Calling For a Just Recovery in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy was a devastating blow to New York City, among other Northeastern communities. It is six months after the storm, and the city and its residents are still recovering. Most New Yorkers have returned to work and normal commutes, they have had their electricity and heat restored, and people have resumed the routines of daily life.
However, on the outskirts of each borough, life simply is not the same. As of mid- January two-thirds of the buildings whose owners applied for assistance with the City’s Rapid Repairs program 1, had not been fixed.2 In addition, we have a mold and mildew crisis brewing, especially if remediation remains incomplete as the weather becomes warmer. Homeowners are still waiting for insurance claims or are repealing rejections. Rental tenants are in limbo waiting on repairs without much ability to affect the quality or speediness of rehabilitation. Kids are traveling from their temporary homes to their home school districts, and parents have to accommodate that additional travel, while also getting to work on time.
This storm has been traumatic for everyone in its wake, whether you lost your second home or your primary residence; a home can be a sacred place and it is horrible to suffer these losses. During such an emotionally trying time, everyone, regardless of his or her personal means, needed and was buoyed up by the assistance of volunteers. This need continues to be present, and we should be mindful of the work that we still must do. B’nai Jeshurun members showed a tremendous outpouring of support through their countless hours of volunteering and generous donations to the Sandy relief effort in the three weeks following the storm. The community’s immediate, thoughtful, and meaningful response reflected our strong values of supporting those in need, not just in our own community but in our greater community across the city. To read about these volunteer efforts please visit www.bj.org/sandyblog.
As a congregation that is committed to social justice and recognizing the racial and economic disparities that exist among New Yorkers, we work to end inequality through direct service and advocacy. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the poverty and want that this storm laid bare in communities like Far Rockaway where BJ members have been volunteering.
“It’s true that Sandy’s path of destruction was to some extent an equal opportunity assault, pummeling the trendiest downtown enclaves and blighted neighborhoods alike. But residents’ levels of resilience to the storm—the capacity to absorb trauma—will likely follow the sharp peaks and valleys of the city’s economic landscape.” 3
This is even more reason for us to continue our participation in Hurricane Sandy Relief and advocacy for a just city.
Here, with photos and testimony, we share a bit of the volunteer work that BJ members did the Sunday following Thanksgiving at the Community Church of the Nazerene in Far Rockaway. This church is located in an area where more than 20% of families live below the poverty line, which exacerbated the already devastating effects of the storm. BJ member Marjorie Vandow and her husband Richard Fields helped bring BJ’s volunteer work to the church, where they were connected through a beloved caretaker, whose family was directly affected in Far Rockaway. They continue to work with the church on Sandy relief.
- The Rapid Repairs program sends sub-contractors to assess and restore heat, hot water, and electricity. ↩
- Durkin, Erin and Smith, Greg B. “Mayor Bloomberg’s Rapid Repairs has completed work on just one in three buildings enrolled in program.” New York Daily News, NYDailyNews.com.12 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. ↩
- Chen, Michelle. “In Sandy’s Wake, New York’s Landscape of Inequity Revealed.” In These Times. In These Times And The Institute For Public Affairs, 1 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013. ↩