When Congress was asked to authorize the expenditure of tens of billions to help this region’s victims of Superstorm Sandy, some critics expressed skepticism that the money would be wisely spent. The conservative Club for Growth and Republican lawmakers like Congressman Tim Huelskamp of Kansas were roundly assailed for suggesting that the aid was too generous or might not be spent wisely.
A year and a half later, who can say that their skepticism was completely unwarranted?
Among the many concerns about Governor Christie these days is the accusation that Sandy relief money was used either as a political truncheon or was directed to communities that suffered little damage but were politically wired.
Meanwhile, here in New York, many home-owners and businesses still are awaiting much-needed relief. Mayor de Blasio recently announced a major overhaul of the relief programs, setting aside $100 million in aid for
homeowners who wish to rebuild and promising to cut through bureaucratic obstacles that have made progress slow to achieve. Sadly, among those who still are waiting for promised aid are city workers, most of whom simply don’t have the means to begin rebuilding on
their own. The mayor promises to change that.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called the de Blasio initiative a “turning point for the home-owners wiped out by Hurricane Sandy.” Let’s hope he’s right, but here’s the point: Why has it taken 18 months to reach a turning point?
Mr. de Blasio has appointed three very capable officials to oversee this new relief effort. Particularly noteworthy is Bill Goldstein, a former executive at the MTA who will be the mayor’s senior adviser for Sandy relief. Mr. Goldstein’s presence ensures accountability.
But the delays in New York and possible misuse of funds in New Jersey may have a lasting impact on future debates on disaster aid. It is incumbent on the mayor to get this right. The last thing New York needs is outraged
homeowners complaining to Congress that for all the billions poured into the region since Sandy, not enough has trickled down to people left homeless.
Mr. Goldstein and his colleagues must ensure that money is spent quickly in all the right places, for all the right reasons. This turning point is months too late. But let’s hope it is, in fact, a turning point.