Sandy victims decry lack of help

Some residents of the Rockaways have received very little help for Sandy recovery, according to David Cockfield, pastor of the Battalion Assembly Pentecostal Church. Photo Bianca Fortis
TimesLedger Newspapers

A year after Hurricane Sandy struck New York City, members of the Arverne community in the Rockaways say they have not received much help in the way of recovery.

“Most of the time when we are looking around and drive the streets, everything seems OK,” David Cockfield, pastor of Battalion Pentecostal Assembly Church, said Tuesday. “But everything is far from OK.”

Members of the church gathered outside to issue a public call to action to keep fighting for their community, Cockfield said.

He said much of the damage caused by the storm has not been repaired.

“Every house — there is not one home here that was not destroyed,” he said.

The affected areas run from the west end of Rockaway Beach Boulevard to Beach 59th Street.

Cockfield said because so many people still need help, community members want to let their voices be heard to the powers that be.

The pastor said Rockaways residents have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of available services and resources as well as the difficulties dealing with their insurance companies, the city and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The area’s elected officials attended the rally to publicly support Cockfield and his congregation.

“The local people should be the people deciding what happens to the resources,” state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) said. “We don’t need people in Washington, D.C., Albany or in Manhattan deciding the fate of people right here in the Rockaways.”

Some of the problems in the neighborhood stem from before the hurricane, according to Arverne residents. The community has long dealt with flooding issues because there are no sea walls or storm sewers to protect them from Jamaica Bay or heavy rain.

City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said he has been working with government agencies to address those infrastructure problems within the next few years rather than in 2020, as the city has promised.

“We deal a lot with this red tape,” he said. “But government needs to get beyond the tape and look at the faces of these people behind me. These are the people who we need to be cutting this tape for.”

State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) described his own difficulties in accessing services after his home flooded during the storm.

“This city failed. I don’t have to tell anybody here,” he said. “The city failed, and the mayor failed this community. Quite frankly we shouldn’t have to put up with it anymore.”

Goldfeder said the community has been able to survive because residents have been able to help one another. Now, it said, it needs assistance from other agencies.

“Manhattan is getting built back quicker than ever and yet we still suffer,” he said.

He said everyone must be held accountable.

”One day is going to be the reckoning and right now we’re holding them accountable,” he said.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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