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Conflict & Tragedy

Storm recovery in NYC: Obama visits as lawsuits pile up

President Obama paid a second visit to storm-ravaged parts of New York City on Thursday and promised struggling residents they would not be forgotten.

As Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the President a tour of some of the hardest hit regions like the borough of Staten Island, Breezy Point and Far Rockaway, Queens, he hugged, comforted and offered words of encouragement and hope to the locals.

Especially poignant was his private visit with Glenda and Damien Moore, the parents of the two young boys age 2 and 4, who tragically lost their lives when they were swept away by the storm in Staten Island.

Meanwhile, as winter creeps up on us and the temperature dips, lawsuits are beginning to pile up against the power companies for their handling of the widespread outage. There are still 18,000 homes without electricity and heat, with 2,500 in Nassau County alone. Cuomo has repeatedly said that this was unacceptable and blames the utility companies for the long delay in restoring services to residents.

On Long Island, the CEO of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) Michael Hervey, announced late Wednesday that he will be stepping down by the end of the year and residents there are calling him “a coward” who is taking the easy way out. Mass protests ensued after weeks without power knocked out by Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, and fed-up residents are now talking lawsuits for all their losses during the blackouts. Class action suits tend to flourish in these kinds of disasters but unfortunately, most of the money goes to the tort lawyers.

Sandy’s widespread destruction has highlighted another pressing problem rampant in certain parts of New York and New Jersey—poverty. More than half of residents in Far Rockaway, Queens and Coney Island Brooklyn, live in poverty and with many homes now completely destroyed; a large percentage without insurance. Recovery is going to be extremely difficult. One pastor in Far Rockaway, whose church is in shambles, uttered this simple plea on Wednesday: “We need help!”

Host Richard Rose on WLNY-TV brought up a hugely relevant point: FEMA will have to evaluate homes along the coastline and may have to impose tougher standards for flood maps and insurance. To afford such destruction, homes will have to be moved higher or sea walls built. Such restructuring will cost a pretty penny as well. There is no easy fix to the mountain of problems arising from this epic storm.

This brings up more concerns: storm relief. Though several charities have helped residents in need, like the Red Cross which has reportedly already donated over $117 million to Sandy, critics say this charity needs a second look at how funds are allocated. Ben Simolwitz of the Disaster Accountability Project told CNN Erin Burnett on Wednesday that the Red Cross spent a lot of its funds on overhead. Like the $500,000 salary for their CEO and $275,000 starting pay for their top executives.

However, Suzy DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer of the Red Cross, assured the host that the huge sums of money collected by the Red Cross over the years go mostly to victims and say that Sandy would be no different.

FEMA has approved a reported $1.5 billion so far for affected areas, with $600 million already distributed in aid. But Cuomo has said that NY needs about $30 billion in federal funds.

For federal help, go to FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Want to donate or volunteer? Here is a list of volunteer and donation opportunities throughout New York City and New Jersey.

NYC has opened four NYC Restoration Centers and provide the following types of assistance:

NYC Rapid Repairs
Food and Nutrition Assistance
Temporary Housing Information
Health and Medical Benefits
Business Restoration
Counseling Services
Financial Assistance
Personal Records and Information

NYC Restoration Centers are open from 8 AM – 8 PM daily
NYC Restoration Centers are located at these addresses:

Coney Island
Our Lady of Solace
2866 W. 19th St.
Brooklyn, 11224

Gravesend
SSA Building
10 Bouck Ct.
Brooklyn, 11223

Far Rockaway
10-01 Beach 20th St.
(At Cornaga Ave.)
Queens, 11691

Staten Island
1976 Hylan Boulevard
Staten Island, 10306

Please see the following link for more information
http://www.nyc.gov/html/misc/html/2012/dasc.html