Allows New Yorkers to vote anywhere in the state.
It’s been a big week of decisions in the Big Apple. In one that could prove controversial, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an emergency executive order allowing voters in New York to cast their ballots at any polling station in the state. The move will help voters affected by Hurricane Sandy to cast affidavit ballots outside their usual polling place. “We’re trying to do the best we can,” said Cuomo Monday. “We want everyone to vote.”
The birds have returned to the beach for their annual nesting—and the uncommon people never left. Michael Daly reports.
The government-protected shorebirds of Rockaway have begun their annual nesting, just as they would if Hurricane Sandy had never swept through there six months ago.
Some of the birds have nested on an 11-block stretch of beach that the urban park rangers close off each spring as a breeding sanctuary. Others have settled in a debris-strewn patch of sand outside the preserve and just across the street from a huge housing development that was begun when such a storm as Sandy had not seemed possible.
“They don’t know any better," a park ranger whose nameplate read Billak said.
He was speaking of the birds, as he stood by one of the perimeters of bright orange string on green metal stakes that the rangers set up along with a RESTRICTED AREA sign around each nesting place they discover outside the sanctuary. This particular spot was occupied by an oystercatcher so sensitive to the approach of humans that it had walked off past a surviving patch of boardwalk that mighty Sandy had lifted and tossed aside. The red-billed bird had been trying to draw attention away from a shallow indentation in the sand—known as a scrape—that serves as its nest. Two gray and black speckled eggs were inside, looking perilously delicate, surrounded by bits of metal, brick, concrete, rock, wood, and glass.
But the ranger could have been speaking of the people who were continuing construction of the Averne by the Sea development—as if such a storm could not come again. The developer had erected a big sign amid the sawing and hammering.
“LIKE THIS WAVE? LIVE ON IT!
1 & 2 Family Homes For Sale”
$50 billion passed the House last week.
Maybe they were shamed into doing it by Jon Stewart? The Senate has scheduled a vote for Monday to allocate the rest of an aid package for the victims of superstorm Sandy. The $50 billion–plus package passed the House of Representatives last week, but has been held up in the Senate by Republican lawmakers, who have claimed it has too many unrelated amendments, or pork. The House speaker pulled a vote on the aid package during the last session of the 112th Congress, drawing heavy criticism from GOP darling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as well as many irate New York and New Jersey residents. After the uproar, Congress passed a $9 billion flood-insurance bill and pledged to soon pass the rest of the aid package.
The Republican congressmen who use New York as a campaign ATM, but turn a blind eye to suffering here must be held accountable, writes John Avlon.
Slap a scarlet “S” on these callous conservatives. Sixty-seven members of Congress–all Republicans—voted against even $9 billion of Hurricane Sandy relief yesterday.
Remember their names, and hold them accountable.
A laborer empties debris from a home damaged by Superstorm Sandy on January 4, 2013 in the Midland Beach area of the Staten Island borough of New York City. More than two months after the storm, Congress passed legislation that will provide $9.7 billion to cover insurance claims filed by people whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Sandy. (John Moore/Getty)
Twelve of the scarlet 67 voted for Hurricane Katrina relief—which passed ten days after that devastating Gulf Coast storm—but against Hurricane Sandy relief 69 days after its landfall in the Northeast. Their names: Trent Franks (AZ), Ed Royce (CA), Sam Graves (MO), Steve Pearce (NM), Steve Chabot (OH), Jimmy Duncan (TN), Kenny Marchant (TX), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Mac Thornberry (TX), Bob Goodlatte (VA), Tom Petri (WI), and Paul Ryan (WI).
These congressmen are content to use New York City and the tri-state area as an ATM when they are looking for campaign funds, yet they willfully turn a blind eye when hundreds of thousands of homes and small businesses are damaged or destroyed and more than 100 Americans are dead.
Note the name of last year’s vice presidential nominee and potential 2016 presidential candidate Paul Ryan on this list. Donors would do well to ask him about this vote. The Texas delegation likewise asked for federal funds when hurricanes have devastated their state, yet are ignoring suffering in the Northeast. But then conservatives often become liberal when an issue affects them personally. Just two years ago, Missouri Congressman Sam Graves begged President Obama for an emergency declaration to deal with flooding in his district—now he is afflicted with convenient amnesia.
The full list of the 67 “nos” is tilted toward the conservative Gulf Coast states and the congressmen—many elected after Katrina—whose constituents often feel the brunt of natural disasters.
Congressman Paul Broun—who when Obama was elected in 2008 called the president-elect a “Marxist” and compared him to Hitler, who denounced evolution as a “lie from the pit of hell” despite serving on the Science Committee—had no trouble asking for FEMA funds when his district was flooded in 2009. And Alabama’s Mo Brooks was equally eager for federal funds when tornados devastated his district in 2011.
