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Rockaway recovery far off

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Photo gallery

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Michael Haywood stands in his Far Rockaway home, which was flooded during the superstorm.
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Vehicles pass by businesses on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, where a fire destroyed several blocks of stores.
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Predator the cat patrols Beach 32nd Street.
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Debris is all that remains of businesses along Rockaway Beach Boulevard near Beach 114th Street after a fire.
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Phones are charged at a station outside the Hammel Houses.
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A piano is among items left out for garbage pickup in Rockaway after the storm.
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A sign for the marathon was visible on Rockaway Beach Boulevard Sunday night.
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Nadia Maximenko photographs the broken boardwalk. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The Rockaway boardwalk is broken near Beach 33rd Street. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Tormoria Pedlar, a 40-year Far Rockaway resident, said the boardwalk came apart in front of his eyes during Sandy. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A car on Beach 32nd Street is filled with debris. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A sign outside a bungalow on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Photo by Christina Santucci

More than a week after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in the Rockaways, many areas of the peninsula were still reeling from the storm.

While most of the Rockaways were still without power Tuesday, the Long Island Power Authority provided 10 emergency generators to bring electricity back to some of the Hammel Houses project, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the NYPD set up 174 light towers citywide Sunday, including some in the Rockaways.

Police said Sandy’s death toll citywide was 40 as of Tuesday, with nine people having lost their lives in the Rockaways. Most recently, George Stathis, 90, was found dead between a couch and a wall on Beach 121st Street.

Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of more than 600 nursing home patients Tuesday in anticipation of the approaching nor’easter.

After the sun set Sunday, the darkened main streets were punctuated by the light of the NYPD floodlights and car headlights as vehicles navigated around large piles of debris and mounds of sand. Residents and volunteers used flashlights and lights fitted to headwear to illuminate their paths through the blackened roads.

Nearly every street was lined with piles of furniture, mattresses and other wrecked items. Several residents mentioned a 6 p.m. curfew in the area, with one man saying, “You don’t want to be around here after that anyway.”

Many Rockaway residents said they were frustrated about the seemingly slow organized relief response to their devastated communities, and some said they were angry the city was not better prepared despite advance warning of Sandy’s approach.

“We were left for dead for a long time,” said one person who would only identify himself as “Man” and said his apartment had been without power and heat for days.

Many residents lost all of their belongings during Sandy.

Near Beach 46th Street, Charmaine Felix and Ronald Adams bagged loads of garbage and pointed out a huge crack in the concrete of their flooded basement. Felix, who owns a computer shop near Beach 114th Street which burned down during Sandy, said she now sleeps under two duvets to stay warm in her freezing house.

On Beach 36th Street, Filipp and Nadia Maximenko navigated along the broken boardwalk to photograph where the famed walkway split in half. Streets near the beach were covered in a thick layer of sand and fire hydrants were half buried.

“It’s like no one knew we existed here and that was the hurting part about it,” said Michael Haywood, a career services director who lives in Far Rockaway, as he stood in the doorway of his flooded house Sunday on Seagirt Boulevard near Beach 27th Street.

“I haven’t cried yet, but that’s coming, trust me. I’m still in shock right now,” he said.

Outside his house, a makeshift clothing drive had been set up along the curb, and fellow Rockaway residents picked through coats, shoes, jeans and T-shirts. By 4 p.m., a box marked “Cleaning Supplies” had already been emptied.

Further west in Rockaway, residents outside the Hammel Houses used charging stations set up in tents to power up their phones and other electronics, as volunteers from New York Cares unloaded a truck of water and food brought in by the National Guard. Representatives from Citibank said an ATM had been set up at 113-01 Beach Channel Drive and fees had been waived on the machine.

Near Beach 114th Street — where several blocks of businesses were severely damaged by fire — volunteers from the Occupy Wall Street movement handed out platefuls of rice, vegetables and meat by flashlight.

Residents braved dropping temperatures and a line that wound through Conch Playground and a block down the bordering sidewalk to receive food, water and other supplies at an aid distribution point.

In the distribution center’s second day Friday, police officers and volunteers from state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s (D-St. Albans) office, the Salvation Army, airlines JetBlue and Delta and OTG, an airport food and beverage operator, handed out free sandwich lunches, MREs, water and clothing. JetBlue brought in trucks that handed out pizza and cupcakes. “MREs” means “meals ready to eat.”

Tormoria Pedlar, a 40-year resident of Beach 32nd Street, said unexpected issues are now arising. He complained that raccoons sought refuge in the houses and now it is impossible to get them out.

Pedlar weathered Sandy in his home a block from the beach and said he watched the boardwalk come apart in front of his eyes.

As he kept an eye on his cat Predator prowl through garbage on the street Sunday, Pedlar gave his take on the storm.

“God is mad at the world, if you ask me personally,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at kfrantz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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