FEMA defends Sandy response efforts (38422)

Despite their dire situation, the people displaced by Hurricane Sandy still had time to take the federal government to task.

On a cold day on the Lower East Side, displaced Sandy victims from Staten Island, Far Rockaway and New York City Housing Authority (NCYHA) buildings from all over gathered in front of the Campos Plaza housing complex and reminded the federal government that fixing the country’s economic situation and avoiding a fiscal cliff would help the down-and-out as much as the middle class. Made up of members from UnitedNY, La Fuente, New York Communities for Change, SEIU 32BJ, New York Central Labor Council and various organizations and elected officials, the group urged lawmakers to invest in rebuilding the city’s infrastructure and putting people back to work.

“As we go about rebuilding our economy, the only successful approach can be a wage-led recovery,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. “We must increase the federal minimum wage and safeguard programs that protect working families, retirees and low-wage workers. The negotiations over the ‘fiscal cliff’ must not be an attempt to do through congressional negotiations what the American people rejected at the ballot box on Tuesday.”

UnitedNY Executive Director Camille Rivera said the presidential election was a message sent to not only the country, but to the state of New York.

“Voters sent a clear message on Tuesday about the need to focus on rebuilding New York,” said Rivera. “We love our state, and it is imperative that our elected officials put our needs first by investing in infrastructure and creating good jobs–not cutting taxes for the wealthy and devastating our economy with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other essential services that benefit millions of Americans.”

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer agreed.

“New York City cannot afford to go over the fiscal cliff, and Congress must take swift steps to make sure these devastating budget cuts never take place,” said Stringer. “Cities matter, and as the economic engine of the nation, New York City matters most of all. These cuts would deal a crippling blow to the city’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy and to working- and middle-class families in all five boroughs. It is imperative that Congress and the president step back from the precipice and ensure that these cuts in vital services–and a significant rise in taxes for working families–never take place.”

Many of those in attendance felt last week’s presidential election was a repudiation of the notion that lowering taxes for the wealthy will create jobs and fix the economy. Many of the residents, including those in Campos Plaza, are still without power, hot water or heat. Yet, the people there wanted to make sure programs like Medicare and Medicaid are kept intact, along with child care, special education programs and other public services. They advised the lame-duck Congress to get back to work and not pass the buck to the next session.

New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez sees this moment as the turning point for how politicians deal with the poor, jobs and disaster relief.

“Our city and country have been at a critical crossroads for some time; however, after the cumulative events of the past two weeks, we see the path forward now more clearly than ever,” said Mendez. “True recovery takes many forms, including fully funding rebuilding efforts that put people back to work; placing roofs back over our family’s heads; proactively protecting us from future emergencies; and strengthening our shared commitment to each other as a collective community.”