Council aide: Far Rockaway is New York’s 9th Ward
Far Rockaway is "just as bad as the folk in the 9th Ward," said Donavan Richards, an aide to City Councilman James Sanders, referring to the poor, Katrina-ravaged section of New Orleans.
Far Rockaway is mostly poor and African-American.
"We have just as great a need as every other community, if not more," he said. "It's always the poorest areas that are left abandoned."
He was talking to me on a cell phone and the connection was full of static. Richards said the councilman's office is open, even though they have no electricity or phones.
"We can't get the media's attention. We're being overshadowed" by other communities, he said. "We need to make sure the resources are equitable because people lost here just as bad."
Richards was alluding in part to Breezy Point, an enclave at the western end of the Rockaway peninsula which is almost exclusively white and which was devastated by the storm, although he made a point of saying that he didn't want to take anything away from the residents there.
"There is no OEM presence, no FEMA presence," he said, talking again about Far Rockaway.
This dispatch from The Wave seems to confirm some of Richards' complaints:
The closest distribution center has been set up at Resorts World Casino in Ozone Park. That however, is inaccessible for residents who all lot their cars to water damage in the storm. Reports of an ad-hoc community center opening up at Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 113 Street is the first point at which residents can pick up and drop off supplies. In Far Rockaway officials from FEMA were expected on Thursday but so far, no help has arrived. National Guard is in Rockaway, but don’t appear to be doing much more than driving around.
Richards said he thanked God for food deliveries, which he said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office had helped to facilitate.
But he asked, "How long is this going to last? Another two weeks?"
The area gets its power from LIPA, some of whose facilities are still flooded, and which has advised its customers that the wait for power might be a matter of weeks, according to Richards.
"They can't even give me a guestimate," he said.
This afternoon, trucks full of food and as many as 20 power generators left Jackson, Mississippi, heading for Far Rockaway, said Richards, after the mayor there, Harvey Johnson, "reached out and asked how he could help."
The supplies are expected to arrive sometime tomorrow afternoon.
In the meantime, Richards said, he's advising people to get out.
"The best I can say to people right now, because there is no electricity, is to leave," he said. Citing conditions in a number of housing projects (Redfern, Ocean Bay, Beach 41st Houses, the Hammel Houses), Richards said the problem there wasn't just the lack of electricity, but of food and basic security.
"It's pitch-dark black," he said. "We are seeing a lot of push-in robberies because people are so desperate for food."
He told me, "I have single mothers calling me in frigid apartments asking me for help. And I have to tell them to leave."
Here are some images published by the Wave recently. Go here to see more.