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Bloomberg outlines plan for 1st billion dollars in Sandy aid

Carpenters installed new siding on a storm-damaged beach house in January in Far Rockaway, N.Y. Much of the first round of federal aid is planned to go to loans and grants to affected homeowners and businesses.

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Carpenters installed new siding on a storm-damaged beach house in January in Far Rockaway, N.Y. Much of the first round of federal aid is planned to go to loans and grants to affected homeowners and businesses.

NEW YORK — New York City plans to spend its first $1 billion in federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery on loans and grants to homeowners and businesses affected by the storm, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Wednesday morning. It will also go toward efforts to protect public housing and critical infrastructure from future storms.

The money will come from a $51 billion disaster relief package that will be distributed to New York, New Jersey, and other affected areas. The first installment for the city will total $1.77 billion; in his presentation on Wednesday, Bloomberg did not say how he would use about $725 million of that initial payment.

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Under the plan, the city would spend $350 million on grants to low-, moderate-, and middle-income owners of single-family homes: up to 1,000 homeowners whose primary residences were destroyed by the storm, and up to 8,300 whose primary residences were damaged but not destroyed.

The city would also spend $250 million on grants and low-interest loans to help repair up to 12,790 units of low-, moderate- and middle-income housing in multifamily homes and rental buildings damaged by the storm.

It would spend $120 million to help fortify public housing against future storms, including putting permanent emergency generators in about 100 buildings.

For businesses affected by the storm, the city would offer $100 million in grants to up to 1,300 businesses: $100,000 grants to small and midsize companies, and $1 million grants to larger companies. It would also provide $80 million in grants and low-interest loans to businesses.

Lastly, the city would spend $140 million on competitions to help utility companies protect their networks against future storms and to jump-start economic development in business districts heavily affected the storm.

‘People are very proud of their homes in New York, particularly in these communities.’

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The plan, announced at City Hall, will require federal approval, but Bloomberg said his administration had already had “extensive conversations” with Shaun Donovan, the housing secretary, and was hopeful the plans would be approved.

In the afternoon, Bloomberg appeared with Donovan at a Staten Island pizzeria to thank the Obama administration for releasing the aid so quickly.

Donovan also met with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in Manhattan to discuss the state’s proposals for spending its share of hurricane relief money.

Bloomberg said that it would take a few months to get federal approval for the programs and have them up and running, meaning the city would start taking applications for grants and loans in late April or early May.

But he defended the timing, saying that the city had already made roughly $10 million in emergency loans available to businesses, and restored some combination of power, heat, and hot water to 9,800 buildings.

By the standards of government, “this is instantaneous,” Bloomberg said. “The government doesn’t back up a truck and dump bills on the ground.”

Asked about Cuomo’s proposal to offer to buy out homeowners in vulnerable coastal areas, Bloomberg said he appreciated the governor’s efforts, but expressed doubt that many New Yorkers would accept the offer.

“We’re focusing on trying to get people back into their houses right now,” he said, adding, “People are very proud of their homes in New York, particularly in these communities, and an awful lot of them just want to stay there.”

Patrick Markee, a senior policy analyst at the Coalition for the Homeless, said that while Bloomberg’s proposals were “a start,” they offered little near-term help for what he estimated were 2,000-3,000 households, many of them very low income, still living in hotels.

The best way to help them, Markee said, would be to distribute federal rental assistance vouchers, as was done after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast.

He said Congress had authorized Donovan to allocate recovery money for such assistance, known as Section 8 vouchers.

“We think that that’s frankly the most urgent need,” he said.

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