Hurricane Sandy Is New York's Katrina

Floods, fear, and FEMA failures

When I ask the director of a nonprofit with close ties to Far Rockaway whether she thinks the aid isn't making it to the poor minority population on the periphery because of institutional racism or just disorganization and the challenges of infrastructure and geography, she snorts: "Both. It's the same thing."

By the second weekend after the storm, the picture in the Rockaways is beginning to change. The institutional responders are finally beginning to show up in numbers, even if they still have to ask the volunteer groups who preceded them what's going on and how they can help. Medical teams from Floyd Bennett Field have crossed the bridge and are out in the neighborhoods.

Volunteers and donated supplies are flooding into the Rockaways. Religious groups, for-profit recovery companies, Williamsburg kids in skinny jeans and inappropriate shoes, thousands of vehicles and people are pouring onto the peninsula in numbers that choke the Cross Bay Boulevard and Marine Parkway bridges, backing up traffic for hours.

For more than a week, the relief station run by Hallowed Sons members like Bobby Hansen and Donna Graziano was the only one in New Dorp Beach. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery
Mark Hewko
For more than a week, the relief station run by Hallowed Sons members like Bobby Hansen and Donna Graziano was the only one in New Dorp Beach. Slideshow: After Sandy, the On-Going Recovery

But still, the huge discrepancies in distribution of all these resources persist. The overwhelming bulk of this flood of well-meaning people doesn't make it deep into the Rockaways at all. The plaza at the foot of the Cross Bay Bridge is transformed into a sort of relief carnival. Loud music blasts from big sound systems run off almost equally noisy generators. Verizon and T-Mobile have dispatched heavily branded trailers where people can charge their phones. Food trucks hawk their wares. Volunteers out for the weekend talk and mingle, bouncing their heads to the music.

At the northern end of the plaza, a big group from the Iglesia ni Cristo, a Philippines-based church, has its own sound system running. Church members in matching T-shirts are clambering in the trees to hang multiple banners bearing the church's insignia.

Moses Kadusale, the senior church member on-site, tells me the group is giving away food and blankets today as part of a regional recovery tour, running similar events in parts of New Jersey and Staten Island before culminating 10 days later in Times Square.

"We're going to have even more people than this for the one in Times Square!" Kadusale says, beaming, as he gestures at the scores of church members who have descended on the plaza.

Huh. Times Square?

"There will be a lot of people in need in Times Square, I'm certain of it," Kadusale assures me. "Everywhere we go, we're inviting them."

Across the street, a small group of Sikhs standing over trays of hot Punjabi food stare in polite bafflement at the Iglesia ni Cristo banners. The church arrived first today, taking over the spot where members of New York's Sikh community have headquartered their Rockaways recovery operation for weeks.

In the first days after Sandy hit, one of the most visible—indeed, one of the only—outside presences in the Rockaways came from volunteers from gurudwaras in Queens operating under the umbrella of United Sikhs. Ranjit Singh, who runs an air-conditioning business in Long Island City, estimates his group has served about 15,000 hot vegetarian meals in the Rockaways since the hurricane.

Serving food to strangers has been central to Sikh identity all the way back to the 15th century, when Guru Nanak challenged caste conventions by asking aspiring followers from all backgrounds to eat together before he would agree to teach them. Today, two gurudwaras in Richmond Hill serve about 5,000 meals every week.

Of course, there's another aspect to the Sikhs' recovery effort here. It's not lost on Singh that the sight of bearded, turbaned men being among the first and most consistent people to help a battered community has special significance in New York City.

"Things have been difficult since September 11," Singh says. "Every time something happens, we get scared. After the massacre in Wisconsin, I was thinking about my route home. But that's starting to change. Maybe people see this and will talk to each other: 'Oh, the Sikhs came first.'"

Still, the Sikh approach in the Rockaways has been low-key in contrast to the circus unfolding across the street.

"It's a different approach," Singh says, staring. "We come, we serve, we go."

Two miles east, the swarms of volunteers thin to nearly nothing. Outside the bleak concrete towers of Ocean Village, Tina Winston, a five-year resident of the housing complex, says conditions are still close to unlivable.

"One tower has water today," she says. "One tower has no water. Nobody has hot water. Nobody has electric."

The complex is privately owned, but most of the residents use HUD benefits to make rent. It was sold in November, and Winston says many of the units are empty as the new owners evict residents. Still, she says, about 300 people remain.

The bodega in the complex's ground floor has been broken into, "but that was just people surviving," Winston says. Worse is the violence that has escalated in the darkness left by the storm.

"Gunplay," she says, launching into a taxonomy of recent shoot-outs. "Between the two towers." She gestures across the street: "Hood to hood." She gestures down the block: "Hood to hood to hood."

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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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