GALVESTON — One of the primary contractors in the Hurricane Ike rebuilding and repair programs for the city and county is now part of a massive effort to repair homes in New York City that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Relying on the experience gained repairing and building homes in communities near Beaumont after Hurricane Rita and in Galveston County after Ike, DSW Homes is part of the effort that has repaired thousands of houses in New York.
“Word was the city was looking for builders across the nation who had experience after these disasters,” Steve Mataro, president of DSW Homes, said from the company’s temporary offices in Brooklyn. “We’re not bringing in a total remodel or rebuild like what we are doing in (Texas); we’re here to get people back in their homes and make those homes livable as quickly as possible.”
On Sunday, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who calls the program “groundbreaking,” said more than 10,000 homes have been repaired through the city’s Rapid Repairs program. The effort is a collaboration between the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This is New York City — you can’t drop a FEMA trailer in here (for temporary) housing like we did in Texas,” Mataro said. “So, this program identifies what is needed to get someone’s house in shape so they can live there.”
The program is designed around circumventing bureaucratic holdups, Mataro said.
“All of the restraints that would get in the way and slow up the process, these guys have cleared the path,” he said.
While New York City and Galveston are 1,600 miles apart, and the devastation by Sandy is larger in scale than the damage from Ike, Mataro said there are similarities.
“People just want to get back into their homes,” he said. “And they are fighters, just like what we see in Galveston.”
Mataro said his company was able to parlay its experience of rebuilding homes in the 22 communities around Beaumont after Rita in 2005 and the disaster housing programs in Galveston and Galveston County to aid in speeding up the process in New York. But he’s learned some new things from the way New York government operates.
“(It is) removing any obstacles to rebuilding,” Mataro said. “There’s an office of dedicated people whose sole job it is to make sure (the contractors) have what they need to get the job done. If there is an obstacle, they step in and get it removed.”