Now goes to Obama to sign.
Time to seal the deal, Boehner. Both the House and the Senate voted Friday to release $9.7 billion in aid for superstorm Sandy victims, after House Republicans were excoriated for tabling the $60 billion bill New Year’s Day. House Speaker John Boehner reversed the decision after he was blasted by fellow Republicans like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who called the House’s decision to pull the bill “disappointing and disgusting.” Boehner promised that Congress would vote on the remaining $51 billion in requested funds Jan. 15. FEMA has been footing the bill for flood damage, but has warned that the National Flood Insurance Program’s funding will run dry next week if Congress doesn’t pitch in. The bill will now go to President Obama, who is likely to sign it, since earlier in the week he urged the House to vote on it immediately.
While Boehner and Congress dither over a $60 billion aid package, weary residents are growing desperate about rebuilding wrecked homes and communities—and anger is rising as the House prepares to vote Friday on a $9 billion down payment.
When Phillip Goldfeder, an indefatigable 31-year old first-term state lawmaker, is asked which of his constituents is most likely to be waiting on Congress to approve the promised $60 billion in Sandy aid, he responds simply, “almost everyone.”
Neighbors Virginia Dobles (left) and Hank Iori examine the damage done by Superstorm Sandy on Beach 131st Street in the Belle Harbor section of the Rockaways in New York on January 3, 2012. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Daily Beast)
“The Army Corps engineers are talking about rebuilding the beaches, but they need to know the funding to come up with an immediate plan,” said Goldfeder, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer. “And no one has a clue how it is going to be distributed. People need hope, and if we’re telling them that they may have a boardwalk next year or the year after, that only diminishes the feeling that this community is going to be rebuilt.”
And when Goldfeder says almost everyone, he really means almost everyone. The Far Rockaway split-level home he shares with his wife and two young children had four and a half feet of water on the first floor, taking out his office, den, and his kids’ playroom. And so as Congress prepares to vote on Friday on a long-delayed bill to provide $9 billion—out of a requested $60 billion—for flood insurance claims, he has a particular reason to be nervous.
“Personally I’m waiting on a payout from my insurance company, and it’s been two and a half months,” he said. “It could very well be that this $9 billion is what’s holding up my claim.”
Throughout low-lying areas in New York and New Jersey, this same cry is heard: we need help, Congress, and we need it now. On Wednesday, that cry boiled over into full-blown rage when House Speaker John Boehner tabled the relief package until the next session. Long Island Congressman Peter King, a Republican, urged locals to stop donating to the GOP. Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm said Boehner should lose his gavel. (Boehner hung on to it.) New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Boehner’s move showed why “the American people hate Congress.”
The $9.7 billion that Congress will take up tomorrow is supposed to replenish the federal flood insurance program that all Americans who live in a flood zone have to pay into. The fund is dry because the amount that residents of low-lying areas pay into it does not equal the amount of damage that floods can cause, never mind for the moment those who live outside of flood zones but still face damage from the storm. Later in the month, Congress is expected to take up a second part of the bill, which would provide another $ 9 billion for future mitigation efforts, as well as $17 billion to flood-stricken communities to begin the process of rebuilding.
In the meantime, residents who found in some cases their whole lives swept away by Sandy are out of luck. The flood-insurance program allows them only to take up to $250,000 out of it, and affected residents can receive another $31,000 from FEMA, money that can go toward temporary housing. In many cases, however, that temporary-housing money is running out too, as motel bills add up as the weeks without a home stretch on.
Republican Rep. Peter King threatens to leave party.
House Republicans on Tuesday nixed a bill that would have given billions in emergency relief to Hurricane Sandy victims, according to New York lawmakers. The bill was pulled by Speaker John Boehner, according to New York Republican Peter King, who called the decision “almost indefensible.” King, a longtime party faithful who chairs the powerful House Homeland Security Committee, threatened to leave the GOP on Wednesday morning. The Senate approved the $60.4 billion measure for Hurricane Sandy relief on Friday. President Obama joined in the chorus calling on the House to vote on the bill, issuing a statement saying, "When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to help those in need. I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same."
In N.Y. storage unit damaged by Sandy.
Uncork the anger. A Manhattan real-estate investor is suing a storage facility called WineCare Storage after it refused him access to his $300,000 wine collection after the warehouse’s cellars were flooded by Superstorm Sandy. Philip “Tod” Waterman III said he received emails from the company telling him his cases had to be moved, but “at least 95 percent of the wine we are storing is fine. That’s not good enough for Waterman, who says he’s spent $44,000 on storage fees at WineCare since 2006, and is demanding a court order to know exactly where his wine is located and how much of it was damaged.
And 30 years of reports stressing urgent disaster reform.
