Staten Island residents wait for Obama to see how bad things still are
On Staten Island, this week’s rain has softened the sand that still lines most streets and the inside of houses in the Midland Beach community.
After two storms in two weeks, without power and gas, residents didn’t seem to notice the wet and cold weather as they walked in muddied boots through mounting sludge and debris, clearing out their flooded houses and businesses.
“This is clean,” said Liam, who declined to give his second name, pointing toward the piles of waste in front of houses on his street: wooden floorboards mixed with damp rubbish, furniture remains, clothes, even toys.
“It’s clean, trust me,” he repeated laughing, and puffed long and hard on his cigarette. “Even I dressed clean today!”
Glancing down at the white dust on his worn-out boots and the stains on his blue jeans and dark green jacket, Liam added: “It just didn’t last long, things have to be done around here.”
Midland Beach was one of the worst affected areas after Hurricane Sandy, whose up-to eight-foot waves blanketed whole houses and claimed the lives of several locals.
US homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who visited Staten Island on Sunday, said that $39 million had been distributed to the community.
With more than 3,000 people out of power and local anger toward city and federal agencies for reportedly treating Staten Island as the so-called “forgotten borough,” this neighbourhood will almost certainly feature in President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to New York.
Asked about his reaction to the president’s visit, Liam smiled. “Let him come!” he said, breathing out cigarette smoke. “Take a look around you, Mr President, is what I’d say. Where have you been?”
If the president visits Midland Beach, he will see empty houses of which, for miles, almost every single one has a yellow sign that reads “limited access” stuck on to its front door.
The president will also see the people bereft of these houses, their homes; if he travels to other “worst affected” areas like the Rockaways, Breezy Point and Coney Island, he will encounter hundreds more people, homeless, just like them.
In Breezy Point and the Rockaways, the rubble from the 110 burnt-down homes serves as a striking reminder of the long road to recovery ahead. People meanwhile are still draining floodwater from their basement.