Sandy, Five Years On

Destruction left behind by Hurricane Sandy. (Photo courtesy of Rockaway Youth Task Force via Amsterdam News)

This Sunday, October 29, marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane or Superstorm Sandy, and community papers in the area focused on many different aspects of the storm’s impact on the New York metropolitan area.

Bill Parry of Times Ledger notes that between the rebuilt boardwalk at Far Rockaway and the new ferry service to the Rockaways, the area had a banner summer with more than 5 million visitors to beaches in the area.

Crowds showed up in “untraditio­nal” places, too, according to Nick Master of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation. Beachgoers ventured east to Far Rockaway.

“We were getting waves of all types of people coming off the A train at Beach 43, Beach 32 and even as far east as Beach 25, and as they came out of the subway they had no idea which direction the beach was so you know they were first-timers,” Master said. “I just see this as a sign of an explosion. This is what economic development is all about. And there’s construction everywhere and the developers are hiring local workers who are educated but under-employed.”

Masters believes a renaissance is well underway all along the Rockaway peninsula, so much so that he moved his family there.

The Wave, based in Far Rockaway, stresses that the region was “Rockaway Strong.” It also reviews, in its main article on the storm, the many acts of heroism that marked the community response to rising waters. But The Wave noted that while homeowners helped each other out and eventually received assistance, local businesses were affected as well and “had to scrape together money to stay afloat.”

The Wave was one of those businesses.

Our offices flooded with more than four feet of water, destroying more than 100 years’ worth of archives and halting publication for the first time in its 119-year history.

Despite the damage, The Wave was back in business three weeks after the storm, and moved upstairs into a smaller office, known as The Wave Cave.

The newspaper didn’t publish for the first time since 1893, and it took almost a month for the paper to publish again, doing so with the Nov. 30, 2012 edition.

In the wake of the storm, the government stepped in with assistance. Yet questions still remain, writes Timothy Bolger in Long Island Press, about how transparent government agencies were in doling out money following the storm’s destruction of the New York and Long Island regions.

For an example of why transparency surrounding Sandy aid funding is important, look no further than Nassau County, which awarded a $12.6 million contract to upstart VIP Splash Waterways Recovery Group for waterway debris removal after the storm.

“Serious questions remain on how a company formed in 2013 was selected over three other companies with more extensive experience,” Nassau Comptroller George Maragos said in August, when he referred findings of an audit of the contract to prosecutors.

Milan Taylor, writing in the New York Amsterdam News, notes the pop-up organizations and companies that swooped in to collect grants following Sandy, then adds:

However, I cannot place all of the blame on the disaster capitalists. The fact that they were so easily able to infiltrate our community speaks to our larger problems of apathy and civic disengagement. They filled a void that our community couldn’t. After Sandy, I watched people take advantage of my community, but there is a silver lining. Through the Rockaway Youth Task Force, we are able to teach a new generation of residents that they have the power to choose their own destinies. By actively working to engage young people and develop youth leadership, I hope that when the time comes again, our community won’t have to turn to fly-by-night imposters, but will instead find strong leadership in its native sons and daughters.

Residents in some neighborhoods are still living with the consequences of Sandy. The Surfside Gardens Community Center in Coney Island remains out of commission, writes Kyle Kucharski in BKLYER. The damage has not yet been repaired by the New York City Housing Authority, even though the ground was broken on a $41 million FEMA-funded makeover of the complex back in August 2016.

Ramaa Reddy Raghavan checked in with residents, small business owners and community activists in the Red Hook area to hear what they had to say, five years after Sandy struck. Read their comments at Red Hook Star-Revue.

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