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Interview with new resident of the Rockaways

APTOPIX Superstorm Sandy

Interview with new resident of the Rockaways
Interviewer: LP, Brooklyn College
3/3/13

Q: Okay, so, for number one, can you begin by telling me briefly about your experiences with Sandy?

A: Well we, rather unique, because we moved in, my husband has owned this house for a while, but the circumstances he wasn’t living here, and then moved in the Thursday before the storm. So we actually moved everything here from New Jersey, and then Sandy came.  When, when we heard the news, we weren’t quite sure if we should evacuate or not, because our area was, basically were told to evacuate, and we ultimately did.  So when we did evacuate, we headed up headed up toward [unintelligible 00:40] boulevard and at that point, certain areas already had, a flood gate had broken, and all the areas behind us were already flooded.  We probably had about a foot or two feet of water, in streets that are way past us, even though our street was not flooded.  So, we decided, let’s just go, and we stayed with a friend for the night, and then the next night when we came back, it was just completely, it was a mess down here, and I mean, it was all flooded.  Our, our actual, the walls actually you could see the marks from the water, we had five to six feet of water inside the house.  So everything was completely damaged.  The neighbors, I mean, I’m not sure where to even continue, but you walk in the house and everything’s just a complete disaster, because it’s, all your personal belongings are lost, all our computers, TVs, everything that we had just moved over from Thursday.  We had it here five days, and it was all completely destroyed.  So, I’m not sure actually, if I can continue, the one thing that was the most amazing thing that has happened from the storm, was the grassroots type of organization of people supporting people.  The days that followed, you know, people within the block started to organize and have volunteers who dropped off food, dropped off clothing, bedding, anything that was needed, so, we actually, just the grassroots area is where it was just incredible, people just putting other, neighbors supporting neighbors.

Q: [Unintelligible 02:18].

A: It was.

Q: That’s so sad about what happened.

A: And, and, and, my husband, who’s been living in this neighborhood since the eighties, he, the son and the father, the father and son who died, he knew them for more than thirty years.  So he, he was down in the basement and they drowned.

Q: Oh, God.

A: So, it’s really, really terrible.

Q: Yeah, you were telling me about them, but I didn’t know that he knew them.

A: He knew them.  He knew them for many years.

Q: That’s awful. I’m sorry to hear that.

A: So, so I, what was the main thing, as I said as the grassroots, and also the, the Oakwood Rescue Center that was on the the actual FW post.  It was just incredible, and just organizing volunteers to come and help.  When we came back here we really started, trying to clean up, and then ultimately when we started going to the, to the post, and then when we [unintelligible 3:14] we need volunteers, we would have, we would have, sometimes have ten people in the house just taking things out, taking out personal belongings and putting them into the street, because everything was ruined.  Taking down walls, taking down kitchen cabinets, taking out everything, and they just worked and gutted the house, and just, worked [unintelligible 03:31]. It was incredible.

Q: That’s really something.

A: Just people, just when you see what people have done, it’s just — there was a church in Stapleton that the people came, and they just came and donated their labor just to help, help people to clean up.  It’s just amazing.

Q: What were like your main problems that arose because of Sandy?

A: The main problem, that’s a good question.  The main problem, because what you wanted to do, because it happened in October and now you’re dealing with the winter coming in, you really wanted to make sure that your house had heat, and you weren’t, your pipes weren’t freezing had ultimately cause more damage.  Plus you wanted to deal with the mold, but then you also had to deal with your homeowner’s policy, insurance, and your flood insurance, and FEMA.  And ultimately [unintelligible 04:25].  So it was just very, very frustrating and not an easy process. So for dealing with trying to get your heat going, we were able to do that.  We actually signed up for rapid repair, which wasn’t very rapid because it took us months for them to even contact us and we already had a plumber in motion to get the heat going.  And as I said, you know, working through the insurance companies and the bank and all that was just, a bit of a nightmare.  A bit frustrating.  I’m sure you’ve heard that before from other people.

Q: I have, yeah.  I haven’t talked to many people about it, I’ve just sort of heard on the news and –

A: So we were very fortunate, because even our insurance company, they gave us an advance and then ultimately paid us, but there were people we know who never even got, they got maybe and advance, but never got payment from their flood insurance.

Q: So problem one, financial problems.

A: Yes, and, and ultimately, what I saw as a problem too is that if you were someone who rented, or someone didn’t have, who didn’t work, or didn’t have much, you were actually cared for, but if you actually did work, and you did, you know, have insurance, it seemed like things were, didn’t necessarily work in your favor.  So it’s almost like, it really, it almost didn’t pay to be a hard working person.

Q: And that’s how you ended up?

A: Right.

