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Banks Remain Closed As Rockaways Slowly Recover

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TWC News: Banks Remain Closed As Rockaways Slowly Recover
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In the neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, residents mostly have access to basic necessities like heat, food and water -- but finding other essential services, like banks, remains a daunting challenge. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

The sign on a bank in Far Rockaway says 24-hours, but in fact there’s been no banking at all here ever since Hurricane Sandy.

Like so many businesses, bank branches in the Rockaways sustained major damage, leaving many residents unable to manage their finances.

“We couldn’t do anything. We had checks that we got --a little FEMA check. We couldn’t do nothing with them because they were closed," one man said.

“You have to go back into brooklyn, basically, to do anything," a man said. Whether it’s grocery shopping, banking -- anything. That’s the hard thing. What are we, about six weeks into it now? And there’s no stores open.”

In fact, it’s now seven weeks later, and still most bank branches here on the Rockaway Peninsula remain closed.

Unlike in the immediate storm aftermath, there are at least ATMs now.

But other tasks are impossible. Luiza Baker’s father died recently and because her mother has been unable to access important documents in a safe deposit box here, his affairs remain unsettled.

“She needs to get papers to take care of so that she can deal with social security and everything else to do with his life insurance. Everything is in that box," Baker said. "They say that we should be able to have access to the box by appointment, but we are not getting any return phone calls.”

As in other aspects of life here in the Rockaways and other hard-hit communities, there are slow, incremental signs of progress. A Citibank branch on Beach Channel Drive that's been out of commission since the storm reopened for business on Monday.

Meanwhile, Chase last week opened a temporary bank branch in a trailer in a municipal parking lot across the street from where the actual branch remains closed.

Some other banks, too, have reopened.

As for Luiza Baker, late Monday her mother finally got a call from Capital One. She’ll be able to access her safe deposit box on Tuesday.

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