All Articles Tagged "Hurricane Sandy"

Communities Of Color Still Struggling To Rebuild After Hurricane Sandy

March 6th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com

Hurricane Sandy occurred more than a year ago but many lower-income residents in the eastern area of the Rockaways in New York City’s borough of Queens have been struggling to rebuild–and their struggles has gone relatively unnoticed.

The media focused most on the problems of the upper-middle-class neighborhoods of the western Rockaway peninsula and the controversy over allocation of Sandy relief aid in New Jersey, while lower-income areas, which are mainly African-American and Latino, have been left without enough resources to get back on their feet following the super storm.

“Critics say government agencies have failed to support the lower-income communities in the Rockaways…,” reports theGrio.  New York City Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents parts of the Rockaways, helped pass Sandy Tracker legislation last year, but even he says federal funds have still been slow to reach his constituents in need. “This was the Ninth Ward,” Councilman Richards told The Grio, referring to the poor, Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina that took years to rebuild.

While FEMA did offer aid to New York residents, many of those in lower-income communities of the Rockaways are renters and did not have the economic means to meet FEMA’s criteria, say sources.

FEMA however insists it has helped “tens of thousands of Sandy survivors who are homeowners, renters and neither of the two.”

When contacted by The Grio, new NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office pointed the “Build it Back” initiative offering assistance to displaced New York City residents. But sources claim  this effort was slow to implement help during Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor.

“It is worth noting that Build it Back is the last recovery option in a series of City-sponsored initiatives,” a spokesperson from Mayor de Blasio’s office told The Grio. “We helped restore heat, hot water and electricity to more than 12,000 residences within 100 days of the storm – assistance totaling $650 million––at no cost to storm victims. Further, the city created its own hotel program to house displaced storm victims, completely independent of FEMA’s hotel program (which, it is important to note, has its own rules).”

For some residents it was hard to obtain vital information about all the available resources, another hindrance to rebuilding after Sandy. Question is how much longer people are expected to wait for help they need.

Analysis Shows Minority Applicants Denied Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds At A Higher Rate

December 17th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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When natural disaster hits, in an ideal world there wouldn’t be inequities when it comes to relief aid. But that just isn’t the case, as data from Hurricane Sandy seems to  illustrate.

Latino and African-American residents applying for two major Sandy relief programs may have been unfairly turned away.  According to local housing rights organization Fair Share Housing Center (FSHC), it has obtained data from the Christie Administration proving just this. The data shows that black and Latino applicants were denied by the state at higher rates than their Caucasian counterparts.

The FSHC says 35 percent of African-American applicants and 18 percent of Latino applicants applying to the Homeowner Reconstruction, Rehabilitation Elevation and Mitigation (RREM) program were rejected by the state, reports NBC Philadelphia. But only 13 percent of Caucasian applicants were denied from the same program.

Also, FSHC reports that 38 percent of African Americans and 20 percent of Latinos who applied to the Resettlement Grant Program had their applications denied while just 14 percent of Caucasians were rejected from the same program.

Now the Latino Action Network (LAN) and NAACP want an explanation from the Christie Administration on how he will rectify the situation. LAN president Frank Argote-Freyre and members of the New Jersey chapter of the NAACP examined the data along with FSHC and took note of  inequities in both the amount of Latino and African Americans that applied for the programs, and the number of Latino and African-American residents who were approved to receive relief funds.

“Given the misinformation presented to the Spanish-reading community by the Governor’s relief website, I think Governor Christie should explain what he intends to do to help those who were unfairly rejected or who missed deadlines due to the administration’s neglect,” Argote-Freyre stated in a press release. “We hope that this data, supplied by the Christie Administration itself, will help to shed light on why these programs are not working.”

LAN is currently suing the Christie Administration alleging that info provided on the English version of New Jersey’s Sandy recovery website was omitted from the Spanish version of the site.

“LAN says, due to the state’s failure to properly advertise the programs—specifically to lower income communities—that there were only 849 Latino applicants and 878 African American applicants to the Resettlement Program, compared to nearly 18,000 Caucasian applicants,” reports NBC. And only 432 Latinos and 485 African Americans applied to the RREM Program, versus more than 7,000 Caucasian applicants.

Firing back, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard E. Constable, III, Esq. claims  FSHC manipulated the data, and called the accusations patently false.

He said, “To be absolutely clear, eligibility and qualification for the housing recovery programs were approved by the Obama Administration, are objectively based, and do not take race or ethnicity into account in any way whatsoever.”

Constable says 44 percent or nearly half of the federal Sandy relief funding has “been obligated or is out the door to people in need” and that nearly three-quarters of those funds were distributed to low- or middle-income renters and homeowners.