A: You ended up helping yourself when you’re out there doing a bag a day.

A: Right, exactly, or just coming here too and dealing here with the house and getting things in motion, and deciding that was because, we said, you know, we can’t afford to really pay rent, and also pay the mortgage, and let’s bite the bullet and get the repairs done and move back in. Only to find out now that potentially, governor Cuomo might be buying out, the, a program, a buyout program for Oakwood Beach.  Which is a very good thing, because it is a very vulnerable area.

A2: [Unintelligible 06:30].

A: Yes, the community is very organized.  So what has happened is, the community has organized, has actually even done research on what I think you more tend to [unintelligible 06:38] someone, they really put forward a plan of, you know, there’s a hundred and eighty three houses in the Oakwood Beach area, and a hundred and forty one people already have agreed to the buyout.  That’s a lot.

Q: Um-hmm (yes).

A: So basically what the plan is, what we hear is, that they ultimately would give the land back to mother nature.

Q: That’s good.  Alright.  Can you tell me about [unintelligible 07:13] during or right after?  Like uh, tell me about the problems, were you directly in the [unintelligible 07:17]?  You didn’t really explain that.  Is there anything else that you want to, sort of –

A: No it’s just more with the, you know with the confusion and I think what happens with the government when you have FEMA they have small business administration loans, each case is very unique to each person’s circumstances, and we went through all the paperwork and everything.   FEMA was great, and we started doing the small business administration loan and it really, I wish, they wish they would have been more up front about, about what you really needed to do, cause this fourteen thousand dollars, the first fourteen, you’re okay, but then after fourteen thousand you have to get, there’s basically a lien placed upon house and you have to go through building permits and other things, so they really should have been a little bit more up front about all the expectations.

Q: Right, you feel they should have given you more information about what to do?

A: Right, before we applied for it, because it didn’t really make sense for us. So ultimately we got approved for an SBA loan, but then they said if we had, being part of the approval process, they would take back the money FEMA gave us.  FEMA gave us the money, so then we had to borrow the money, so it made no sense, so, it was a lot of red tape, a lot of confusion, a lot of frustration.

Q: Wow.

A: Between us, the bank, the insurance company.

Q: Okay.

A: We also had an issue with our insurance company because they finally sent us the final payment,  and they know we’re living in separate housing and they sent the check to a house up the street.  So it was kind of, you know, and then it took two weeks to get even a stop payment.

Q: Right, they want to help people who are even more in debt with savings.

A: They’re just sending it to here.  They sent it to the house where we weren’t living.  So they send the check here, and we, you know, we had the mail forwarded and then the, it took us weeks to get the forwarding mail, and it took us weeks to get the bank to stop payment and reissue the check.  It’s a lot of –

Q: That’s what I think our mail system.

A: It’s just a lot of, you know, I, we understand there’s a lot of people impacted, but when you’re waiting for money and you have people doing repairs for you that you need to pay, you need to continue to pay them.  It’s not like I can say, we can turn around and say, oh, the checks in the mail, can you keep working for us?

Q: Right.

A: It doesn’t work that way.  So it’s, it’s interesting.

Q: That’s, that’s a lot to have to go through. My next question is what are the extents of those problems?  Do you think there are edges or boundaries to where the problem begins and ends or appears or disappears?

A: What really, I, you know it’s funny, I , I’m going to go back to my life but I miss in nine–in the seventies, I was more, I guess, liberal I think in nature, but as you end up working, you realize, at the end of this, because we were working, we actually, we lost assistance because we had something, where, it, no, we had flood insurance, we had homeowner’s insurance, we worked, and it was because of all that, it seemed like we were limited to any assistance we could get.

Q2: [Unintelligible 10:19]?

A: No, we got nothing from homeowners insurance.

Q: That’s awful.

A: And, you know, you want to help people who, who are poor, but it gets to an extent where, it’s almost like anybody who is working or is a middle class person, you’re basically kind of like, well you have money, you can just deal with it.

Q: Yeah, and you only have so much [unintelligible 10:41].

A: Right, and we have friends, and I’m not taking away from them and they’re wonderful people, they rented, and they got more money from FEMA, enough money from FEMA to actually pay for a year’s worth of rent.

Q: Wow.

A: And, and they got all sorts of new furniture and new everything, and, and it’s just amazing because.

Q: They got new furniture and everything, wow.

A: Right, yup, so it’s just, I’m not quite sure, So it’s kind of you know, you want people to be helped, but it’s like, it’s almost like people who do try and help themselves —

Q: Yeah, you feel like it’s just not really enough.  Because yeah, they’re being helped for their poorness, wonderful, but it’s like we’re middle class, we need help too.

