Hurricane Sandy Is New York's Katrina

Floods, fear, and FEMA failures

Hurricane Sandy Is New York's Katrina
Photography by Sam Horine
An American flag is placed inside a burned SUV on November 1, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Belle Harbor section of Queens. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery

The morning after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, many people woke up to a more or less normal day. People switched on their lights and radios, turned up their heat against the morning chill, took a hot shower, and met up with friends at a diner to share stories about how they spent the night: board games and hot chocolate, NY1 on in the background.

Other parts of the city were hammered. Power was out in huge swaths. Flooded tunnels cut off whole regions from the rest of the city. In Lower Manhattan, Red Hook, Coney Island, the Rockaways, and much of Staten Island, everything from electricity to heat to potable water was in short supply. Hospitals were being evacuated after power failures. Bodies drowned in the storm surge were being recovered. The news media began to show the first images of Breezy Point, burned to the ground, and houses up and down the coast torn apart by wind and water.

In the coming days, as power and subway service were restored to more of the city, it became easy for many New Yorkers to forget about the hurricane entirely. Money was flooding into the Red Cross from across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was on the scene. Everything was going to be all right.

A family searches through the remains of their Breezy Point home, destroyed in a massive fire during Hurricane Sandy. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery
C.S. Muncy
A family searches through the remains of their Breezy Point home, destroyed in a massive fire during Hurricane Sandy. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery
Nastaran Mohit, a labor organizer, led one of the early drives to assess the medical needs of stranded residents in the eastern Rockaways. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery
C.S. Muncy
Nastaran Mohit, a labor organizer, led one of the early drives to assess the medical needs of stranded residents in the eastern Rockaways. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery

But just a short distance from the areas where normalcy was restored or never left, in the neighborhoods most affected by storm, nothing felt all right.

As temperatures dropped toward freezing two weeks after the storm, residents in public-housing apartments from Red Hook to the Lower East Side to Rockaway were still without power, water, and heat. Displaced homeowners surveyed the wreckage of their lives and wondered how they'd ever build back. And almost everywhere, the vaunted presence of FEMA and the Red Cross was next to invisible. Weeks after the storm, many New Yorkers in storm-damaged neighborhoods had yet to see any sort of institutional relief at all.

As much of the rest of New York returned to business as usual, those in the affected areas began to wonder where the help was. Three days after Sandy, with the basements of the Red Hook Houses still flooded and apartments still without light, heat, or working plumbing, resident Toni Khadijah James summed up the neighborhood's sense of isolation.

"This is our Katrina."

At the time, James's words seemed like an overstatement. Katrina displaced upwards of 1 million people and wreaked an estimated $150 billion in damages. Destructive as it was, Sandy didn't come close to that.

But as the days stretched into weeks and thousands of people continued to live without the basic necessities, as it became clear that the storm had only exacerbated and laid bare the fissures of inequality that already riddled New York, James's analogy began to feel more apt. Just as in New Orleans, in the absence of any timely response from the Red Cross or government agencies, neighbors and grassroots volunteer networks tried to fill the void. New Yorkers did it for themselves as best as they could, checking on the homebound, standing watch, hauling supplies from borough to borough and up pitch-black housing-tower stairwells. It was better than nothing. It was better than the plodding machinery of the disaster-relief industry. It wasn't good enough. Weeks after the storm, there were still New Yorkers living in the cold, in the dark, without food or medicine, who had received no help or human contact at all.

So: This is our Katrina.

Nine days after Sandy, the night the nor'easter hits New York, the Rockaways are quiet. Snow blankets the streets, and visibility is at a minimum.

FEMA has shuttered its emergency-response stations throughout the city and withdrawn its disaster-recovery personnel, citing, to the disbelief of stranded residents, inclement weather.

The mayor has ordered another evacuation, but with no power for radios or television, many people on the peninsula don't know it. Even if they did, it's not clear how they'd leave. Public transit isn't running normally, and those who had functioning cars 10 days ago probably don't now; seawater has totaled them. In the next few days, advertisements for commercial car-junking services will start popping up on telephone poles.

So the streets are empty, but the Rockaways aren't. Behind closed doors, in cold, dark rooms, people are hunkered down. Neighbors are checking on one another, and volunteer groups are beginning to get food, water, and warm clothes to the people who need them. But in the absence of transportation, and with most of the medical clinics and pharmacies on the peninsula closed, a growing number of people are in need of medication.