NJ’s Poor Overlooked In Superstorm Sandy Recovery, Many Still Waiting One Year Later

October 31st, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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A Staten Islane vigil for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Getty Images

A Staten Island vigil for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Getty Images

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Superstorm Sandy. Hard to believe because some of the devastated areas still haven’t recovered. Superstorm Sandy left billions of dollars of damage in its wake up the East Coast. Today, there’s a $26-million ad campaign declaring New Jersey “stronger than the storm.” And on many occasions during the recovery, Gov. Chris Christie and federal officials, including President Barack Obama, have toured the state’s ocean-side tourist attractions and communities with single-family homes. “But beneath the state’s seemingly happy story of storm recovery lies what a group of fair-housing and civil rights advocates say is a series of ugly but important truths,” reports The Root.

“Sandy shattered lives all over the state, up and down the income ladder,” says Mike McNeil, who is chairman of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference Housing Committee. “The people hit — and I mean hit hard and still hurting — don’t all own homes and businesses at the shore. But they aren’t getting much help.”

According to an analysis released last week by a New Jersey nonprofit, the Fair Share Housing Center, a disproportionate share of disaster-relief funds have been funneled to the state’s moderate- and upper-income households and homeowners. Renters and low- to moderate-income families — in the state, who are mostly black or Latino — haven’t experienced anything similar.

“I think we can say without question that officials in the states affected by Sandy did a lot better job getting people out of harm’s way,” says Kevin Walsh, a lawyer with the Fair Share Housing Center. “But I think in the recovery, the subsequent trauma, the disregard for the needs of so many poor and working families, and how many of those people happen to be black or Latino, is certainly similar to Katrina — disturbingly similar.”

There have been complaints, of course. In April a group of nonprofit organizations — the Latino Action Network, the New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP and the Fair Share Housing Center — filed an official discrimination (fair housing) complaint against the Christie administration. The complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A second complaint followed this summer from the Latino Action Network, and in October it formally lodged its concerns with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

There have even been lawsuits. In September the Fair Share Housing Center also filed a suit to force the administration to share what it believes should be additional public information about the people who have applied for, received and been denied storm-recovery aid.

The Housing and Community Development Network’s own data found that about 47 percent of those affected by Sandy were renters — a disproportionate share of whom are black or Latino. However, New Jersey officials initially submitted much different information to the federal government in the state’s initially request for storm-victim aid. For one thing, state officials used a method that counted a storm-damaged 100-unit apartment complex as just one or two addresses, instead of a place where hundreds of people may have lived before Sandy. So the government missed potentially hundreds of  mostly poor people–leaving them literally in the cold when it came to recovery funding and housing.

Hearts As Large As Their Wallets: Celebrities Who Donated Big During Natural Disasters

June 6th, 2013 - By Iva Anthony
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Some celebrities are known for their philanthropic work, whether it be giving back to the community or volunteering their time for a specific cause. Here’s a list of celebrities who dug deep in their hearts and wallets to donate big when a natural disaster struck:

"Wyclef Jean pf"

WENN

When a catastrophic earthquake rocked the tiny Caribbean country of Haiti, it killed more than 230,000 and left millions more without a home. Former Fugees frontman Wyclef Jean was one of the first people who made their way down to his home country to help search for survivors. In addition to helping out physically, the rapper/producer used the power of social media to ask for help, raising more than $1 million for Yele Haiti with a single tweet. All of Jean’s hard work would be overshadowed a year later when his charity came under fire for allegedly squandering millions of dollars in donations. Jean has since released a statement acknowledging the organization’s mistakes and vowed to continue on. “The new and good news is that Yele, under new leadership, despite efforts to undermine its credibility and effectiveness, continues its mission to serve people in need.”

Oklahoma’s Republican Senators Opposed Money For FEMA, Assistance To Victims Of Hurricane Sandy

May 21st, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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coburn

Sen. Tom Coburn. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

With Moore and surrounding Oklahoma cities and towns still reeling from the effect of what has been called “the biggest, most destructive tornado in the history of the world” (it’s definitely among the worst), the area is still just trying to get a grip on the extent of the devastation. President Obama, almost immediately, signed a disaster declaration Monday night, and he’s assured the people impacted that the country stands with them.  With this action, The Huffington Post reports on the voting record of that state’s two Senators, particularly as it relates to disaster relief. As it turns out, Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans and fiscal conservatives, voted against more funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and supported a plan to cut assistance to  Northeast victims of Hurricane Sandy.

