Obama to New York: 'You're tough' (39743)

As yet another storm blows through the tristate area, New Yorkers are still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Sandy, with many still in the dark due to power outages and criticizing help that never came.

Following the hurricane that ripped through many of the city’s waterfront communities, residents and elected officials in Black neighborhoods are referencing Hurricane Katrina, particularly how people were neglected when it came to getting help. Scenes in Black neighborhoods impacted by Hurricane Sandy easily bring back memories of 2005 in New Orleans, with people of color begging for help that has yet to come.

Over a week after the hurricane hit some of the city’s Black neighborhoods, including Far Rockaway in Queens, Staten Island’s North Shore and Canarsie, Red Hook and Coney Island in Brooklyn, residents are still asking why there has been such a delay.

While the mainstream media’s around-the-clock coverage of the aftermath of the hurricane took up much airtime, very few Black faces were shown. In dire need of food, water and medical care, Black residents recalled the days that went by as they watched FEMA and Red Cross trucks drive through their neighborhoods and not stop.

Staten Island City Council Member Debi Rose acted immediately after the hurricane. Most of the borough’s shoreline is situated in Zone A, which was evacuated. Mass flooding, wind damage, storm surges and power outages plagued Staten Island. Rose, who is Staten Island’s first-ever Black elected official, has been communicating with her constituents via social media with updates and information on resources. She has also surveyed damage in her district.

Staten Island resident Tammy Greer Brown said that she finally went to her house last week for the first time days after being evacuated. She and her children stayed at a friend’s house during and after the storm. She reports that she finally has power, but help took time to make its way to the North Shore.

“They took forever to get to us,” she said. “There are lots of elderly people on our block and the help went to an area that really didn’t need it. There is no gas. None of the grocery stores are open so we couldn’t get food. There is supposed to be all this relief out there, but we can’t get to it.”

However, it’s a much sadder story in Far Rockaway, especially for the neighborhood’s public housing. Residents in the neighborhood, which sits between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, received little assistance immediately and much of the area remains without power.

Electricity in the area is controlled by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which has been highly criticized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not acting fast enough to get power back on for customers who have been in the dark for over a week.

With little gas and food and no electricity, Far Rockaway has been compared to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which experienced delayed help and deplorable conditions. The neighborhood is located in Zone A and there are no shelters in Far Rockaway.

City Council Member James Sanders told the AmNews that he plans to participate in civil disobedience by heading to LIPA headquarters and demanding the power be put back on for his constituents, saying he will get arrested if need be.

He also said that the Rockaways have also been neglected when it comes to help from services like FEMA and the Red Cross. Sanders alleges that wealthier, mostly white neighborhoods were the priority.

“I think that this is based on race and class, and I think that first they are dealing with the rich folks in Nassau and Suffolk counties before they get to us,” he said. “There is no power and it is very cold. My own home received tremendous loss.”

The Rev. Darren Ferguson of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Far Rockaway suffered flood damage to the lower levels of his church and home. While helping out those in the neighborhood, he also reported a lack of help from the city.

“There are a lot of people who had no place to go,” he said. “I’m afraid that the people who live in gated communities and places where the income level is higher are going to get services first.”

Brooklyn’s Coney Island, Canarsie and Red Hook neighborhoods also received damage from Sandy, mostly from flooding near creeks. City Council Member Charles Barron said that while it’s not in Zone A, Canarsie should be because it’s near the Fresh Creek Basin and Jamaica Bay. Residents are reporting that water rose up seven feet in some areas, leaving cars and homes destroyed. Barron is calling it a “forgotten disaster.”

“Our communities are being neglected and a lot of our communities were suffering, and they are being ignored,” he said. “There are people still suffering in Canarsie as we speak. FEMA and the city need to understand Canarsie is next to big bodies of water that have creeks and basins.”