Joel Kuperfman: Increased funding and accountability needed for government’s response to Superstorm Sandy
JAISAL NOOR: CONGRESS IS WEIGHING A $60 BILLION DOLLAR AID PACKAGE FOR THOSE IMPACTED BY SUPERSTORM SANDY, AS RECOVERY CONTINUES IN HARD HIT COMMUNITIES NEARLY TWO MONTHS AFTER THE STORM TORE THROUGH THE MID ATLANTIC. MANY RESIDENTS AND COMMUNITY ADVOCATES HAVE DEMANDED FEDERAL AUTHORITIES DO MORE TO ASSIST REBUILD AND CLEAN UP MIDDLE AND WORKING CLASS COMMUNITIES. IN RESPONSE, FEMA TOLD THE REAL NEWS IT IS DOING ALL IT CAN IN ITS POWER, BUT ITS RESOURCES ARE LIMITED.
THE PROPOSED AID PACKAGE NOW APPEARS TO HAVE ENOUGH VOTES TO OVERCOME REPUBLICAN FILIBUSTER IN THE SENATE, BUT IS EXPECTED TO FACE STIFF OPPOSITION IN THE REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED HOUSE. FIGHTING THE PASSAGE OF THE BILL HAS BECOME A TOP PRIORITY OF RIGHT WING BILLIONAIRE DAVID KOCH AND HIS GROUP AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY.
IN THE FIRST PART TWO PART SERIES, THE REAL NEWS SPEAKS TO JOEL KUPERFMAN IS A LONGTIME ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST AND ATTORNEY. HE SUED THE EPA ON BEHALF OF FIRST RESPONDERS AND RESIDENTS WORKING AND LIVING IN THE PROXIMITY OF GROUND ZERO DENIED MEDICAL CLAIMS IN THE YEARS AFTER 9/11. THE REAL NEWS RECENTLY SPOKE TO KUPERFMAN ABOUT WHY INCREASED FEDERAL AID IS NEEDED TO FIGHT SUPERSTORM SANDY’S ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACT.
Joel Kuperfman: As the environmental justice committee head of the National Lawyers Guild, I am really concerned about people being exposed to the mold, to Ecoli that’s in the water, and its just bad bad working conditions. I spoke to many people today and in the last few weeks and there’s concern over workers not getting the right protection. If you are a worker, you are entitled to the right protection equipment, including the right masks that are necessary to stop a lot of toxins in the air including silica, and a lot of these buildings have asbestos, lead that’s coming up, and just an excessive amount of dust that’s out there. Also FEMA has not met its task of taking care of the people that need the protection the most. Many residents, in NYCHA housing are asking for money, small amounts of money to replace their clothing, and their furniture that got wet in order to reduce the source of that mold and now they are basically trapped in their places. They can’t leave, they have no other place to go, and they are stuck breathing the mold toxins that are coming up. Just for small amounts of money we could end that problem, right away but FEMA has.. in the beginning they were promising to do outreach but as I understand it, people in Washington in FEMA are blocking that outreach, and are taking a one-sided approach and are not listening to the community, nor are they listening to other federal agencies and people on the ground, and city agencies that are saying you have to help these people and they are turning a deaf ear.
JN: AND WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES GOING TO BE OF THIS INACTION ON THE PART OF FEDERAL AUTHORITIES? OCCUPY IS OUT HERE, ACTIVISTS ARE OUT HERE, VOLUNTEERS, BUT THEY HAVE LIMITED SOURCES. THE ONLY ONES WITH THE NECESSARY AMOUNT OF RESOURCES IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
JK: One thing we learned from Katrina is that where the resources go, where government goes determines who is going to live in an area. We learned from certain parts of New Orleans that people living there for generations and generations were forced to move out on the grounds that was not the right place to live, yet other people came in, private housing, and wealthy private developments came in. Same is happening in New York now is that people who have been living here for generations in certain areas and not given the resources to do it, and the law, we have to look at even environmental law, I’m an environmental attorney. A lot of the developments that took place went basically against good coastal management law. Many many people developers got exemptions, exceptions to the law they basically prodded their way through the system and got to build where they shouldn’t be building.
JN: SO WHO IS ON THE HOOK FOR THAT NOW?
JK: Who’s on the hook for it now are the people who have a right to be living where they are living and the city is not coming through, and neither is the NYCHA and neither is HUD. We have to remember a lot of these people- the head of HUD- Troy Donovan- ***** comes from HPD in a city that was a Bloomberg appointee, the head of CDC comes out of the Department of Health, the same department of health that in the city that told us that the air was clean to breathe after 9/11 and there was a really slow cleanup. Also one thing we got to learn from 9/11 is that we send hundreds and thousands of workers into lower manhattan to do the clean up, and we demanded, I and other groups demanded they do a medical surveillance, medical baseline for those workers to figure out if they were safe and were capable of working, and also what they had before ailments, and what they have now.
When they all got sick, they went for workers comp. and every case was controverted the city, or the the insurance company said you were sick before and it wasn’t 9/11 exposure what we have here again is the same story repeating itself. In probably 6 months, a year, two years from now you are going to see thousands of worker comp cases people trying to get money because their lungs are filled up, their lungs are cooked and yet all these insurance companies are going to claim nope, you were sick before, you smoked in high school, and bits like that. So we just can’t believe these stories are repeating themselves.
JN: I HAVE TALKED TO A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT ARE SICK, OR THEIR KIDS ARE SICK AND NO ONE IS GIVING THEM ANSWERS. THEIR DOCTORS MIGHT THINK ITS SEASONAL, OR THEY DON’T KNOW, AND THEY AREN’T HEARING ANYTHING FROM THE GOVERNMENT OR ANY AUTHORITIES THAT MAY BE ABLE TO TEST THE AIR QUALITY.
JK: Part of the problem is that we have an environmental health disaster that is going on. The Health and Human Services secretary ** declared New York, New Jersey to be a health emergency area. So that alone should trigger a lot of responses but that has not happened. We urge people who are suffering from any type of respiratory exposure, illnesses, problems, they should see a occupational and environmental health clinic. Mt. Sinai, or Bellevue or Northshore, Long Island Jewish, have people, doctors who are familiar with these type of problems. Not only that, is it incumbent upon the city and the state and the feds, to gather their information to start knowing where the clusters are. My understanding is that up to now, they havs’t really been outreach in doing that. The private doctors are not being asked by the Health Department what they are seeing. Its important people get that information out, and as we understand it also that’s theres been many groups that are doing a people’s epidemiology and we applaud that. That’s a good partial step, but its up to the state, and the feds to step in.
JN: AND FINALLY, YOU TALKED ABOUT A LOT OF INACTION, WHAT’S IT GOING TO TAKE TO ACTUALLY GET THE AUTHORITIES TO ACTUALLY ACT AT THIS POINT.
JK: I think this is one of the first steps, is this march today, but we have to apply pressure on every legislator out there, that has experience with ten years ago from 9/11 to today. And also we have to demand that the mayor, governor, and President Obama put full resources that are at their command to help people.
JN: REPORTING FOR THE REAL NEWS, THIS IS JAISAL NOOR IN NEW YORK.