Dismay, despair and donations for Hurricane Sandy victims
NAYABA ARINDE Amsterdam News Editor | 11/15/2012, 1:10 p.m.
"Next time something like this happens, the people in power should make sure there's an equal distribution of resources throughout the city, not just affluent parts like Staten Island and Breezy Point." So says post-storm-work-weary Milan Rasheed Taylor, the 23-year-old founder of the Rockaway Youth Task Force, An 18-month-old organization focused on encouraging youth involvement in community and political issues. Taylor has been working with a small band of folk since Hurricane Sandy battered the New York tristate area and the Rockaways got the official evacuation order.
Said Taylor, "Initially we were overlooked and it took a really long time for the Red Cross and FEMA to come to the Rockaway community. They came about five or six days after the storm, but it took a lot of publicity and media attention."
With boxes of canned food, cases of bottled water, bags full of clothes and blankets and personal testimonies ringing in their ears, everyday New Yorkers and their tristate neighbors have been organizing in their living rooms. A volunteer army has been travelling by gas-limited cars, public train or bus to the so-called "forgotten" neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens such as Coney Island, Red Hook and Far Rockaway.
As criticism grew and Long Islanders filed a lawsuit against LIPA this Monday as they--like thousands of New York City residents--spent two weeks post-storm without power, local government officials finally kicked emergency initiatives into gear to bring assistance to neglected areas. Perhaps shown up by the motley crew of dedicated everyday New Yorkers who went into their own pantries and wardrobes and took their own cash to the store to pick up supplies, the city's response eventually reached areas other than the highly publicized Staten Island south shore, the Jersey Shore, Breezy Point and Sea Gate.
While as of press time power and public transport had been restored to most parts of the Rockaways, concerned mom Dina Skinner told the Amsterdam News over the weekend, "As you know, few places were as hard hit as the Rockaways in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Certain parts of the peninsula literally were like a war zone. Some homes still don't have the basic necessities like power and running water."
The Red Cross and FEMA have received praise in some quarters but criticism in others for a slow response to neighborhoods like the majority Black- and Brown-affected areas in Brooklyn and Queens.
On Tuesday Nov. 13, Sheila Stainback, communications officer of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), announced, "More than 98 percent of our residents have had power restored. We are on the scene today at the Red Hook Houses with more than three busloads of NYCHA staff, who will knock on the doors of the more than 6,000 residents there to assess their needs."
Said Skinner, "[There is] a grassroots youth group, the Rockaway Youth Task Force, that, since the storm, has single-handedly organized one of the largest donation drop-offs in the Rockaways and coordinated large teams of young people within and outside the community to bring desperately needed items to the elderly, disabled and others to their doorsteps.