Social media helps to unite community as relief efforts continue
Instagram and Twitter feeds are keeping residents up to date
Tieless, in a button-down white shirt and navy waterproof jacket, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has travelled across his state to survey storm damages and oversee relief efforts since so-called “Frankenstorm” Sandy hit 11 days ago.
He has been especially busy after this week’s continued storm saga, with nor’easter’s icy winds and inches of snow stalling recovery programmes in badly affected areas. But come Sandy or nor’easter rain and freeze, @NYCGovCuomo Twitter and Instagram accounts have kept New Yorkers up to date on the latest storm-related news. On photo-feed site Instagram, the governor’s profile boasted more than a dozen new photos yesterday, pointing to the ongoing importance of social media in easing the plight of Sandy victims.
“Users snapped 800,000 pictures tagged with #Sandy,” Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom told a San Francisco technology conference last Monday. The app’s users, including public officials such as Cuomo or New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, uploaded 10 storm-related pictures per second during peak times.
“It was likely the most digitally captured event in history,” Systrom added.
Latest @NYGovCuomo photographs show army-camouflaged donation trucks parked on snowy roads, captioned “bound for Long Island”. User comments in response range from “thank you” to providing locations where aid is most needed and offering support for donation distribution.
The interconnectivity between Instagram, Twitter and Facebook facilitates a dialogue between residents affected by Sandy and disturbed once more by nor’easter, with community leaders and individuals posting relief updates.
“Here is my account of what happened at our meeting,” James Oddo, Staten Island’s vocal councilman, posted on his Facebook page yesterday, referring to a recent negotiation with Consolidated Edison (Con Ed), New York’s chief power provider.
Con Ed had reportedly begun disconnecting all homes on Staten Island so that privately hired electricians could reconnect them to the grid one at a time. Oddo turned to social media to condemn this practice and dozens of comments followed. So too did a response from the mayor, pledging to resolve the issue.
Power problems continue to plague New Yorkers. Many who regained power after Sandy had it snatched away again by the chilly grasp of nor’easter.
The Long Island Power Authority issued a statement saying it was “making progress” in restoring power to the roughly 20 per cent of its customers who were left without it after the second storm. As of yesterday morning, 173,000 units remained in the dark.
Across Long Island, nor’easter knocked thousands of houses and business out of power, adding to the 70,000 still out of power citywide. Blankets of snow that covered the streets on Thursday had largely melted by yesterday, and the Long Island Rail Road – the main gateway to the city – had largely restored its services.
Bloomberg’s emergency order for a petrol rationing scheme went into effect yesterday, restricting drivers from buying petrol unless the last digit on their licence plate matches the date – odd or even.
Bloomberg urged New Yorkers to be patient, explaining that the petrol shortage was exacerbated by nor’easter, which interrupted repairs to petrol terminals and slowed barges carrying fuel.
But places like Breezy Point or the Rockaways in Queens are still so far from fine that neither petrol nor power shortage is the worst of their worries.
AJ Smith, a director on Breezy Point’s co-operative board, says modest progress is being made, such as the community securing a headquarters from which to co-ordinate recovery operations. “Breezy still has no gas, power, heating,” he adds, “and running water works in one small area”.
“When Governor Cuomo says how 90 per cent have power back, it sounds like a good number,” Smith adds. “but if you’re one of the unlucky ones, the number just isn’t good enough.”
Asked how long he estimates Breezy Point’s road to recovery will take, Smith says he hopes to see “real signs of life” by spring. “Recovery is a personal thing. The community may be full of energy in a few months, but if you were one of the 110 whose house was burnt down, recovery for you is when you have that home back.”