2013-01-11 / Community

"Walk A Mile " March To Storm The Beach

By Dan Guarino

On Saturday morning, January 12th, the Sandy Claus Foundation in conjunction with the Rockaways/Hurricane Sandy News network will be organizing a “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” march and rally which organizers hope will be a massive event.

Marchers will assemble on the beach at Beach 112th Street at 9 a.m. The march itself will begin at 10 a.m., with a route that will take participants from the beach to Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

There they will proceed along the south or ‘beach’ side of the Boulevard to Beach 116th Street, where they will turn and march toward the beach.

The march will continue along on the beach, in sight of the wrecked Rockaway boardwalk, to Beach 130th Street.

There will be a rally at 11 a.m. on the beach between Beach 130th and 131st Streets.

There will also be an All Access route, running completely along Rockaway Beach Boulevard from Beach 112th Street to Beach 130th Street for anyone with mobility challenges, families with strollers, carriages, etc.

Participants are invited to join at any point along the way. They may also join in at the rally.

Expected speakers are set to include community organizer Prince Brown, the Rockaway Guardian’s Sharon Plummer, Luis Casco of Occupy Sandy, who is also a resident, the Graybeards’ Steve Stathis and John Cori of Demand the Sand.

Also speaking will be members of the Cassidy family, which has been directly affected by the storm and its aftermath in the Rockaways, New Jersey and other areas.

Other speakers will include Senator Chuck Schumer and State Senator Malcolm Smith. Additional possible speakers include Congressman Gregory Meeks, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and City Council candidates Selvena Brooks and Donovan Richards.

The Walk A Mile In My Shoes event has been granted special NYC Parks Department permission for the beach march. Organizers advise participants to wear warm clothes and comfortable, strong soled shoes. They also ask all to be respectful of the neighborhoods they will be passing through, keeping noise to a minimum.

Heavily promoted on Facebook, by e-mail and word of mouth, march organizers state the event’s purpose is to call national attention to the ongoing need for hurricane Sandy disaster efforts.

In a pre-event media release, organizers stated, “The goal …. is to show solidarity and urge immediate passage of a comprehensive Hurricane Sandy relief package by Congress.

Once any relief package is passed, Sandy-affected communities (are) calling for swift and effective follow-through by Federal, state and local government agencies to deliver desperately needed funds into hard-hit neighborhoods.”

"It is a crime that Congress will have failed to act until (more than) 78 days after Superstorm Sandy in providing the desperately needed funding to jumpstart this recovery," said Michael Sciaraffo, co-founder of the "Walk a Mile" community events and founder of The Sandy Claus Foundation. "People are suffering and lives are at stake. Funding for Katrina victims was passed within 10 days after the storm. Why are we any different?"

The “Walk A Mile In Our Shoes” rally planners state the event allows a platform for local politicians, “candidates, community advocates, Sandy victims and disaster relief leaders to all speak on the issues of concern that need to be brought to the public's attention.”

These issues include, they say, but are not limited to “storm recovery (muck outs, repairs), health care (mold and cold), and environmental resilience beach replenishment, storm protection” and more.

Noting that “this (Rockaway) was the first site,” co-founder Peter Corless stated,” It has now become a movement.” He advised the “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” Facebook page showed 663 “Yes” and 279 “Maybe” event invitation responses as of Wednesday, January 9th. Another 9,787 invitations were pending.

“It’s growing every day,” Corless said.

He went on to cite other “Walk A Mile” marches now sprouting up in other areas. According to Corless, events are planned for Gerritsen Beach and Coney Island in Brooklyn, Island Park, Long Island, and both Seaside and Brigantine, New Jersey. A combined event is planned for Keansburg and Union City in New Jersey.

Two separate marches will begin at opposite ends of Staten Island and join in the middle.

"These neighborhoods are suffering …a relief bill would be life-saving to these communities," said Corless.

Speaking with The Wave about the effort’s long term goals, he said “the #1 outcome we hope to get is an ongoing relationship between government and the communities they serve,” and to keep those relationships going.

“A first step in this would be establishing local volunteer ‘ambassadors,’ residents who can meet with elected officials, show them the affected areas and give them a personal view of the disaster.”

Overall he stated the aim is to move from aid to self-sustaining resilience. However he noted that many are still without basics like heat or electricity.

As organizers state, “we invite members of Congress, state legislatures, and executive branch departments at the national, state and local levels to "take a walk in our shoes" in communities across the Sandy-affected area.”

As Marina Callaghan, whose family has deep roots in Broad Channel and the Rockaways, said in an e-mail inviting friends and neighbors to the march, “We were hit the hardest. This storm did not discriminate. It affected us ALL. East end/West end, rich/poor, young/old. Come out. Stand proud.”

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