Back in June, Faith in New York, in partnership with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, the Sandy Regional Assembly, and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance convened a mayoral candidates summit entitled Reviving Our City. Mayor de Blasio actively participated in this summit while on the campaign trail.
In front of more than 1,500 witnesses, de Blasio made two promises. If elected mayor, he told us, he would work to address long-term racial and economic inequalities impacting vulnerable communities across the city through the creation of good, local jobs and affordable housing units in the Sandy rebuilding process. And, he would meet with Faith in New York representatives within 60 days of his inauguration to discuss specific policy pathways to accomplish this broad goal. These actions are yet to come to fruition.
The New York faith community wants to work in partnership with our mayor and his administration so that this city can grow and prosper. To be sure, when Mayor de Blasio assumed his position in the beginning of January , he inherited a colossal portfolio. But he also assumed the role of caretaker for those who have not yet recovered from Hurricane Sandy.
For reasons which the faith community cannot understand, New Yorkers impacted by Sandy are not a priority for our new mayor. The public has not been informed of a plan for creating good local jobs or affordable housing. In addition, not a single family out of 26,000 impacted by Sandy has received the rebuilding assistance promised by the city's Build it Back program. It has been 17 months since the storm hit. New Yorkers should no longer be suffering.
In Ethics of our Fathers, Rabbi Tarfon teaches: You are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you free to avoid it. We are not asking the Mayor of New York City to go out and shovel the driveways of hard hit New Yorkers, just like he shoveled his own during our difficult winter. Rather we are asking for a transparent plan. Billions of federal dollars are available. We would love to see a Sandy response plan.
When Superstorm Sandy hit, community organizations and faith leaders were the first responders. They understand better than anyone how the city should approach Sandy rebuilding and recovery. The city can and should work closely with these organizations to translate de Blasio's commitments into concrete action and lasting results.
Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin is a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow and is on the Board of Directors of Faith in New York.