Still Feeling the Disaster, Weeks After Sandy



For those geographically removed from the East Coast, it may seem as though, in the four weeks that have passed since Hurricane Sandy hit, normalcy has returned to life in coastal New York and New Jersey. This piece by Chavie Lieber for JTA, published just before Thanksgiving, tells a very different story. Lieber writes, in part,

Some three weeks after Sandy washed ashore, power has been largely restored in the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and, for most people, life has gradually returned to normal. But for some, normal has been forever redefined.

“The history of our temple is now just moldering pulp,” said Amy Cargman, president of the West End Temple in Neponsit, a neighborhood just west of Belle Harbor on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens.

“Everything was completely decimated,” Cargman said. “We took the Torahs out, fortunately, but everything from prayer books to pews to the rabbi’s personal library is gone.”

Residents of Belle Harbor and Neponsit, both affluent areas, perhaps were better equipped than most to weather a catastrophic weather event. They had cars and cash and cruise ship evacuation routes — unlike many of their neighbors in the Rockaways and nearby Brooklyn and Staten Island. But even with comparatively deep pockets and up-to-date insurance payments, few will ever fully restore their lives.

“Even if I fix my home, our banks, our schools, our gyms, our temples, our restaurants are all gone,” said Laurie Musumeci, a 56-year-old real estate agent who lives near Vance and also is a member of the West End Temple. “It doesn’t feel like home. I’m right on the ocean but it’s hard for me to look at it right now. I can’t believe something I’ve loved my whole life did this to us.”

Musumeci’s family lost the five cars that were in her driveway when the storm hit as well as the basement of her home, which her grandfather built in 1939 and had served as her office and her son’s apartment. Musumeci estimates she needs $64,000 for repairs — the $2,700 she’s received so far from the Federal Emergency Management Agency is “a joke,” she says – and has had to tap into savings set aside for her daughter’s college tuition.

“Our insurance will only cover things they say is expected in the basement, like our boiler and heat system,” she said. “Everything else is gone.”

Elsewhere in the Northeast, residents had more immediate concerns than inadequate insurance payouts and lost guitars. In Atlantic City, which produced some of the most dramatic images of the storm’s devastation, some 6,000 homes were estimated to have been severely damaged and more than 600 people were made homeless.

Three weeks later, city shelters are closed, and in a city that already had a homeless population of about 3,000, other agencies are stepping in to fill the void.

Visit JTA to read the rest of this story, and see urj.org/sandy for continuous updates about the Reform Movement’s relief efforts.

Photo by Chavie Lieber for JTA

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Kate Bigam

About Kate Bigam

Kate Bigam is the URJ's Social Media and Community Manager. Prior to this, she served as a Congregational Representative for the URJ's East District and at the Religious Action Center as Press Secretary and as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. Kate is a native of Cuyahoga Falls, OH, and currently resides in Red Bank, N.J.

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