Community voices post-Sandy frustrations at FEMA meeting

Gina Borrello used to live in a one-story home in Hamilton Beach.

But since Sandy hit almost six months ago and submerged her house underwater, it has been infested with toxic mold, leaving her and her six children displaced.

“I need help,” she said.

Her daughter, Donna Sirota spoke about how they have been getting by.

“First we were staying at family friends’ houses but their landlords would complain because they don’t want people in their house. The electric bill goes up, the water bill goes up. Now we’re getting an apartment. We have to pay for the apartment and we have to pay for the mortgage, still. It’s really crazy.”

At a town hall meeting hosted by FEMA and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, members of the community voiced frustration and anger at the agency’s recently-released flood maps, which would require home owners to purchase flood insurance that would cost each household anywhere from $10,000 to $31,000 in addition to their existing mortgages and home insurance premiums, depending on their zoning.

“The problem is that you’re changing the rules in the middle of the game,” said Dan Mundy, president of the Broad Channel Civic Association. “Middle class people were encouraged to settle here and I don’t think any objective person no matter where you live would agree with the idea that someone who’s on a structured budget trying to cover all their bases could ever handle somewhere close to $1,000-$2,000 a month or more.”

In a packed auditorium in P.S. 146, the atmosphere quickly revealed the continuing devastation felt by the neighborhood’s residents even after almost half a year has passed since the storm.

When asked if he felt the meeting addressed the community’s concerns, resident Peter Passalacqua said much wasn’t relayed.

“I think there is a lot more information that is buried that is just not coming out on flood elevations and zones and stuff,” he said. “We’re not hearing the big picture.”

His story, one including uphill battles with insurance companies who are offering only a fraction of the cost to repair damages, is hardly unique in this middle-class neighborhood that saw unprecedented devastation from the superstorm.

Residents urged each other to “keep showing up” and “push for more action.”

One stood up to say that this is about rebuilding more than just their homes.

“[We’re fighting] to stay in a neighborhood that we love and where we raise our kids. We need to fight in an educated manner.”

Mundy said affected residents all across the east coast are mobilizing through the “Stop FEMA Now” movement to get the aid they need to rebuild and push back against a proposal they believe is unjust.

“What we’re looking to do is to seek relief legislation because there is no way we could accept it the way it is.”




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