One year ago, four NY1 co-workers and I holed up in my house in Rockaway Beach and prepared for a hurricane – but we never imagined the devastation and ruin that would be visited upon the neighborhood.
Looking back, I realize that it could have been far much worse. Last week, NY1's Dean Meminger and I sat on my porch and reflected about that insane night in which we nervously wondered if my house would be able to withstand the raging ocean that had suddenly made its way to our front door. (For a longer account of things, I wrote a column about our experiences that night for our local community paper, The Wave. And for an immediate narrative of the events, here's my Sandy blog that I kept for three months.)
NY1: NY1 ItCH: One Year After Riding It Out In The Rockaways
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Obviously, we made it through – mostly with flying colors. Because we worked for NY1, the amount of support we had was far greater than most residents. Sure, we didn't have power or heat but we had a portable generator with gas trucked in from the station along with food and any other supplies that people could bring from the station. I've always said that we'd get past the worst – the question was: would we ever get back to normal?
A year later, the answer is mostly yes. The subway is back and we now even have a ferry that the next mayor will hopefully continue into the future. Most residents have returned and while some homes are still badly damaged or gone, many more have been repaired and are in even better shape than before Sandy. Many old businesses have reopened with new ones emerging as well.
But there's still so much that needs to get done. The nearly-six-mile-long boardwalk is largely gone. While this may seem like a frivolous complaint to an outsider because the boardwalk doesn’t house residents and is home to just a handful of businesses, it served as a spine to the community. The boardwalk linked disparate neighborhoods and was the most-used structure for both the peninsula's residents and the millions of visitors here each summer. It is inexplicable that neighboring Long Beach has replaced its boardwalk but Rockaway's yawning gap remains in the sand.
In the aftermath of the storm, the city did a great job with some things. The work by the Sanitation Department was nothing short of heroic. Quickly cleaning up a disaster area gave residents some real hope about their future. Other agencies lagged. Residents in the public housing projects were often better assisted by ragtag volunteers than by the Housing Authority. And while the city's "Rapid Repairs" program largely worked, its "Build it Back" project to reimburse homeowners for their repairs has been stuck in neutral so far.
Above all this is the political leadership of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg. While both men have usually said and done the right things in the wake of a horrific disaster, they've been operating independently, rarely coordinating their public messages to residents. Witness today when – like divorced parents -- Cuomo and Bloomberg are separately touring parts of the city that were devastated by the storm. While aides to both men will insist that their dysfunctional relationship hasn't hindered the city's recovery, I can't see how it helps.
Sometimes in the face of the worst, we can act our best. That's been the case in the Rockaways over the last year. On a personal note, I'd like to thank my many friends, family members, and co-workers for all of their support. But most of all, I'd like to thank my neighbors who put their shoulders against the wheel and pushed and pushed and pushed.