By Bianca Fortis
Felix Lyons, along with his pregnant wife and children, were displaced from their Arverne home when Hurricane Sandy rocked New York City. Since then, they have lived in temporary housing all over the city, including Brooklyn and hotels near Kennedy Airport.
But the family is finally moving closer to returning home.
The American Red Cross Monday presented a $720,000 grant to Friends of Rockaway to be used for rebuilding nearly 100 homes that were hit by the storm, including the Lyons’ house off Beach Channel Drive. The money will be used to hire local contractors and unemployed residents to do the construction work.
State Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), whose own home and office were destroyed in the hurricane, was present at the event.
“It’s been eight months since the storm and our families are still struggling,” he said. “But every day that we can take resources and put them back in the community, every day we are getting our neighborhood back on our feet, that’s a great day.”
Josh Lockwood, chief executive officer of the Greater New York American Red Cross, said there was still urgent work that needed to be done in the communities devastated by Sandy, which span a five-state region.
“Donations have led to clear signs of progress, and that is largely because of large organizations like the American Red Cross, but also the incredible grassroots organizations like Friends of Rockaways who, in days, weeks and months after the storm, have continued to serve their neighbors who have been in tremendous need,” he said.
Lockwood said the American Red Cross has supplied 2 million post-Sandy meals to Queens residents and 1.3 million relief supplies. The organization is also providing grants to families for up to $10,000 to help move them into permanent housing.
But in recent months the Red Cross has been criticized for failing to allocate all of the money that was donated for Sandy relief.
Last month the Associated Press reported that the organization had not spent $110 million it had received.
The group came under fire from the City Council, which penned a letter to the Red Cross, asking it to immediately dole out the remaining funds.
“Our communities have faced immeasurable hardships in the six months since the storm,” the letter read. “New Yorkers expect the Red Cross to deliver emergency aid and we cannot accept that these funds should be allocated at a later date to address long-term needs. Sitting on this unspent money is an insult to both the victims of Hurricane Sandy and the generous donors to the American Red Cross.”
As of June 17, the Red Cross had received $304 million for Sandy recovery, according to Alicia Maxey Greene, the communications director for Long Term Hurricane Recovery. She said Monday that the organization has spent or has made commitments to spend $225 million, or almost three-quarters, of those funds.
Lyons said he and his family have had to be patient for eight months, but the wait has been worthwhile. Everyone present at the event expressed gratitude for relief efforts, but perhaps none more so than Lyons.
“This is hope for our family and hope for our kids,” he said. “We can have warm shelter, food and care for our family. This will help us get back on track to where we were.”
Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.