It’s hard to turn on the nightly news without seeing a report of a victim of Hurricane Sandy living in a tent or shivering in a heatless house on the couch with three quilts and a blanket.
This is happening in Queens, New Jersey, Staten Island and Long Island and it is disturbing. Before Sandy, it was unimaginable. The victims and the viewers want to know: Where is the government? Where is the help promised?
The reports are usually followed by volunteers handing out hot soup and blankets, and although more needs to be done quickly, it is not true that government has dropped the ball.
Last week we reported on Rapid Repairs, a first-of-its-kind program intended to pair people displaced by Sandy with contractors and skilled workers who can make needed repairs. The program has made it possible for 6,500 families to return to their Queens homes.
City officials say that since Sandy hit, more than 3,300 buildings in the borough had work completed through the program and 12,000 residences within more than 6,000 buildings throughout the city had repairs finished.
Bear in mind the city never anticipated this level of destruction. If it’s below freezing and your house has no heat or electricity, nothing that has been done is enough.
But the city, state and federal governments have made and continue to make an effort.
To Build or Not To
In some cases rebuilding after Sandy is not an option. Some small shops and even chain stores in Howard Beach will never come back. Some homes may never be rebuilt.
At least one has closed its branch and others may follow because flooding in Howard Beach after Hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 makes the area seem too risky.
Homeowners and businesses may find it difficult to get flood insurance after this disaster. Even some businesses that have gotten a U.S. Small Business Administration loan now say they have had enough.
In New Jersey, a federal government guide to rebuilding has set standards for reconstruction that will force homeowners and businesses to relocate or build at higher elevations.
That is sad but it makes sense.