for small businesses trying to get back on their feet, and provide a network of support including financial management, real estate, marketing, legal, and industry-specific assistance.
 

•Coastal Fishing Industry Recovery Program –$20 million: Coastal fishing supports thousands of jobs in New York State. Superstorm Sandy caused significant damage to the fisheries along New York's coastline, and while these fisheries will also be eligible to participate in the other small business assistance programs announced today, the industry is subject to unique considerations. To help this vital industry recover, New York State will create a targeted program to support grants of up to $50,000 available to affected businesses. These grants would cover otherwise eligible, uncompensated losses and help the industry prepare now for the upcoming fishing season.
 

•Seasonal Tourism Industry Recovery Program— $30 million: While these seasonal tourism businesses will also be eligible to participate in the other small business assistance programs announced today, seasonal small businesses in coastal and riverine communities require an immediate injection of support to ensure that they can reopen and operate in time for the upcoming summer season. Accordingly, the State seeks to provide grants of up to $50,000 to eligible businesses in this industry. The grants will cover otherwise eligible, uncompensated losses and working capital needs to help them prepare for the coming season.