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Less Fortunate Sandy Victims Worried About Getting Their Share Of Federal Money

Coney Island NYCHA residents and Canarsie homeowners among those still suffering

By Stephen Witt

While Hurricane Sandy hurt everyone across the socioeconomic line, it hurt the poor a little more, according to published reports.

The storm ravaged Brooklyn a year ago this week leaving thousands in the city’s public housing complexes, located near the shoreline, without power for weeks.

Among the NYCHA developments still running on mobile boilers include the Red Hook Houses.

According to a newsletter put out by the nonprofit Red Hook Initiative, hundreds of low-income evacuees were repeatedly threatened with mass eviction from hotels with no place to go as the city sought to save money.

In Coney Island, which has a large number of NYCHA developments, a good many of them still have mobile boilers, according to an official at Community Board 13.

CB 13 officials said while it hasn’t received any calls or complaints of late, there are a number of residents of Coney Island’s NYCHA developments feeling they’ve been neglected.

According to a report on the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort put out this week through Borough President Marty Markowitz’s office, there continues to be persistent mold and debris issues, and the continued use of backup boilers installed immediately after the storm. NYCHA residents in Coney Island are intermittently without heat and battling ongoing health problems resulting from mold and debris, according to the report.

The report found that recovery from Sandy has also impacted the already-high unemployment rate in Coney Island where 20% of the businesses on Mermaid Avenue remain closed. Meanwhile, unemployed residents – both skilled and unskilled – standby as rebuild and construction job opportunities go to outsiders of the community.

In Canarsie, which already has one of the highest rates of foreclosures in the city, this rate has more than doubled to more than 3,000 foreclosures due to Sandy.

According to Markowitz’s report, much of the higher foreclosure rates in Canarsie has to do with the many immigrant and undocumented community members residing in illegal basement apartments – contributing significantly to the income of homeowners. In Canarsie, FEMA’s refusal to cover the cost of damage to illegal units led directly to the displacement of immigrant tenants and foreclosure on homeowners.

The perceived or real discrepancies come as federal officials, including Sen. Charles Schumer, said that earlier this week that $60 billion in federal money is starting to flow into all the communities hurt by Sandy. The city is in charge of administrating the funds.

Mayor Bloomberg spokesperson Kamran Montaz said all inquiries regarding public housing should go to NYCHA.

The city has yet to receive any of the federal money so it’s premature to address discrepancies on how the funds are doled out, said Montaz.

But Democratic Party mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio vowed that under his administration he will make sure the federal money allocated for Sandy will be doled out fairly.

“As we rebuild from the devastation of Sandy, we must recommit ourselves to bringing the full aid of the city, state and federal government to the doorsteps of those in need – in every neighborhood, in every borough,” said de Blasio.

“Sandy exposed great inequalities in our city, and we have to use it as a moment not just to fix the short-term wrongs of the storm, but to lay the foundation for a just and sustainable rebuilding. We can’t leave any New Yorker behind,” he added.

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