Thursday, December 18, 2014

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NY1 For You: Rockaways Residents Claim Major Relief Agencies Offer Too Little, Too Late

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In Sandy's wake, disaster assistance was promised from the federal, state and city governments but in the past two weeks there are many places, including the Rockaway Beach section of Queens, where residents feel that aid has been slow to arrive. NY1's Susan Jhun filed the following NY1 For You report.

Residents of the Rockaway Beach section of Queens, one of the hardest hit areas, have had a hard time recovering from Sandy's devastation. As of Monday, they had no power and they said they are receiving very little disaster assistance.

"It's devastating, it's our home, it's absolutely devastating," says Joanne Smith, a resident of Rockaway Beach. "A day after the disaster, people who lost everything, they were looking for something and no one was here. Red Cross wasn't here, the Mayor's Office wasn't here, FEMA wasn't here. No one was here. Then when they did start coming in a couple of days later, they were so far down the peninsula that nobody could really get to them."

"FEMA came down, gave out some applications and went home," says Jennifer DeLuca, another resident of Rockaway Beach.

"Red Cross, nothing," says Cecilia O'Connor, a resident of Rockaway Beach.

The absence of government assistance left residents with no choice but to take action on their own. They began collecting donations from all over of food, water and clothes to help the people of Rockaway Beach.

"This is basically Rockaway for Rockaway," says DeLuca.

"The only organized things I've seen are people from the neighborhood coming out and helping each other," says Terri Moreno, a resident of Rockaway.

A NY1 crew spotted a Red Cross truck handing out supplies but residents say it is too little, too late.

NY1 contacted The Red Cross to ask them about their efforts, or lack thereof, in Rockaway Beach and spokesman Michael de Vulpillieres released the following statement: "American Red Cross vehicles have been in the Rockaways since Thurs, Nov. 1. Several of these vehicles have focused their routes in the Rockaway Beach area. But no disaster response is perfect and we understand the frustration felt by those who have had difficulty accessing Red Cross services."

NY1 also contacted Federal Emergency Management Agency about residents' claims that the agency has been absent in the area.

"We've added disaster recovery centers to Rockaway because we recognize. You know I'm a New Yorker, I understand there's Far Rockaway, there's Rockaway Beach and there's Breezy Point," says Michael Byrne, a federal coordinating officer from FEMA. "To have one DRC just to serve the Rockaways would be just not good service. I also think we can't ignore the fact that we've paid out over $340 million to the citizens."

This is aid Rockaway Beach residents welcome and wait for.

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