By Philip Guelpa in the USA:
New York: Continuing misery in Rockaways in aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
12 December 2012
Nearly a month and a half after Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast coast of the United States, thousands of residents in the Rockaways section of the borough of Queens in New York City continue to live in misery. People in this area, where a number of public housing complexes are located, continue to cope with limited heat, electricity, food, medical care, and transportation.
As of late November, nearly 10,000 people were still without power. It is estimated that up to half of the small businesses that served this area have been destroyed and will never be rebuilt. Direct subway service to the Rockaway peninsula is not expected to be restored until next spring. The substitute bus service is grossly inadequate, causing long delays for those commuting to work or school.
The neighborhoods known collectively as The Rockaways (named after a Native American tribe which once inhabited the New York area) lie on a long, narrow peninsula that is effectively a barrier island on the south shore of Long Island, though connected to the mainland at its eastern end. It forms the southern boundary of Jamaica Bay, on which JFK airport is located.
As a barrier island, the south side of the Rockaway Peninsula fronts directly on the Atlantic Ocean. It therefore took the full brunt of Hurricane Sandy when the storm made landfall on October 29. The flood map published by the city shows that the low-lying peninsula was completely inundated with at least four feet of water coming from both the ocean and the bay. Many homes and other buildings were destroyed and many more were severely damaged. At least four people are known to have died in this area.
In addition to the direct effects of flooding, the storm caused the outbreak of multiple fires, including one in Breezy Point that destroyed over 100 homes. Hurricane conditions made it impossible for firefighters to effectively respond.
The city’s disorganized and poorly planned response to the storm is exemplified by the experience of residents and workers at more than a dozen nursing homes on the Rockaway Peninsula. These facilities were told to “shelter in place” even though the whole area was in a mandatory evacuation zone. Removal of the residents in the immediate aftermath of the storm was extremely difficult and dangerous, putting their lives at risk. The haphazard nature of the evacuation to scattered shelters meant that medical records were often unavailable and relatives had a difficult time finding their family members.
Rockaway neighborhoods are home to 125,000 people, including public employees as well as thousands of the unemployed and the working poor, many of whom live in four major public housing complexes. Although the peninsula was in the mandatory evacuation zone, no concerted effort was made by the city to provide adequate emergency shelters or to help residents, many of whom are elderly or infirm, to leave. Those shelters that were available rapidly became squalid and dangerous.
Even prior to the storm, living conditions for many residents of the Rockaways were difficult. The area is one of a number of low-lying neighborhoods in the city, including Coney Island and Red Hook in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where large numbers of housing projects were built in past decades.
Columbia geophysicist Klaus Jacob on Hurricane Sandy: here.
Six months since Superstorm Sandy: here.
- Hurricane Sandy Aftermath: Mold, Cold Pose Significant Health Risks In Rockaways (huffingtonpost.com)
- Irish descend on Rockaways to help victims of Hurricane Sandy (irishcentral.com)
- Fighting Sandy in the Rockaways (thomaspluck.com)
- Essay: How New York City’s Coastline Became a Place to Put the Poor (nytimes.com)
- Despite Sandy, Queens family is giving thanks — together (cnn.com)
- Nor’easter dumps snow, knocks out more power in Sandy-hit region (cnn.com)
- Irish fight back begins in Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy devastation — Spending time with the brave residents of a devastated beach town (irishcentral.com)
- The Rockaways of the youth – reflections on the shattered neighborhood post Hurricane Sandy (irishcentral.com)
- Report Sees Widespread Mold After Sandy (bkbureau.org)
- Rockaway (NY) School’s Response to Hurricane Sandy (tamaracolson.wordpress.com)