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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

FEMA Housing Sought|for Hurricane Sandy Victims

MANHATTAN (CN) - More than 100 demonstrators stood outside Mayor Michael Bloomberg's house last weekend, urging him to send FEMA trailers to Hurricane Sandy victims suffering through winter weather.

New York City has fixed 1,200 homes damaged by Sandy, but more than 11,000 families' homes still need repairs, according to ABC News.

Many families still are without heat or electricity, and have not been able to take shelter in the "hundreds and hundreds" of FEMA vehicles collecting dust in a lot in Cumberland, Md., ABC reported last week.

Mayor Bloomberg last week defended leaving the RVs in Maryland to focus on New York City's so-called "Rapid Repairs" program to get people back in their homes.

But last weekend, protesters urged him to take a different approach.

"There were three actions today. One in Staten Island, one in the Rockaways, Far Rockaway, to be precise, and one here at Bloomberg's house," protester Bill Dobbs told Courthouse News.

Dobbs said that the demonstrations in conservative Staten Island and the Rockaways were "something of a first."

"It's the result of rising anger because ordinary New Yorkers that got slammed by this hurricane realize that if you don't take some action, you're going to wait a long time for help," he said.

Dobbs said the influence of Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, has changed the way some neighborhoods approach citizenship.

"There are many ways to take political action, but most people figure it's either voting or put your feet up," Dobbs said. "So the idea of leafleting or having a meeting or even going beyond that and carrying a sign, this a part of what Occupy was about and now some of this is pollinating other areas in the city, enabling people to find their voice."

Dobbs, a longtime advocate for gay rights, was among the crowd that gathered near Bloomberg's house in the Upper East Side.

Police blocked off the 5th and Madison Ave. corners of 79th Street with steel barricades, guarding the block where the mayor lives. Protesters had to send their message from half a block away, with chants, music, placards and marching.

Also on hand was Libor Vonschonau, a 34-year-old construction worker from Red Hook, Brooklyn.

He said he's spent every day since the storm hit helping deliver food and run errands for survivors.

"I don't know if you've tasted any of the packaged food: the self-heating, military and emergency packages," he said. "Could you possibly eat the same meal every day, for three times a day?"

Vonschonau said he delivers food donated by local restaurants and a pastry shop. Other times, he said he offers free professional advice.

"You want people to know that if the sheetrock and the wood got flooded, there's going to be mold and that's going to cause damage to their housing," he said.

He said he has become friends with many of the people he met on his rounds.

"People would like to live with dignity. If they cannot wash your clothes, you are losing certain dignity. If you cannot take a shower, you are losing your humanity," he said. "We don't have the resources to do it properly because of the austerity measures and the budget cuts. "

City Hall did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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