NEW YORK (AP) -- New Yorkers still struggling with about 20,000 homes wrecked in "the worst storm ever to hit New York City" will get one-on-one personal help and money to rebuild, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
Seven months after Superstorm Sandy, the mayor announced a new effort to speed up remaining repairs: NYC Build It Back.
"We are making our federal aid package simple and understandable and tailoring assistance to the specific needs of the families and businesses most impacted by Sandy," Bloomberg said at a City Hall news conference.
Eligible homeowners, renters and landlords can seek advice and financing to repair and rebuild or even get reimbursed for work already done. Loans are also available.
The money comes from $648 million in federal disaster recovery funds passed by Congress as part of the $1.77 billion the city already received through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
New York City residents may register for NYC Build It Back by calling 311 or visiting the program's website. They'll be contacted by a specialist to review their options, starting next month. Factors determining if a homeowner qualifies, and the funding amount, include whether he or she has already received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other sources.
The mayor said NYC Build It Back differs from other post-Sandy relief efforts by providing a trained person — with a name and phone number — who will deal directly with each resident.
"Whether it's personal assistance in the rebuilding process or reimbursements for completed repairs, this program will provide a new infusion of support to help families, neighborhoods and businesses come back stronger and more resilient than ever before," the mayor said.
Homeowners and landlords are eligible if their primary residence was damaged, using a contractor chosen by the city or picking their own contractor within government-set cost limits.
Homeowners also have the option of selling flood-prone properties to the city and relocating elsewhere.
"It is true in some cases, based on the level of damage and other factors, owners may want to voluntarily sell their homes and relocate," Bloomberg said. "The city will work with the communities and developers to strategically redevelop those properties in a smarter and more resilient way."
Brad Gair, the City Director of Housing Recovery Operations, said he expects 20,000 or more households still need rebuilding.
Sandy "was the worst storm ever to hit New York City and today, we are launching a new program to continue the road to recovery," said Bloomberg.
In March, work was completed on more than 20,000 houses and apartments under the city's Rapid Repairs program that allowed contractors to install boilers, replace electrical panels and do basic work to make homes habitable.
Under the new program, every aspect of a home or building will be analyzed to determine what work is needed.
On Monday, Bloomberg was joined by officials from communities with the heaviest damage, including Rep. Michael Grimm, R-Staten Island, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, and various City Council members from the hardest hit areas.
NYC Build It Back: www.nyc.gov/html/recovery