- Associated Press - Thursday, October 29, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Three years ago, the storm surge from Superstorm Sandy rushed inland from the ocean and, with deadly speed and force, flooded scores of coastal New York City streets.

One of them was Maple Terrace on Staten Island, a narrow, humble road largely lined with one-story bungalows and modest homes. The water rose quickly and the power soon went out, and MaryLou Barcia, who was at work, was unable to reach her husband, Frank, who was back at their longtime home.

“I didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” Barcia said. “He was trapped in the attic, he was up there all night until the morning.”

Frank Barcia survived but the home was badly damaged, beginning a frequently frustrating nearly three-year odyssey to get it repaired. It is at last completed, and the home, now elevated 9 feet above sea level, now stands as an example of the progress the city’s much-maligned recovery program has made, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.

“The sad fact is, when I came into office, there just hadn’t been progress,” de Blasio said. “We have to finish the job.”

De Blasio used the third anniversary of the storm, the worst natural disaster in New York City’s history, to set an aggressive deadline to complete the Build it Back program, the city-sponsored plan to repair single-family homes damaged in the 2012 storm.

He vowed that all of the projects would be completed by the end of 2016.

The Build it Back program, founded by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the weeks after the storm that killed 44 people in New York City, drew criticism for the sluggish pace of its repairs. The program had not started construction on a single house when de Blasio took office in 2014.

There have now been more than 2,000 construction starts across the city - 1,200 projects have been completed - and the city has reimbursed nearly $104 million to homeowners. All told, 63 percent of applicants have now seen construction or received a check for repairs.

The Build it Back program is part of a series of sweeping storm resiliency projects commissioned by the city, including installation of new sand dunes, the creation of bulkheads in coastal areas and changes to the city’s building code to address climate change and sustainability concerns.

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