Category: Politics

Five years later, Long Islanders are still reeling from Sandy impacts

Originally published at The Osprey

Pellets of hail splashed into the puddles in the parking lot. White-capped waves crashed on the coast. Fully grown trees bent over to the ground. Above, a gull flew toward the shore, but was moving backward in the wind.

“It was nice of Hurricane Sandy to show up for her anniversary,” Rabbi Glenn Jacob, executive director of New York Interfaith Power and Light, joked.

It was on the same day, October 29, that in 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City and Long Island, causing $71 billion in damage. On the anniversary of the storm, about a hundred local residents gathered under a pavilion at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst for a vigil and a call toward the state government for action.

“Sandy is not over,” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said. “Communities are still feeling impacts. Five years later, funds have still not been allocated to ensure that all the problems have been fixed.”

After the storm, about 11,000 qualified homeowners without flood insurance enrolled in NY Rising, the state-run housing recovery program. There are still 2,400 that have not been rebuilt, according to a source within the program.

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On the Lindenhurst coast, down the street from the rally, some houses still have plywood boards over the windows, with plastic covering flapping in the wind. After storms like the one this weekend, nuisance flooding still affects the low-lying residential areas, as drainage systems were damaged and never properly repaired after the hurricane.

“We’ve been fighting an uphill battle for five years,” Donald Werle, a Lindenhurst resident, said. “Instead of putting things back together the right way, the government came in and half-assed it.”

While Werle’s home was repaired after an expense of $100,000, some houses, he said, were never fixed. A foreclosed building next door is now only home to mildew and mold.

“There’s black mold all up the wall, and a school across the street,” Werle said, pointing to Harding Avenue Elementary School. “I’m not looking for them to make things special. I just want it healthy to live here again.”

One woman was in tears Sunday as she talked about her experience after the storm. It took her family four years to receive money from their flood insurance claim. But most of all, she was concerned with the health effects of the storm, which she said impacted her now 6-year-old daughter.

“Ella was diagnosed with one autoimmune disease,” Beth Henry, a school teacher that lives in Massapequa, said. “Then she was diagnosed with another.”

Adopt a House, which Henry is affiliated with, was a main sponsor of the event. It is a nonprofit agency dedicated to rebuilding local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. The organization both aids recovering families both monetarily and with case-by-case advisory, director Michele Insinga said.

Several sponsors of the event also made a call for government action to combat climate change, in the wake of the worst north Atlantic hurricane season since 2005.

“We need proactive measures,” Jacob said. “Long Island is just one big sandbar, which makes it incredibly susceptible to rising sea levels and tropical storms. We can’t keep being reactive. We must be proactive.”

Leaders of immigration and Jewish groups rally at Rep. Lee Zeldin’s office

Originally published at The Osprey

Several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Lee Zeldin’s (R-NY/1) office in Patchogue on Monday afternoon to denounce the congressman’s inaction and complicity with what rally leaders called “Trump’s white supremacist agenda.”

The event was sponsored by Bend the Arc, a Jewish activist group, and co-sponsored by Progressive East End Reformers and Make the Road NY, a Latino immigrants’ rights group. One of the protesters, 23-year-old France Duffoo, said in a speech that she felt “freed” by DACA, the Obama immigration act that Trump and Zeldin are looking to repeal.

“It gave me the opportunity to be part of society,” Duffoo, who moved to the United States from Peru at age 6. “When you don’t have papers, you’re not part of society. My parents, undocumented, have suffered that a very long time … With DACA, I was finally able to study, to work, to drive. It let me be a person.”

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The speech, one of five given during the event, was followed by a rousing applause. Several people in the crowd held signs, ranging from calls to action to caricatured drawings of Zeldin.

Organizers of the event stated four main demands to Zeldin: a censure of President Trump, a demand for the firing of White House official Stephen Miller, a call to remove Confederate symbols from the Capitol, and the passage of a clean DREAM Act to protect DACA beneficiaries.

Group organizers understand the unlikelihood of Zeldin, a fringe right-wing politician, adhering to that set of demands, however.

“Lee Zeldin is a personal embarrassment to us,” Bend the Arc spokeswoman Phyllis Hartmann said following the event. “He’s given no reason to think that he’s going to change. Really, I think the long-term goal is to replace him in the election in 2018.”

Two Jewish leaders, Rabbis Stephen Karol and Jan Uhrbach, spoke on the hypocrisy of Zeldin, one of only two Jewish Republicans in Congress, continuing to support leadership that has shown anti-Semitic undertones and allegiances.

“You cannot include Nazis as part of your political coalition, and not be complicit in their hate and violence,” Uhrbach said in her speech.

With every point the rabbi made, the crowd shouted “yes” in response with fists in the air, a theme throughout the high-energy event.

“I don’t understand how Zeldin can represent so many immigrants, so many undocumented people, and continue supporting this unjust platform,” college student Rodman Serrano, the son of El Salvadorian immigrants, said.

Trump himself has been more open in recent weeks to striking a deal with Democrats on DACA, but he is asking for funding for anti-immigration provisions — increased legal immigration barriers, a border wall, etc. — in response, according to a White House release on Sunday night.

Zeldin’s office did not respond to requests for interview for this story.

“I hope that seeing so many groups come together, seeing the energy not only here on Long Island, but across the country,” Uhrbach said after the event. “That it will at least give our Congress a little bit of courage to stand up for American values.”