“In a December press release, Coburn complained that the Sandy Relief bill contained “wasteful spending,” and identified a series of items he objected to, including ‘$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies,’” HuffPo reports. A spokesperson for Sen. Coburn says he would like to see the aid offset by other cuts. Those “offsets” were made in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The article goes on to say that Oklahoma comes in third behind Texas and California for federal fire and disaster declarations.

“And despite their voting record on disaster aid for other states, both Coburn and Inhofe appear to sing a different tune when it comes to such funding for Oklahoma,” the HuffPo says. Oh really?

FEMA is already in Moore, according to US News & World Report. The magazine says that colleagues may decide not to make any cuts in order to fund disaster relief, which would put the Senators in “the hot seat.”

In The Eye of The Storm: Minority Homes Owners Affected Most By Hurricane Sandy

March 11th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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50 Cent greeting Sandy victims at a Thanksgiving 2012 charity event. Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision for Feeding America/AP Images

50 Cent greeting Sandy victims at a Thanksgiving 2012 charity event. Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision for Feeding America/AP Images

Minority and low-income families were hit the hardest by Hurricane Sandy, found an analysis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) data. And the research shows that they continue to face the toughest challenges in recovering from the massive storm.

Of the more than 500,000 households who have registered for FEMA assistance, 43 percent have household incomes of less than $30,000 a year. In New York City, 52 percent of renters affected are people of color and in New Jersey – 56 percent, according to a press release.

The study was done by Enterprise Community Partners and NYU Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy.

“These data show that Hurricane Sandy was devastating to many low-income families and that many of them are likely to be still struggling to recover,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which has joined together with other civil rights organizations to  express concern over the findings. “Given that low-income families in the NY-NJ region, who are more likely to be people of color, were already facing severe affordable housing shortages, FEMA and other federal aid for Sandy recovery must prioritize aid to these families and help them find housing that they can afford.”

“When a natural disaster strikes these communities, the results are often even more devastating for the residents who have fewer resources and fewer housing options, this comes as a direct result of past housing policy,” notes the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.

According to the data, among FEMA registrants in New York City owners are 62 percent  white, 20 percent African-American, seven percent Asian-American, and eight percent Hispanic. Most renters are racial and ethnic minorities: a quarter African-American, 19 percent Hispanic, and eight percent Asian-American.

Many of those affected homeowners are facing the threat of foreclosure. The foreclosures are on hold right now. Since the storm, the Fed­eral Housing Administration  and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac  placed moratoria on foreclosure filings and foreclosure sales on damaged homes until April 30, 2013.  After this, more people–mostly homeowners of color–may lose their homes.

New York City Council Candidate Running On Hurricane Sandy Recovery Platform

January 9th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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A Far Rockaway resident in front of her home in November. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

A Far Rockaway resident in front of her home in November. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Selvena Brooks, a communications specialist for the Service Employees International Union, is running for a vacant seat in the New York City Council’s 31st District. The district covers the city’s Far Rockaway area, which was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. In fact, Brooks is submitting paperwork to run as a “Rebuild Now” candidate, representing a party that’s focused on the Sandy recovery effort.

The New York Observer‘s Politicker blog quotes a statement from Brooks: “I am asking for people’s support on the Rebuild Now line, because we need strong leadership in not only rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, but also rebuilding our education system, local economy and neighborhoods.”

Brooks at a gun violence rally. Via Twitter

Brooks at a gun violence rally. Via Twitter

Brooks is one of a number of candidates running for the position, which became vacant when the previous official, James Sanders, left for the State Senate. A special election is set for February 19.

Parts of New York and the surrounding area are still coping with Sandy’s aftermath, months after the storm hit in October. It was only last week that Congress approved a government flood insurance program that would pay out $9.7 billion to 120,000 victims of the storm. The measure passed overwhelmingly in the House and unanimously in the Senate. One of those who voted against the measure, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the former Republican Vice Presidential candidate, who said the flood insurance program is “insolvent,” according to Bloomberg.

That vote followed a thorough blasting from fellow politicians, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

A vote for a larger relief package was cancelled on the 1st after fiscal cliff talks were finally resolved. The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut had originally asked for tens of billions of dollars in aid.

There will be another vote on January 15, which would bring the aid total to $60 billion.

 

 

 

New York, New Jersey Congress Members Up In Arms After House Fails to Take Up Sandy Relief

January 2nd, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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New York Rep. Peter King (left) with other New York representatives. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

New York Rep. Peter King (left) with other New York representatives. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Members of Congress from the New York and New Jersey area are livid over the House of Representative’s failure to take up a bill that would send billions in relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

According to The New York Times, the Senate approved $60.4 billion in aid last week. But time ran out before the 112th Congress wrapped up yesterday with the fiscal cliff vote. So it has to wait until the 113th Congress, which gets started tomorrow.

