The Real Barrier to Sandy Recovery? Scaffold Law

Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement of a citywide goal to put Sandy recovery checks in the hands of 1,500 homeowners iswelcome news for many. Two years after the storm, only 878 of some 14,000 applicants have received reimbursement.

But New York’s homeowners still face many obstacles on the path to recovery; not the least of which is our state’s oppressive and antiquated Scaffold Law. The costs of this law on the construction industry, workers, and taxpayers is well documented – however, the law’s impact on nonprofits and disaster relief work is less publicized.

For private developers and builders, higher insurance costs mean fewer projects, fewer jobs, and higher costs for owners. But for homeowners devastated by Sandy the stakes are far higher. The Scaffold Law has effectively barricaded them from returning home.

Earlier this year, four large disaster relief organizations, joined by Habitat for Humanity, identified the Scaffold Law as a major roadblock to recovery.  “For many of our organizations, the cost of construction insurance in New York is prohibitive, and several disaster relief organizations are unable to provide relief to New York families because of the lack of insurance due to the Scaffold Law,” the groups said in a joint letter to Governor Cuomo. At that point, Habitat for Humanity had been able to construct exactly zero homes. Six months later, the situation is still bleak. Large developers and construction companies have the financial resources and access to capital necessary to move forward even in the face of high insurance costs. But nonprofit disaster relief organizations? Not so much.

The bottom line? Until the Scaffold Law is reformed, high insurance costs will continue to keep Sandy victims from returning home.

Image: Hurricane damaged houses, Rockaway NY. Credit Anique/MA Neek/Flickr

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