That's why Nastaran Mohit, a 30-year-old labor organizer, is on the road tonight, piloting her SUV down snowy streets still piled high with wreckage and displaced beach sand, making deliveries of badly needed medicine. Mohit has no medical credentials or experience, but she's running Occupy Sandy's medical team, a group of doctors, nurses, and untrained volunteers trying to bring drugs and treatment to patients abandoned after the hurricane shuttered doctors' offices, clinics, and pharmacies.

As she drives, Mohit riffles through a disorganized binder packed full with wrinkled forms, names, and needs, the results of Occupy Sandy's patchy medical-needs census, begun a week after Sandy hit but still ongoing.

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25 comments
kc10710
kc10710

New York will be up and running better than before in a couple of years. 9th Ward STILL has hand-painted street signs.

kc10710
kc10710

Super Storm Sandy is NOTHING compared to Hurricane Katrina. Yes, both devastating but can not be compared to each other. Katrina was catastrophic.

coachd
coachd

NICK PINTO    NOV 25 2012

 

Please publicize the fact that today, still, people on Far Rockaway Beach 51st Street still do

 NOT have recieved clothing.

Tthe big shipment of clothing that came before the weekend was  stored overnight in a large Warehouse.

Which was burglarized during the night, leaving the  place EMPTY !!  

A friend who lives on Beach 51st still does not have warm coats for her three kids!

 

People also do NOT have food. 

My acquaintance was punched in the face  as she stood  on the line for food a day ago, at her own building on Beach 51st street.!!

And there are no stores to buy food from !!

 

On the other hand please also publicize that the Community Church of the Nazarene, on

 1414 Central Ave, has been heroically creating  meals for thousands, while the big organizations do little...

 

This past Thanksgiving Holiday, as well as today, on Sunday, The Church got the cooperation

of B'nai Jeshurung Congregation , from the Upper West Side; and MASBIA, a wonderful organization that feeds the needy, From Brooklyn,

 

The food  that MASBIA prepared - paid for by donation to B;nai Jeshurun - was ferried to the Church of the NAZARENE by BJ volunteers.

 

And, again, the big organizations whose job it is to fee the victims did nothing.

 

Thank You.

 DP

fffghyhjmnnm
fffghyhjmnnm

It's one of the best articles I've read in a while, but I agree the headline comes across as trolling for a click which is something I see increasingly here. I'm not going to get hung up on it, still liked the article, but this was not Katrina. I think it's a poor way to sell a great article.

DavidNutzuki
DavidNutzuki

HELP OUR PLANET COULD BE ON FIRE MAYBE?

 

Yup it's just like Bush's Katrina but this time it's not Obama's fault its OUR fault because WE angered the weather gods.......we must pay and feel bad about it. Isn't Liberal guilt fun?

 

Libs think so highly of themselves that they think they can push the powers of Nature around and control the weather but we all know weather isn't the same as climate :)

 

Libs have leaders who promise to make the weather nicer and colder with taxes.

 

Climate Change is NOT a crisis until the scientists start saying it “IS” and “WILL” be a crisis, not just “MIGHT” and “COULD BE” a crisis. Real planet lovers welcome the good news of exaggeration of the “crisis”.

 

Not one IPCC warning is NOT peppered in “maybes”

 

stanchaz
stanchaz

I place the whole damn blame for Hurricane Sandy

squarely on the slouching shoulders of Pat Robertson. 

Hmm .....where have I heard THAT line before?

Well, never mind.

Obviously, it was only a matter of time

 ...before God, in her inscrutable wisdom,

got really really really pissed off at Pat Robertson

for having the gall, the sheer arrogance, 

of claiming to speak for her ...

just babbling at the mouth,

time and time again.

A direct pipeline to the Almighty!

God did this, God told me. God loves that, God wants this. 

Hey, like it was ENOUGH already!

Trust me. Sandy was her way of saying:

Shut the F**K UP Pat!

And no one ever said that she was a just God, did they?

Just look around .

You don't need me to tell you that.

Just drop a few coins in the collection plate as you leave.

 

 

harveyharv1
harveyharv1

was a planned attack  Hurricane Sandy ....just ask James Bond .. what happened was man made .. guess it sounds far fetched .. but if u saw any one of the James Bond movies .. u know it can happen this is an planned attack ..no prove but i'm watching too many movies ..  right.   Village Voice is the best newsletter & paper to read 

srjmsbnd
srjmsbnd

I don't read articles and stories I read contextually many stories and the real story behind this storey is not in this article but revealed in "How Good Are Brooklyn's Japanese Noodle Spots? BY ROBERT SIETSEMA" which was posted on or about the same time by the same Village Voice in the same city run by the same bunch of corrupt half witted conceited political hacks that got people settle for as the same lesser of evils!

