Sandy's clean-up frustrates
Q:Is it taking too long to clean up after Hurricane Sandy?
Since Hurricane Sandy and the second Nor’easter storm hit the east coast of the US there have been many stories about the success of official agencies like the sanitation department and first responders among the fire and police departments in responding to the fallout.
However, a persisting lack of electricity, petrol shortages and bureaucratic obstacles to recovery are increasingly frustrating disaster victims in worst-hit neighbourhoods like Midland Beach on Staten Island.
During his tour of storm-damaged areas in New York on Thursday, President Barack Obama consoled some grieving Staten Islanders and announced he was appointing housing and urban development secretary Shaun Donovan as the federal government’s “point person” to oversee storm recovery.
“The recovery effort from official relief agencies, from what I’ve seen, has been to put all their energy into configuring their response rather than actually responding,” said Kenneth Lipp, a scientist who has been volunteering with community relief efforts like Occupy Sandy.
“In terms of reaching those in need, Fema and the Red Cross have been piss poor, and really defensive,” he added.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) and the Red Cross have been much criticised for delaying aid response to hard-hit neighbourhoods and for providing inadequate recovery information.
“A week and a half later I spotted Fema in their windbreakers,” said Liam, a Midland Beach resident. “They have been absent. And then the Red Cross coming in with their ice-cream trucks handing out flyers – we as a whole here know what the community needs more than flyers.”
Grassroots relief efforts are proving crucial to the storm recovery effort. In Staten Island, Red Cross trucks drop off hot food and supplies to the Occupy Sandy distribution centre.
There volunteers take over and deliver to those in need. Similar operations are now in place in devastated pockets like the Rockaways and Coney Island.
Fema has designated more than $3.5 billion for storm relief and Red Cross Sandy donations have topped $130 million. The government though has yet to address New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s request for $30 bil- lion in federal aid for state damages.