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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rockaways Officials Blast FEMA, LIPA Response To Sandy

People gather on the buckled boardwalk of the Rockaway Park neighborhood of the borough of Queens, New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

People gather on the buckled boardwalk of the Rockaway Park neighborhood of the borough of Queens, New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

People who live on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens say they are still hurting, more than two weeks after Sandy hit.

About 27,000 people are still without power in the Rockaways, because they need electricians to certify that their homes are safe to receive power.

The Long Island Power Authority, or LIPA, is facing criticism for its response to the storm, and on Tuesday, LIPA chairman Mike Hervey announced he would step down at the end of the year.

But some city officials are saying the problems extend beyond the power company. They’re criticizing the federal response to Sandy.

New York City Councilman James Sanders represents the Rockaways. His chief of staff Donovan Richards told Here & Now his district was abandoned when Sandy hit.

No one will know how many rapes have happened in the Rockaways, how many burglaries, how many murders.
– Donovan Richards,
Chief of Staff for NYC Councilman Jim Sanders

“FEMA did not arrive in a timely fashion, nor did the Red Cross,” Richards said. “If it wasn’t for everyday citizens coming out and giving us a hand, the Rockaways would be in a shape that is unfathomable.”

Richards said that FEMA didn’t arrive until last Thursday, and he says the agency initially set up in an area that was inaccessible to poorer residents.

“Every 24 hours that goes by, we get into a more desperate situation so FEMA has to respond quicker. I know we have a billion things to do but in a low-income area with 30 percent of the people on some sort of income subsidy we need them to move fast and move now,” Richards said.

FEMA was unavailable for comment.

Electricity is starting to return to the Rockaways, but many homes still lack  heat and hot water. Gasoline is still in short supply.

“We’re running into a desperate situation, especially as winter starts to greet us,” Richards said. “[Our residents] are still sleeping in the cold – many of our children, our elderly! And not only is it cold, but they’re sleeping in wet apartments.”

Richards says the situation in public housing has also been dire. He said a 77-year-old man died on Saturday, because he fell down an unlit staircase. He is also concerned that many crimes may have gone unreported, because communication has been spotty with the New York City Housing Authority.

“No one will know how many rapes have happened in the Rockaways, how many burglaries, how many murders. No one will have accurate information on these things until months pass by after this post-Sandy era disappears,” Richards said.

Guest:

  • Donovan Richards, chief of staff for New York City Councilman James Sanders, who represents the Rockaways. He tweets @DRichards13.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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