When Hurricane Sandy struck no one was prepared, least of all the communities in the Far Rockaways and Staten Island that were hardest hit. More than four months later, these communities are still reeling.
In November, the damage was so bad that Mayor Bloomberg made it clear there would never be a new wooden boardwalk. When we went out there residents spoke of the difficulty and delays in getting emergency aid.
By December business and individuals were getting back on their feet, but power and telephone service had only just resumed for many residents. In January as Congress fought over the specifics of an aid deal, people in the Rockaways were busy trying to save their homes.
In early February, early plans for how to use the first $1.77 billion for New York City from the $51 billion in federal aid for Hurricane Sandy relief, were released, but city officials warned it could take months for the money to be distributed.
But residents have persevered on their own. With local businesses like Suncycle Studios reopening already. And the YANA (You Are Never Alone) centre, another important aid centre during the initial weeks after the storm, is close to reopening with the help of Occupy Sandy and other volunteer organisations.
Just last week, plans for aid were finalised, and in the Rockaways people say it is desperately needed. They’re close to giving up hope.
As you drive into the Rockaways, a blue sky filled with puffy white clouds can give the impression everything is back to normal.
In February, Mayor Bloomberg presented New York City's initial plan for its first $1.77 billion instalment from the $51 billion relief funds set aside by Congress.
Under the mayor's plan, $350 million is set aside for grants to single-family homes from low-middle- income owners.
Last week, the Mayor finalised its plans for the first $1.77 billion. Including a buyout program similar to Governor Cuomo's but one that allows for redevelopment.
Because redevelopment is allowed, the city will have to offer post-Sandy values for the property and not pre-Sandy values under Governor Cuomo's plan.
Paul Mastros, owner of Suncyle Studios, is closing up the shop after a day of training classes. The studio had been a base for volunteers and donation distribution in the weeks after the storm. In January, when it re-opened it they offered free classes to local residents for the month. However, he said, only one local resident he knows of has received loans or aid money, and he himself has had a tough time securing insurance or loans for the damage to his shop.
The bank has finally re-opened easing the burdens on local business owners like Mastros, who said he had to travel to banks in the city.
Genie Murphy is from Breezy Point and lost her home during the storm. She is staying with family and came out here to get a haircut at her hair saloon. She was pleasantly surprised that it had reopened. Like many we spoke to she said securing insurance money or aid loans has been a huge challenge.
Rebuilding on the boardwalk is beginning, but it won't be a wooden boardwalk but rather a concrete one, and may not be finished until next summer.
During the storm the wooden boardwalk was ripped off it pilings, ending up in streets and homes in the surrounding areas.
At YANA (You Are Never Alone), a local store and community centre, volunteers are helping with the repairs.
YANA served as a base of operations for Occupy Sandy and other volunteers in the aftermath of the storm, but now it is getting ready to resume normal operation.
mould has been a major problem, causing health issues for many residents, and at YANA they are taking this into account as they rebuild.
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