Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wear Comfortable Shoes for the Long Superstorm Sandy Recovery

Over 3 months have passed since Superstorm Sandy hit the New York-New Jersey area. From my viewpoint in coastal Staten Island, I have seen the outpouring of support and am grateful to everyone who volunteered and who donated time, goods, and money. Much progress has been made but unfortunately, more work is needed. Recovery is still taking place.

In my last blog post, I discussed living through the storm and showed pictures from before and during the storm. 

As the waters began to recede, I made my way out into the surrounding blocks to see the damage.  Houses were off their foundations, cars were left scattered blocks from where their owners parked them, wind ripped off roofs and siding, and there was mud and debris almost everywhere.

The first time I tried to venture out, water was still thigh-high.

These pictures were taken in the first days after the storm. Some water remained along with extensive damage to homes and cars.

Right after the storm, there were calls for help. Government action took a long time and the Sandy Recovery bill in Congress was not passed until January. Most of that money has yet to be used.
One neighbor posted this sign asking Obama and FEMA for help.

With so many people needing places to live and basic necessities, the generosity of strangers was much called upon and greatly appreciated. 

I went to a help center at Miller Field in New Dorp, Staten Island, and saw young children asking for necessities like underwear. Luckily, a stranger handed them a new package. Food and other supplies were also given. Insurance companies were also on hand, although in my family's experience they did more to cause aggravation and stress than to help.

These pictures show the aid being given out at Miller Field.

Originally, my family wanted to be self reliant and clean up our house ourselves. Eventually, we, like many others around us, realized how daunting the task was. The almost ceiling high water that invaded our partially above ground basement knocked shelves and bins over, and quickly destroyed anything made of metal. 

My basement after some, but not all, the water receded.

To our aid came a wonderful group called Rebuild Staten Island, who sent multiple groups of volunteers to help us and our neighbors sort and throw out the damage. They even helped strip our dangerous and potentially mold infested wall boards and paneling. In addition, they carried out our heavy, water logged washer and dryer.

We are especially thankful to Chatham Cares, a true to name group of volunteers from Chatham, NJ who tirelessly worked to help us strip the walls and remove furniture. They were even nice enough to try to help us sweep us dust!

Chatham Cares volunteers pose with my family after completing their hard work.

Catham Cares hard at work.

Another group who worked tirelessly to help us recover was New York City's Sanitation Workers who came daily to pick up the loads of trash. Some workers were even nice enough to give us their own gloves.

The piles of garbage and the helpful sanitation workers who picked it up.

I am often asked after the volunteer efforts and with the passing of time if things are back to normal. The answer is progress is slowly being made.

Some people have moved back into their homes and businesses have started to open. I remember the day the bagel store on the corner reopened. After weeks of being boarding up and having a sign saying "Sandy U Suck," they were open for business. That morning I first got aggravated and then happy when a car cut me off trying to get into their parking lot. Yes, their parking lot was still terribly designed, but it was nice to see them open.

Yet, there is still a house on my block that is marked with the red do not enter signs. The house remains too dangerous to enter while the families try to find a way to fix it.

This house on my block was damaged so badly it is unsafe to enter.

Perhaps the best answer is we have reached a new sense of normal. Walking around the neighborhood at night, there is a sense of emptiness that has existed since Sandy left. The children that used to play after school have remained gone and it is silent. The Chinese takeout we always ordered from remains shuttered, as does the closest diner. 

Then, there are sounds that originally seemed abnormal but now mark the passage of time. The sirens and calls of the Red Cross truck giving out free meals on the weekend, and the banging of sanitation's dumpsters and trucks as they pick up the still abnormal loads of garbage.

The normalcy is slow recovery.

How have you fared in aftermath of Superstorm Sandy?

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