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  • Thousands Remain Displaced From Sandy Without Heat and Power


    Residents desperate for government assistance for rebuilding and mold remediation seven weeks after Sandy -   December 18, 12
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    Thousands Remain Displaced From Sandy Without Heat and PowerJAISAL NOOR, TRN & FSRN: SEVEN WEEKS AFTER SUPERSTORM SANDY HIT THE EAST COST, RECOVERY IS ONGOING FOR MANY COMMUNITIES AFFECTED BY THE STORM.

    ON SATURDAY, DOZENS OF RESIDENTS, CONCERNED CITIZENS AND OCCUPY ACTIVISTS RALLIED, SANG SONGS AND MARCHED TO BRING ATTENTION TO THE SLOW PACE OF RECOVERY IN THE ROCKAWAYS, A GROUP OF BARRIER ISLANDS THAT SUFFERED EXTENSIVE FLOODING DUE TO SUPERSTORM SANDY. MORE THAN 7,000 ROCKAWAY PROPERTIES ARE TOO DAMAGED FOR AUTHORITIES TO RESTORE POWER. COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS SAY MANY ARE STILL ARE LIVING WITHOUT HEAT AND WATER.

    SINGING: "My neighbor got no heat, my neighbor got no lights// think about Far Rockaway, when you sleep tonight.

    MANY, LIKE 12 YEAR OLD ROCKAWAY RESIDENT KEKELI HOR SAY THERE’S BEEN A LACK OF RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO LOCAL RESIDENTS COMPARED TO MORE AFFLUENT AREAS AFFECTED BY THE STORM.

    Kekeli Hor, Rockaway resident

    "People should be fixing up people's houses right now, some people have houses and they have mold, some people have been without electricity for like 2 months and so on, and they are not doing anything about it. In Manhattan right now, everything is fixed, they fixed the power lines in Manhattan, and everything, why can't they do the same thing for Far Rockaway?"

    RESIDENTS ARE ALSO CONCERNED ABOUT THE HARMFUL MOLD GROWING IN FLOOD DAMAGED HOUSES. RESIDENT VIRGINIA DEER, WHO WORKED WITH OCCUPY SANDY TO ORGANIZE THE DAY’S ACTION , SAYS SHE'S BEEN PERSONALLY AFFECTED.

    Virginia Deer, Rockaway Resident

    "Our home right now actually, the entire first floor is completely just gutted out and there is still mold there I mean, they tell us what to do in order to remediate the mold, but it doesn't work so then what are we supposed to do after that, when we don't have enough information about what to do, we don't have enough resources or manpower to actually do what needs to be done.”

    DEER’S HOME HAS HAD ITS POWER RESTORED, BUT SHE CONTINUES TO LIVE WITH RELATIVES IN A TWO BEDROOM APARTMENT WITH 9 OTHER PEOPLE. LIKE MANY OTHER RESIDENTS, DEER IS UNSURE WHEN IT WILL BE SAFE TO RETURN HOME. ACTIVISTS SAY THEY HAVEN’T SEEN ANY GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR TESTING FOR MOLD.

    Virginia Deer, Rockaway Resident

    "Technically, they say if your power is restored, and if your electricity is there you can go back in. But they don't have anyway to prove whether or not the mold is bad enough for you to go back in. So, those assessment measures have not really been put into place, so even if its said you can go back into your home, you don't really know 100% if the mold is going to be bad enough effect you or not. We need some kind of assessment or something, so that we'll be able to tell"

    ACTIVISTS ARE CONCERNED ABOUT SERIOUS HEALTH EFFECTS, INCLUDING CHRONIC COUGH, FEVER, AND WHEEZING. NASTARAN MOHIT HAS COORDINATED OCCUPY SANDY’S MEDICAL RELIEF EFFORTS IN THE ROCKWAYS SINCE THE STORM HIT.

    Nastaran Mohit, Occupy Sandy

    “This is something that is going to exist in this community for years to come for months, and years to come and its inevitable that the solutions have to come there’s no way around it. This community needs have to be met and It can’t just be from volunteers and non profits, and NGOs, it has to be a more comprehensive, Federal response. And FEMA won’t handle it the state won’t handle it, right now the city won’t handle it. So we need to figure out, craft our response to really stress the urgency.”

