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Lessons from the Rockaways

By Daniel Colon, on behalf of the Honors Student Advisory Committee

 

On January 19th, 2013 the Honors Student Advisory Committee (HSAC) teamed up with the Commission on Voluntary Service and Action (CVSA) to visit the Rockaways to assess the current living conditions of Hurricane Sandy victims.  We went door to door canvassing to identify what residents need so that Smallwater can provide specific assistance to each home.

 

At the Rockaways, HSAC and CVSA members met with the staff of Smallwater, a grassroots group from the Rockaways that formed in the wake of hurricane Sandy.  After formal introductions and a brief rundown of the current situation, teams were formed and sent to different parts of the neighborhood to speak to recovering victims.  We were assigned to canvass a neighborhood of the Rockaways that is populated predominantly by working class people of color.  The discoveries were shocking.  Since the storm hit last October, many families are still without proper heating in their homes.  Others are still homeless, living from day to day on the couch of a family member or friend. The downturn in mainstream media attention on these issues has created a false notion that conditions have improved and life has progressed to normal for Sandy victims.  In reality, this could not be farther from the truth.

The Rockaways looked more like a movie set of a new war movie than an actual neighborhood. Where there once stood a small business, someone’s investment and future is now a pile of rubble, garbage and signs of what once was.  The livewires of an unstable telephone pole looked like they could fall on an unsuspecting dog-walker when the next strong breeze blows by.  Garbage and junk covered the sidewalk between the burnt-down business and that rust-colored telephone pole.

 

On January 19th, 2013 the Honors Student Advisory Committee (HSAC) teamed up with the Commission on Voluntary Service and Action (CVSA) to visit the Rockaways to assess the current living conditions of Hurricane Sandy victims.  We went door to door canvassing to identify what residents need so that Smallwater can provide specific assistance to each home.

 

At the Rockaways, HSAC and CVSA members met with the staff of Smallwater, a grassroots group from the Rockaways that formed in the wake of hurricane Sandy.  After formal introductions and a brief rundown of the current situation, teams were formed and sent to different parts of the neighborhood to speak to recovering victims.  We were assigned to canvass a neighborhood of the Rockaways that is populated predominantly by working class people of color.  The discoveries were shocking.  Since the storm hit last October, many families are still without proper heating in their homes.  Others are still homeless, living from day to day on the couch of a family member or friend.  The downturn in mainstream media attention on these issues has created a false notion that conditions have improved and life has progressed to normal for Sandy victims.  In reality, this could not be farther from the truth.

 

The Rockaways looked more like a movie set of a new war movie than an actual neighborhood. Where there once stood a small business, someone’s investment and future is now a pile of rubble, garbage and signs of what once was.  The livewires of an unstable telephone pole looked like they could fall on an unsuspecting dog-walker when the next strong breeze blows by.  Garbage and junk covered the sidewalk between the burnt-down business and that rust-colored telephone pole.