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Eleven weeks after  Hurricane Sandy, much of New York City has reassumed a state of normalcy, but as the headlines fade some victims are still taking their first halting steps toward recovery, settling in for the long road ahead. That’s the case in post-Sandy Staten Island. Neighborhoods like Cedar Grove, a close-knit beachside community of working-class families, took on 12 ft. of water as the superstorm raged against Staten Island’s south shore.

A damaged house in Cedar Grove, Staten Island.

Here, the shadow of the storm emerges in unexpected moments.  On a crowded bus, phrases like “You’re a hero” and “We were wiped out” are spoken without a shred of irony. On the sidewalk, conversation  fluctuates between anger and hope, laughter and tears.  Neighborhoods have been transformed, but not destroyed; living in the “forgotten borough,” Staten Islanders are known for their self-reliance. Still, organizers feel that the government has left them behind following last week’s decision to pass only a small portion of a Sandy relief bill. 

This site visit was organized by the Municipal Art Society’s Charting the Road to Resilience conference, a program held Saturday, January 12th, to create a dialogue concerning the Sandy response in New York City.  Here’s a look at the ongoing recovery post-Sandy on Staten Island:

Melanie Cohn leads a walking tour through Cedar Grove.

Melanie Cohn of the Council for the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island leads a walking tour through Cedar Grove, Staten Island.

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Entrance to the devastated Cedar Grove Beach. A dozen houses once lined the ocean, now only two newer constructions remain.

Residents who've returned say that some of their neighbors haven't been back yet to survey the damage.   Many are still displaced in shelters, living in distant hotels, or staying four to a bedroom with in-laws.

Residents who’ve returned say that some of their neighbors haven’t been back yet to survey the damage.  Many are still displaced in shelters, living in distant hotels, or staying four to a bedroom with in-laws.

A lost portrait returned to a neighbor.

Some are living inside their damaged homes, struggling to make repairs themselves.  Countless individuals are dealing with the latent psychological effects of the storm.

Debris has been cleared from this lot, only a painted foundation remains.

Signs of progress are becoming more common. Debris has been cleared from this lot, exposing a painted foundation.

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Construction materials come and go as contractors begin the process of rebuilding. The city’s Rapid Repair service has been effective for many, although some residences are beyond help.

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A painted notice on this collapsed house warns looters to “keep out.”

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On Cedar Grove Ave, a damaged home becomes a symbol of resilience.

Spray painted markers and notices signify the livability of the houses, if residents have been accounted for, or whether or not the structure will be razed.

Snacks, Heat, and TV available at the grassroots recovery center at Miller's Field.

Across the street at Miller’s Field, a Brooklyn motorcycle club (the Hallowed Sons) has set up a recovery center.  Inside, victims, volunteers, and passersby can pick up a hot meal in a heated tent, watch TV, and enjoy some companionship.

Local restaurants donate  hot food to feed the neighborhood.

Local restaurants have been generous, donating hot food to feed the neighborhood.

A volunteer (and his dog) had been there since the day after the storm.

A volunteer (and his dog) had been camping out there since soon after the storm.  “For every good story, there [are] bad ones,” he says.

FEMA stops by the recovery center.

A group of young FEMA staff check in with the center’s leader.

Sharing ideas with community leaders.

Last week, they were strangers, but today, a group of homeowners are coming together to organize a march down Cedar Grove Avenue in conjunction with similar demonstrations across New York and New Jersey.  Their unofficial motto? “It’s not a me thing, it’s a we thing.”

Organizers feel that the government has left them behind following last week’s decision to pass only a small portion of a Sandy relief bill.

Congress will vote on an additional $51 billion in aid later this week.

Congress will vote on an additional $51 billion in aid later this week.

2 Comments

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