 

There is no American society that collapsed and never recovered with the Johnstown Pa floods the largest manmade disasters ever created, or Katrina another largest manmade disaster ever created, like the Earthquake which collapsed the elevated section of the Los Angles freeway  from which America should have gotten a wake up call for new leadership. Leadership that changes the same of means that this two-party police state operates.

 

So if you reactionary dupes ever catch on and have real need for a new and fresh perspective not under the control of your local neighborhood Gestopo Snitch and agent development administration you know where to cal as what you have found so far is not the solution it is the problem.

suelord
suelord

The reference to Katrina is sheer ignorance. I live on the Jersey Shore and the response is nothing short of incredible.

Lives were lost and this photo is a joke. Perhaps the epitome of bad taste.

cryptocahawban
cryptocahawban

This might be the most offensive connection EVER. Do you know that the Katrina death toll is over EIGHTEEN HUNDRED people? And a whole region is still recovering 7 years later? Shame on you.

grrlapoet
grrlapoet

@CarrieM213 @macfathom its not linking to the page

Lussenpop
Lussenpop

@bbierschbach Nertz. But not unexpected. I'll pour out a totally unfair pitcher for you.

Lussenpop
Lussenpop

@bbierschbach Also, you are sweet. Thanks for sharing it.

Lussenpop
Lussenpop

@bbierschbach Paddling back from the Island of Lost Minneapolites in a few hours ...

ParableJean
ParableJean

@rdevro I am so grateful to live in Florida. If struck by a hurricane at least I won't be cold. Hugs to all the heroes helping up there

rebecca611
rebecca611

Great article Nick.  I believe I met you at St. Gertrudes a couple of weeks ago.  Captures perfectly what is going on down there.

lynnredgrave
lynnredgrave

@coachd after distruction of sandy my friends start working with a website and he made 7800$ month..here is website .. FLY38.ℂOM

knightryder7
knightryder7

 @suelord

 It might have been incredible for you Sue, but what's incredible is the fact that Fema and the Red Cross was invisible for weeks in other areas. I'll bet you watch Jersey Shores because you're mindless. This article is spot on. I have many friends and relatives living in those areas and the only help they got was themselves and volunteers for weeks. Twit. .

bobbyblue
bobbyblue

 @suelord When the cops start shooting at you for for trying to find food to feed your family, when you are the only one left defending your house against burglars, when dead people are left in the gutters and in the attics, when the president decides it's more important to eat cake than to take care of a drowning city, and he, unlike presidents before him, refuses to put relief in place before the flood, then bungles it badly after, when you are driven out of your house by troops, when you are forced to walk through knee deep water for miles to a "pick up area", then told "no, it's not here, it's over there", when it is weeks before utilities are restored, when it takes months to get compensation for damages, then you have to haggle over every dime, and they still lose your paper work, THen, you can compare it to Katrina

knightryder7
knightryder7

 @cryptocahawban

 That has nothing to do with the article being offensive. It only proves my point further. Even after several years the government still hasn't done its job. They're both terrible tradgedies none the less. Counting of bodies doesn't make it worse. Tragic for the people of Louisiana too. I been down there a few times, what a shame.  

srjmsbnd
srjmsbnd

 @cryptocahawban nice guilt trip of a political rationale and excuse you got there as American in its anti-socialist, anti-communist, anti-government, prop-privatized, back to the future acid space walk is quite unprepared for any sort of disaster, war so:

 

I don't care what your idiot sense of decorum, civility and aesthetics is but I have not heard you say a damn thing worth hearing as it i heartbreaking to watch from a distance people struggling in the Rockaways of what has become an the ass backwards state of Bourgeoistan with jerks like you yapping.

 

Say what you like about all the communists that got elected in America before Reagan the Bushes Reagan The Clintons and Obama made Nixon look liberal so go to hell.

knightryder7
knightryder7

 @suelord

 I have a job and a nice home overlooking Puget sound, idiot. What does having a job have to do with my response to you? Just goes to show you DON'T read an article thoroughly. If you actually did your homework you'd know that NO HELP has come in many areas and people are suffering.

 
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