90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Friday, November 16, 2012

FEMA Responds To Accusations It ‘Abandoned’ The Rockaways

Pieces of construction equipment work on the pile of debris, collected during the cleanup from Superstorm Sandy, in the parking lot of Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaway section of the Queens borough of New York on Wednesday. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

Earlier this week, we heard from Donovan Richards, chief of staff for New York City Councilman James Sanders, who said the Rockaways were abandoned by FEMA, the city and the state, after Superstorm Sandy hit.

The Rockaway Peninsula is a thin strip of land south of John F. Kennedy International Airport that protects parts of Manhattan from the Atlantic, and it was among the areas hardest hit by the storm.

Richards said it took FEMA at least ten days to show up in the Rockaways, after Sandy struck.

But Mike Karl of FEMA said he was on the ground in the Rockaways on November 2, four days after the storm hit New York.

Karl told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that FEMA worked with the city and state before, during and after the storm hit.

Responding to criticism that FEMA wasn’t doing enough to help people, Karl said that by law, FEMA can only come in and work at the request of the governor.

But Occupy Sandy volunteer Sofia Gallisa, who has been in the Rockaways helping stranded residents for two weeks, said the entire government response has been disheartening at every level.

And she said people’s lives are still at risk.

“People are dying in their apartments because they don’t have heat or power or medicine,” Gallisa said. “It’s infuriating to see this slow response and this ineptitude from the government.”

Karl said FEMA officials are in the Rockaways, going door to door, passing out pamphlets and providing information. They also have registration assistance teams in the area to help people fill out the proper paperwork to get aid.

And he said they have provided food and water to residents and to the National Guard for distribution.

But the Occupy volunteers say they are doing more than the paid federal workers.

“This is not supposed to be my job,” Gallisa said. “We are working as hard as we can, putting blood sweat and tears into it. But the love with which we are doing this work is coupled with anger at government agencies.”

Karl said FEMA has limitations, but it is helping survivors.

“We’re doing the best we can, and everyday we do a little bit more,” Karl said. “But it takes time to mobilize the right assets and the right resources to provide the maximum assistance to the disaster survivors.”

Guest:

  • Mike Karl, FEMA representative in the Rockaways.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

We now have a digital bookshelf! Explore all our books coverage or browse by genre.

Robin and Jeremy

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

January 27 22 Comments

Nun Hopes For More Gender Equality In The Church

Sister Joan Chittister describes how the Vatican's tone toward nuns has changed and shares her hopes for the Catholic church.

January 26 3 Comments

Limitations Of Winter Freeze Inspire Maine Chef

The food at Vinland in downtown Portland is 100 percent locally sourced, even in the dead of winter.

January 26 Comment

Mayors Examine Community Policing

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has new recommendations on community policing, in the wake of Ferguson.

January 23 4 Comments

How ‘The Good War’ In Afghanistan Went Bad

Jack Fairweather's new book argues the war could turn out to be the defining tragedy of the 21st century.