Many Voices At Sandy Meeting
And hear it, he did. Stringer was presiding over the Sandy Oversight Town Hall meeting at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church. More than 250 people filled the pews and lined the walls of the Arverne church.
Many had come to speak and many more came to listen, as person after person let the Comptroller know exactly where things are in Rockaway nearly 19 months after Sandy.
The Mount Carmel meeting was one of several the Comptroller is holding as his office moves forward with audits and assessments on the effectiveness of recovery related programs such as Build It Back, and others.
“Part of the auditing process,” Stringer clarified,” is not just ‘gotcha’! It’s also about finding good ideas and amplifying them.”
Among those attending were homeowners, renters, condo owners, NYCHA residents, civic and community organization representatives, advocates for the elderly and disabled, as well as a number of local elected officials.
Along with a large staff, which collected information to help with individual issues, Stringer brought a panel of deputies to answer questions.
Amy Peterson, the new head of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery and now in charge of Build It Back was also present.
The questions, comments and emotions covered a wide range.
“I have never felt so disenfranchised in my life,” one woman said. “Promises have been made and promises have been broken.”
“They don’t know us,” one older man said, referring to workers who do not have an understanding of the area and its post-Sandy problems.
“I am concerned about the health of the Rockaways,” noted Elaine Short, new president of the Far Rockaway NAACP branch. She cited previous speaker’s comments on asthma issues, building debris, mold and lead poisoning. “Was there any data gathered for Rockaway?” she asked. “And if not, why not?”
“I am more concerned about the churches, the synagogues, the places of worship that all need help,” another woman said.
Noreen Ellis, president of the Rockaway Civic Association declared, “Nobody is looking at the millions and billions of dollars that people from all over the world have given to help our community.”
She wanted to know if that money was being spent in Rockaway and going to hire people from Rockaway.
Along that line, a representative from the Rockaway Resilience Network brought up the “employment versus career” issue. She stated that Rockaway needs a long term approach to training people for good jobs beyond construction work.
She also noted that many people have been working to make things better and help even while dealing with their own storm related difficulties.
One woman detailed the problems New York City Housing Authority residents are still facing.
“We are prioritizing the NYCHA audits,” Stringer responded.
“We have as many people living in NYCHA housing as there are in the city of Boston,” he said.
“If we lose NYCHA, you know what happens. Some developer will come along and say, ‘Oh, I can fix that.’ We can’t let that happen.”
Closing the meeting Stringer thanked the crowd for coming out in such numbers and remarked, “A lot of you spoke for yourselves, but you also spoke for the Rockaways. You came for those who couldn’t.”
Reactions afterward were mixed.
“What did you think?” a woman was asked.
“It’s the same story all over again,” she said. “It never ended.”
Another person disagreed, “I think it was a good meeting,” he said. “A lot came out of it. That helps. We’ll see.”
“After almost two years I am still out of my house,” another woman said after the meeting. “So I feel for the whole peninsula and it’s very personal, too.”
Do you think these meetings will help, she was asked?
“I don’t know.”