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FEMA-funded rapid reconstruction program to begin in NYC, mayor says

David Friedman / NBC News

City sanitation workers pick up debris from Superstorm Sandy outside the Breezy Point community polling place at St. Genevieve Church on Tuesday, Nov. 6, in Breezy Point, N.Y.

NEW YORK – The city is embarking on an unprecedented reconstruction program to swiftly repair homes damaged by Superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday. The program will be mostly paid for by the federal government and aims to get some people home early next week, he said.

The program, called New York City Rapid Repair, will deploy general contractors who will oversee the work in the hard-hit areas. Those contractors will manage electricians, plumbers, carpenters and others to complete the repairs, Bloomberg said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is supporting the project and will pay for most if not all of it, he added.

“For a homeowner to go off on their own and find somebody who was available and willing to show up is a daunting task,” he said at a news conference. “We’re changing the game. Today, we’re launching a program that will start returning people to their homes as early as next week. … Its goal is to get as many New Yorkers as possible back in their homes by the end of the year.”

Some 90,000 households in New York City and Long Island remained without power Friday. Some homes need simple repairs to get up and running, while others will need major work.

The program will begin with the easiest houses to fix, with those that have received a green card -- indicating they are sound -- from the buildings department, Bloomberg said. The buildings department has already examined some 80,000 homes.

To register, people must either visit one of the city’s restoration centers, call the information line (311) or sign up online. They must call FEMA to get an identification number. Bloomberg said. The first wave of applicants must have received a green card and be on a street where power has been restored.

Signup begins Tuesday. Work will start soon afterward.

Bloomberg said the program, which is optional, was unprecedented and “will save the city, state and federal government a lot of money and that’s because contractors will be able to work on multiple buildings at once and not just one house at a time.”

Contractors will work over the weekend with the buildings department to identify the homes that will be in the first wave of repairs.

The program “will go a long ways in our recovery, but I will say it won’t fix everything,” Bloomberg said. “In the hardest hit places like Breezy Point, homes were completely destroyed and some of the buildings that are standing will need major structural work before they can be lived in again. For those families, we’re working on housing options that we’ll have more to say about next week.”

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