For the last 30 years New York officials were warned of a storm of historic proportions that could flood the subways, create widespread power outages, and hit the Rockaways peninsula especially hard. A 2006 report read: “It’s not a question of whether a strong hurricane will hit New York City. It’s just a question of when.” But tight budgets meant the warnings went unheeded—and when Hurricane Sandy hit, many of the problems were dealt with on the fly. “I don’t know that anyone believed it,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Associated Press. “We had never seen a storm like this. So it is very hard to anticipate something that you have never experienced.”
States seeking aid asked for more.
President Obama requested a $60.4 billion aid package from Congress Friday, to distribute across eastern states decimated by Hurricane Sandy. But that sum is not high enough, according to many leaders in states affected. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are asking for at least $82 billion for emergency repairs and infrastructure work. Lawmakers are hopeful that more funds will be granted as needs are revealed. “This supplemental is a very good start, and while $60 billion doesn’t cover all of New York and New Jersey’s needs, it covers a large percentage,” a group of the area’s senators said in a statement, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called it “the first good news New York has had in a while.”
The thrill ride pushed into the Atlantic by the hurricane should be allowed to stay put. Is there a better reminder to New Jersey of the indomitability that got them through the storm?
Alas, the town of Seaside Heights, N.J., will not get to leave its roller coaster in the ocean.
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Last week, Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers told a TV crew that the partially submerged Jet Star roller coaster, swept off a pier by Hurricane Sandy, would make a “great tourist attraction.” Now he’s recanted, saying that his previous statement “was not the brightest comment.”
And we were just beginning to like the guy.
“If it was going to stay,” the mayor says, channeling his inner sensible-guy, “there are issues.” Would the state Department of Environmental Protection allow it? Or does the decision rest with the Coast Guard? Or the insurance companies? “The whole situation is unfortunate,” says the mayor, who was plainly hurt after “everyone all over on Facebook… took a shot at me.”
Cowboy up, Mayor. This could be a legacy-burnishing moment.
There are, of course, plenty of reasons to dismantle the roller coaster. Left in place, it might pose a hazard to swimmers, surfers, boats, and every lunatic who decided that the rickety ruin would be fun to climb. And who knows how structurally sound it is now, or when part of it might collapse, causing further damage. The owners might as well hang out a “So Sue Me” sign.
All that notwithstanding, when did practicality have much leverage on a boardwalk? We’re talking, after all, about a 1,300-foot-long roller coaster rising 52 feet in the air, a ride that was built on top of a pier jutting out into the surf. And now people want to get all sensible?
Cameron Sinclair blitzes through post-Sandy New York, and our Malcolm Jones is there.
Cameron Sinclair has wanted to change the world since he was 6 years old.
Debris is cleared from the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J., Nov. 16, 2012. Inset: architect Cameron Sinclair. (Mario Tama / Getty Images ; (inset) Getty Images for Hubert Burda Media )
“I grew up in a really shitty neighborhood of south London,” he says. “It was extremely violent, it was like concrete wasteland, and that’s why I wanted to be an architect. I had a lot of Lego, and I used to go home and redesign my neighborhood. My parents thought I was nuts. I would come down to the dinner table with new urban-planning strategies. And luckily I grew up in England, so we didn’t have Ritalin, so they just brought me more Lego.”
Three decades later, Sinclair, 37, is the executive director of Architecture for Humanity (AFH), a nimble nonprofit humanitarian and design organization that since 1999 has split its time and money evenly on post-disaster rebuilding projects and assisting communities that might simply need a school or a clinic. Currently, though, “with our work in Haiti, Japan, and the Gulf Coast, it’s more like 60/40,” he says, with the emphasis on disaster relief.
That explains why, on a recent November day, Sinclair finds himself in post-Sandy New York City for a 24-hour blitz of fundraising and on-the-ground inspection of the disaster.
His schedule includes a trip to the Clinton Foundation, an MTV fundraiser for Seaside Heights, N.J., a late-night chat with a musician who may donate, and then, after maybe four hours of sleep, more meetings with Nike, DJ Spooky (that meeting falls through), a global construction firm, and then a trip to the Rockaways for a firsthand look at Sandy’s damage before flying to Las Vegas for a conference on rehabilitating that gambling mecca’s old and sagging downtown.
Asked if this is a typical day, Sinclair laughs and says, “It’s atypical that I’m in just one city.”
He explains his sense of urgency with a rundown of his “Rule of Four”: “You have four days to announce your intentions. Then you have four weeks to raise funds. Four months to create a plan that engages both community members and business leaders—this is community-led reconstruction. Then there are four years for reconstruction.”
Nic Reeger, a war veteran, guitar player, and longtime doorman at a historic apartment building in Manhattan, lost everything he owned—including his collection of 5,000 record albums—in the storm. He tells Abigail Pesta his New York story.
