Editorial: Sandy:  Still Beating on Us, but Not Breaking Us Down

Editorial: Sandy: Still Beating on Us, but Not Breaking Us Down

The Forum has spent the last couple of weeks reviewing 2014 and reflecting on some of the big stories that have impacted our community over the course of the year. As many do, we use the new year to look at what happened in our past and how it might affect our future.

When we have the chance to actually see the year in articles and photographs, laid out before us in a distinct timeline, the perspective is somewhat enhanced. A striking thing occurred when we did it at the Forum this year: we realized that the overwhelmingly prevalent story, the big thing weighing on everyone’s minds, the issue that seems unresolved, even after more than two years — was still Superstorm Sandy. It’s truly as though we haven’t taken a breath since beginning the conversation in October 2012. The domino effect the storm had on our community has been devastating many times over, and we’ve been paying for it with our lives, our work, our insurance, and our credit. The Forum has continued and will continue to cover the story of what-is-now the second-costliest hurricane the United States has suffered, to the tune of $50 billion. From Build it Back’s lack of structure – no pun intended, to FEMA’s “Indian gifts” and political posturing — to the good parts: communities coming together, organizations like Catholic Charities, and grassroots efforts, there have been myriad subtopics to cover, and frankly, little seems resolved. Just look at the buildings and boardwalks still under construction, the roadways damaged, the businesses destroyed.

Recovering from storms is no easy feat, even when the storms’ scope of destruction is far smaller than what we experienced with Sandy. A tornado takes out a school in rural Virginia, and it might be years before it’s rebuilt if there’s no money to do so. After Katrina in 2005, to date the costliest storm our nation has seen, it took seven years to be able to state unequivocally that victims displaced from their homes were no longer living in trailers. New Orleans is finally fortified enough to handle a category 3-level hurricane. To be fair, the city took a one-two punch after Katrina waters had receded: first, with Hurricane Rita a month later – wham — and then with Isaac in 2012, just when it was finally getting back on track – bam! Those people have endured enough storm trauma for several lifetimes, and the city will never be the same again, some 120,000+ residents having permanently relocated elsewhere. As we approach the 10-year anniversary of Katrina, it does make us wonder what we have to look forward to in the ongoing recovery from Sandy.

Remember “Game Changer?’” That was $90 million that had been designated during the Bloomberg administration for a competitive program in five areas of the city: the East/South Shores of Staten Island, Southern Manhattan, Southern Brooklyn, the Brooklyn-Queens Waterfront, and South Queens. Each area was eligible for $18 million that was ostensibly to be awarded to one or more businesses that developed innovative ideas to promote long-term economic growth. Evidently, after a change in the mayoral administration and months of bureaucratic red tape, Game Changer is dead, the $90M is now $84M, and it’s going to be put mostly toward Build it Back – a program that has had its fair share of problems.

Another doozie we’ll be looking into more in the coming weeks: some homeowners’ insurance companies have allegedly been falsifying engineering reports to reflect that structural damage from Sandy existed prior to the storm and is due to settling, rather than the force of the hurricane. By the way, conveniently enough, insurance companies named as defendants in flood insurance lawsuits have their legal costs reimbursed by FEMA. Bam!

Though a distinctive pattern emerged in our 2014 timeline, with the new year comes new possibility and another calendar to fill with stories. We very much hope and are optimistic that our community will continue to stand tall, even while the hits keep coming.

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