He added that the city is already working on its request for proposals for a contractor to handle the construction, both public and private. Ken McGuire said that finding a contractor has been extremely difficult, since most do only commercial work. Packaging the projects will make the work more enticing for contractors.
“If this expedites our permits, if this helps get the contractors down here,” McGuire said, “I’m all for it.”
Officials said that the project will also give the city the opportunity to standardize the bulkheads. All of the structures included in the program will be nine feet above sea level, to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements. A uniform bulkhead height will keep water from spilling over shorter sections. Surges during Sandy pushed water over the nine-foot public bulkheads in the Canals, according to residents and LaCarrubba.
“Whatever you build for, there will be a storm to beat it,” he said.
The city will pay the contractor, and homeowners will pay the city back in yearly increments, with the charge added to their tax bills. Payments will be credited to the property, not the homeowner, so if a resident moves before the total is repaid, the balance will be transferred to the next homeowner. The city will issue bonds and borrow to cover the costs, which is why residents may take so long to pay the money back.
Asked about using grant money, such as NY Rising, for the project, officials said that if this kind of funding becomes available, they would explore the option, but that relying on grants, which have been slow to materialize, did not seem like the most practical option.
“There comes a time when we can’t wait,” said Schnirman.
City officials estimate that more than 300 homeowners across the city are eligible for the aid. Anyone with a bulkhead — in the Canals, the West End or the Westholme area — is invited to apply for the program. More than half of the residents at the press conference said they were interested. Homeowners who have paid for bulkhead repairs, however, LaCarrubba said, would most likely not be eligible for reimbursement.