The pictures from New Orleans after Katrina were iconic. Stories breathlessly filed from the Superdome warned of rampant crimes, inadequate access to basic sanitation, even babies getting raped (which was later proven to be a rumor). CNN’s Anderson Cooper berated Senator Mary Landrieu on air about the government’s response to the storm. Spike Lee made an entire documentary about the impact the hurricane had on the city and its residents. Famously, during a telethon for Katrina’s victims, rapper Kanye West told viewers, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
The week before the election, Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, bringing unprecedented destruction to the seaside communities in the tri-state area. Parts of New York City went dark, as sections of the city were completely submerged in flood waters for the first time in modern history. Seaside towns across the Jersey Shore lost their famous boardwalks in an instant, and in Seaside Heights, parts of a roller coaster ended up sucked into the ocean.
After several days of dominating the news cycle, the nation moved on to the election, and now, to the unfolding scandal involving CIA Director David Petraeus. For those left in the worst of Sandy’s wake, no matter what CNN may be covering, few have had the ability to move on. The local New York City-centric blog Gothamist describes the situation in The Rockaways area of Queens:
“The city hasn’t reached out to us at all,” said Matt Calender, a Rockaway resident who helps direct a bustling relief effort from a house on Beach 96th Street. “The Red Cross gave us 500 blankets the other day. FEMA talked to us. But that’s it. We station volunteers here, but we also send people downtown, where there is immense need. If people come here we can actually give them something to do.”
After Katrina, President George W. Bush was lambasted for FEMA’s response to the storm. Those aware of the situation in Far Rockaway and other hard-hit areas of New York know that the situation isn’t much different than New Orleans post-Katrina. New York City Councilman James Sanders, who represents the Rockaways, gave a chilling interview to a Boston NPR affiliate, stating:
“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.