Local lawmakers at the state and federal level have been on a tear today over the delay. A statement from Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Andrew Cuomo from New York says, “With all that New York and New Jersey and our millions of residents and small businesses have suffered and endured, this continued inaction and indifference by the House of Representatives is inexcusable.” Here’s more from a Christie press conference, in which the Governor takes it a little further.

Republican Rep. Peter King (NY) took to the House floor to openly blame House Speaker John Boehner, who Rep. King said, “walked off the floor and said for whatever reason that the bill was being pulled” after yesterday’s tax vote. Speaker Boehner’s office says a meeting will take place today at 3pm and a vote will take place this month, according to Politico.

Sen. Chuck Schumer also said today, point blank, that he was “angry” over the situation, lamenting that now, because of the wait for a new session, the “we’re gonna have to start all over.” His comments were joined by those of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Besides the fact that the fight over the fiscal cliff superseded any other legislative discussion, it’s believed that the size of the bill was a hindrance. The $60-plus billion is actually less than what had been first suggested.

The money would be used, according to the Times, to ” help homeowners and small-business owners rebuild from the storm; to repair bridges, tunnels and transportation systems; to reimburse local governments for overtime costs of police, fire and other emergency services; and to replenish shorelines.”

Hurricane Sandy Relief: Money Raised From 12-12-12 Concert Ready For Distribution

December 20th, 2012 - By Ann Brown
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Diddy and Olivia Wilde take the stage at the 12-12-12 Concert. AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca

Diddy and Olivia Wilde take the stage at the 12-12-12 Concert. AP Photo/Starpix, Dave Allocca

Hurricane Sandy caused more than $42 billion in destruction. Many lives were lost and people left homeless. So the $50 million relief from the recent “12-12-12” Sandy benefit concert is more than welcome.

Although the organizers of the star-studded concert have yet to announce the total amount raised, they have said that the first installment of donations is ready to be distributed, according to Rolling Stone magazine.

The fundraiser for The Robin Hood Relief Fund included performances at New York’s Madison Square Garden by Kanye West, Alicia Keys, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, the Who and Paul McCartney. The concert was broadcast on a number of television stations.

The money will go to various groups aiding victims of the late October storm that devastated parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the Los Angeles Times reports. Money was raised not only through ticket sales but also sponsorships, merchandise, telephone and Internet donations, as well as online auctions of memorabilia and advance orders of a forthcoming live album, which hit number one on iTunes as a pre-order. In all, two billion people were said to have had access to viewing the event.

“The money raised to date is going right to hundreds of organizations in the tri-state area serving those who need it most,” said David Saltzman, executive director of Robin Hood Foundation, in a statement. “Robin Hood has already begun granting the funds for Sandy relief. We are continuing to raise funds through various ongoing sales opportunities and donations and we urge people to continue to contribute.”

Oh, Sandy: The Storm May Affect Holiday Airfares, But There Are Still Deals to Be Had

November 9th, 2012 - By Ann Brown
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Image: AP Photo/Mike Wintroath

If you haven’t booked your Thanksgiving flights yet, the tickets may cost you a little bit more this year. And the lingering efforts of Hurricane Sandy could be the reason. During the storm period, airlines grounded thousands of flights, causing them to lose revenue. In order to make up their losses, carriers might have to raise airfares.

Holiday travel prices were already expected to be most costly this year. “The average round-trip domestic airfare will be 4 percent to 9 percent higher than a year ago,” reports Tulsa World.

United Airlines just announced that Sandy caused its October revenue to be cut by about $90 million  and profit  by $35 million because the carrier was forced to cancel nearly 5,300 flights.  Traffic in October fell 3.3 percent. “That’s nearly an entire day’s worth of United’s schedule lost. It runs about 5,500 flights a day throughout the world, including those operated by its regional partners,” reports The Chicago Tribune.

Delta, too, was affected, and according to the Trib, the hurricane cut its October revenue by $45 million and profit by $20 million. Both  airlines expect the negative impact of Sandy to continue through the month of November.

There are still a few deals to be found, Courtney Scott, senior editor of the online travel website Travelocity tells Tulsa World. According to Scott, the average round-trip domestic airfare this Thanksgiving is $386, including tax—but you can do better.  How? Don’t travel when everyone else is. “If you can adjust your travel dates, you can save as much as $288 on your Thanksgiving airfare. We recommend leaving on Thanksgiving Day and returning home on Friday, Nov. 23, or Tuesday, Nov. 27, to see the most savings and avoid the crowds at the airports,” Scott explains to Tulsa World.

Before you travel, also check out Black Travel Girl and U Go Gurl! for travel tips and resources.