When a wall of water slammed into his front door, Nic Reeger was lying on the sofa, watching Hurricane Sandy on TV. Suddenly his living room became a roaring sea, as water rushed in at a frightening rate, and Reeger rushed out through a window. Outside in the night, the streets of his Long Beach, N.Y., neighborhood looked like "white-water rapids," he says. "I've never experienced anything like that, and I was in the Navy."
Nic Reeger presides over 15 Park Row. (Photographs by Paula Lobo for The Daily Beast)
Reeger, stately and silver-haired, describes the nightmarish evening while manning the front desk of a historic apartment building in lower Manhattan, where he serves as head doorman, presiding over the comings and goings of hundreds of tenants. He himself is now without a home.
Swept away in the storm: his lifelong collection of 5,000 vinyl records, along with an ancient stamp collection handed down by his grandfather and an array of vintage baseball cards that he wanted to pass on to his son. Also gone: several beloved guitars and amps, plus hundreds of VHS tapes of "music that will never be on DVD," he says.
Like many New Yorkers toiling away in day jobs, Reeger has a secret second life. A guitar and bass player, he has been collecting record albums and strumming in bands around the city, playing the blues, zydeco, oldies, for the past 50 years, ever since he was a teen. His record collection—78s of Elvis, Gene Autry—were a part of him. He is trying to wrap his head around the idea that his treasures are simply gone. "They don't give you a manual for this," he says, shaking his head.
Reeger, 64, had lived in the oceanfront community of Long Beach for nearly three decades. He had been renting his current place—a ground-floor apartment in a house on a hill—for the past four years. Before the hurricane hit, he barricaded the place with sandbags and wooden boards, he says, but didn't evacuate, as the media had "cried wolf" so many times before.
Now staying with his son and daughter-in-law in their small apartment in Bayside, Queens, he is facing two battles. The first is trying to collect insurance money, as he lost everything he owns, except for things he doesn't exactly need, like a random stone ashtray once given as a gift. His landlady, he says, is not making it easy. She's trying to claim he didn't live there, he says, to keep more insurance money for herself. The second fight is finding a new place to live, when real-estate agents are getting flooded with requests from suddenly homeless people like him. "Some of these guys don't even answer the phone," he says.
Reeger calls himself a survivor. "I survived Vietnam, 9/11, and three marriages, and I'll survive this," he jokes. He has connected with a lawyer to get some advice, thanks to a referral from a tenant in the building where he works, and is taking it day by day. "I've had a number of setbacks," he says with a sigh. "I'm still here. They can't keep me back."
At one of the main volunteer centers in the Rockaways, workers are learning fast as they race against hunger and dropping temperatures, reports Matthew DeLuca.
It won’t be an easy Thanksgiving in the Rockaways, where too many Queens families had their homes washed away in the surging tides of Hurricane Sandy. As the government has struggled to respond, amateurs have learned fast at the ad hoc Hurricane Sandy recovery center in the parking lot of St. Francis De Sales Parish of Rockaway Park. They have had to.
Donations are stored and distributed in the Saint Francis de Sales school gymnasium in the Rockaways, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. (John Minchillo / AP Photo)
It started with neighborhood moms and dads who took in donations that were sent from as far away as Seattle, but volunteers quickly swelled the relief ranks as the waters receded and it became clear in the close-knit neighborhood of Irish-Catholic families that surrounds the parish that the damage spread far beyond their own streets.
The church and its adjacent school building sit on Beach 129th Street, about halfway down the spit of land that juts out below Brooklyn and ends in Breezy Point, where 100 homes were reduced to embers. The Belle Harbor parish seemed well-placed to collect supplies and then distribute them throughout the area. Nestled amongst homes where the ideal of service rings with the carefully preserved names of local firefighters and police officers who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the church has become one of several critical outposts of aid dotting the peninsula.
It’s the parking lot across the street from the church that’s developed its own congregation in the past three weeks—a raggle-taggle group of people from across the city and the country who have worked to get food, cleaning supplies, and clothes to some of the areas neediest residents.
The group is racing to expand its operation—a task easier said than done in neighborhoods where piles of discarded furniture and appliances still litter the streets, cars rendered useless by sea water remain where the water took them, and police officers directing traffic wear construction masks to keep out the dust every passing vehicle kicks up.
Residents of the Rockaways gave thanks on the holiday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday announced a free temporary subway line, the H, running from Far Rockaway at the eastern end of the peninsula to Beach 90th Street, about halfway down its length. Getting volunteers to some of the hardest hit areas, and transporting supplies to the areas where residents are scrubbing encroaching mold from their walls with donated bleach, remain difficult tasks, volunteers at St. Francis de Sales said, and restoring some mass transportation may help add to their ranks.
Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.
As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.