    THE TWO HOUR WINDING MARCH THROUGH STORM AFFECTED AREAS CULMINATED ON THE LAST BLOCK OF BEACH 29 STREET, A NEIGHBORHOOD A FEW HUNDRED YARDS FROM THE ATLANTIC OCEAN THAT WAS FLOODED WITH 5 FEET OF WATER. THE MARCHERS PERFORMED SONGS SUPPORTING THE NEIGHBORHOOD RECOVERY EFFORTS AND ALSO TOOK PART IN CLEAN UP EFFORTS. ADDRESSING THE CROWD FROM HIS FRONT PORCH, A HOMEOWNER WHO GAVE HIS NAME AS CARLOS SAYS HE AND MANY OTHERS ARE IN DESPERATE NEED FOR IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE.

    Carlos, Rockaway homeowner

    The problem is that we file a claim like two days after Sandy, and we talk to the insurance company, they say its going to be like middle of January when we get the final report so, what do we do between that? We talk to FEMA and they tell us they cannot help us because we have flood insurance. But we told them the money is coming in January. What happened to all the money the concerts they making, the the money Obama is giving away?

    SOME HAVE COMPARED ASPECTS OF FEMA'S RESPONSE TO SANDY TO THAT OF HURRICANE KATRINA THAT AFFECTED THE GULF COAST IN 2005.

    Joel Kupferman, environmental attorney

    "One thing we have learned from Katrina is that where the resources go, where government goes determines who is going to live in an area."

    ALSO TAKING PART IN THE MARCH WAS ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY AND LONGTIME ACTIVIST JOEL KUPFERMAN WHO IS ASSISTING TWO DOZEN ROCKAWAY RESIDENTS IN THEIR ATTEMPT TO GET AID FROM FEMA. HE SAYS MANY HOMEOWNERS ARE IN NEED OF IMMEDIATE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO GET RID OF MOLD AND TO BEGIN REBUILDING.

    Joel Kupferman, environmental attorney

    "Just for small amounts of money, we could end that problem, but FEMA has in the beginning they were promising to do outreach into the communities, and as I understand it, people from Washington in FEMA are blocking that outreach and they are basically taking a one-sided approach and not listening to the community, nor are they listening to other federal agencies and people on the ground in the city agencies that are basically saying you have to help these people and they are just turning a deaf ear."

    A FEMA REPRESENTATIVE TOLD FSRN HE COULD NOT COMMENT ON PARTICULAR CASES, BUT THE AGENCY HAS ALREADY DISTRIBUTED $700 MILLION DOLLARS TO HOMEOWNERS AND IS DOING EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER TO ASSIST THOSE IN NEED. THE SPOKESPERSON SAID HOMEOWNERS WHO ARE FACING DELAYED INSURANCE PAYOUTS CAN ALSO CONTACT THE US SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION WHICH PROVIDES LOW-INTEREST LOANS TO HOMEOWNERS AND RENTERS TO REPAIR OR REPLACE REAL ESTATE.

    AT THE END OF THE MARCH, RESIDENTS ALSO HEARD FROM LONGTIME NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENT LEON DIONG WHO HAS BEEN LIVING WITHOUT HEAT AND POWER SINCE THE STORM. HE SAID HE WAS MOVED BY THE DAY’S ACTIONS, AND THAT THE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

    Leon Diong, Rockaway homeowner

    "We are still living in the mold and living in the no heat, no hot water, and we can't do this anymore. We cannot wait, and we human. Bloomberg you better listen to us

    LATER, ACTIVISTS FROM THE ROCKAWAYS AND A SIMILAR ACTION THAT TOOK PLACE ON STATEN ISLAND CONVERGED AT MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG'S HOUSE IN MANHATTAN TO DEMAND THE CITY DO MORE TO HELP RESIDENTS IN NEED. THEY SAY THEY WILL CONTINUE TO PRESSURE AUTHORITIES UNTIL ACTION IS TAKEN. REPORTING FOR THE REAL NEWS AND FSRN, THIS IS JAISAL NOOR IN NY


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