A: Right, and when you hear about the Robin Fund, because the [unintelligible 11:22] flood, there was all these charities, the Red Cross, I mean, Red Cross, we saw Red Cross traveling weeks after Sandy hit, and they were walking around trying to console people who didn’t live here anymore, nobody lived here.  They didn’t understand that, they were three weeks late.  They were handing out cleaning buckets and things that, the brooms had been screwed together, it was just like a waste of money, so here’s all this money that’s out there but just not getting to the right, to all the people.

Q: Right.

A: I mean there’s people that need it and then I –

Q: You needed more structure, more organization.

A: Right, I mean at least give a little bit of help here and there.

Q: Yeah.

A: Even when I went to the Robin Hood fund, if we were basically, I think prisoners, people who were convicts who were basically released or if you were domestic violence or you were different groups of Asians, Hispanics, you were in the Bronx, you were in different places, you had the money given to your, and I counted the number of organizations on Staten Island, there was like, just a handful.  And even though, so where was all that money, where’s all the money that was collected for all this, for all these charities?

Q: Let me make sure that this is going first.

[Start Tape B]

A: Okay.

A: I did a lot of talking.  My husband will tell you that.  It’s funny ’cause, just to  examine that,  even the, a friend of mine who had, who had friends impacted out in Queens and Long Island, they said Red Cross was out there, they were giving, giving people a bottle of water and an apple, that’s all they were giving out to people.  Yeah.

Q: Wow.

A: So when you donate and you hear these things, and then you see these, what you get, I mean we were going to save our bucket from Red Cross, ’cause that’s the only thing we have, the bucket that we use that all that was useful that they gave us.

Q: Oh, wow.

A: So it’s, it’s just a, oh there it is.  There’s our bucket that we got from Red Cross.  That’s about it.

Q: And what did they put in there for you?

A: A bottle of, like a pint size of bleach, uh, some sponges.

A2: And they tell you to get rid of your mold with bleach.  Bleach does not work on mold.

A: No, that’s what they told us to do.

Q: Well, it sounds like to me like they were trying to help and they’re not stopping to think about, you know, practical ways of helping you.

Q: No.

A: You know what I mean because I don’t [unintelligible 01:10b], and they kind have to step down and think about, okay, how can we help them, what do they need.

A: Right.

Q: So maybe it’s because they didn’t have time to help you and like [unintelligible 01:20b], you know?

A: But the thing is too is like, they weren’t even, you didn’t see them come around, what you saw was such a, again going back to the grassroots neighborhood support.  Up at the VFW post, there would people just coming in all different, from, from restaurants, some, some people who just decided to cook up, what they would do is they would actually set up stands, they would actually bring in the food, and you could go up there, have a hot cooked meal, and you got a coffee, you got all sorts of things, they have supplies.  It was a grassroots organized effort that was phenomenal, and it was just, and not only did they, they coordinate volunteers, they coordinated all this other food and all these supplies coming in to the area.

Q: Wow.

A: So they, they were leaps and bounds above Red Cross, which is a huge organization, I mean.

A2: The people had money all the time.

A: Right.

A2: And people just come and get it.

A: They just did it.  We had people who would just come down the block, and they would go to Burger King, or wherever they would go, and McDonalds, and just buy a whole bunch of sandwiches and just, I’m sorry I’m getting emotional, because they would just go down the block and say, you guys need some food and they just hand you like bags of McDonalds and stuff.  I mean people were just doing that, so, it was just, I’m sorry, it’s just —

Q: No, it’s okay.

A: It’s just the heart, like the caring.  It was just phenomenal.

Q: It was overwhelming.

A: But these big, these big organizations, they, they just get the money and Lord knows what they do with it, it’s just a shame.

Q: So, local people kind of gave you more help?

A: Oh my god, they –

Q: Or as was much.

A: Oh they, and then they come down, and they’d get local people from [unintelligible 02:49b], I don’t know, they’d just come down.  They had blankets, they would have, they would have clothing, they would have everything, it was just asking you what you needed.

Q: That’s wonderful.

A: And if you needed food, whatever you needed, they, they were there.  But then again Red Cross, about two or three weeks after, nobody’s living in the neighborhood, with chaplains. So what are you going to do?  You should have been there on the day after or the following day, but not three or four weeks later, and then these chaplains are wondering, still nobody’s around. Well what do you want to do?  You want, you know, when we’re here to rebuild and, I mean I hear the Chaplain at that point, people needed to hear, they needed that support maybe a day or so after the flood.  It was, very, my husband, he’s a very short person, he walked in the door, and he, well the first time you walked in the door after the flood, you had that sound, but he was just overwhelmed by everything that happened, just like.  It was like, it was just, to see everything so, so destroyed, it was unbelievable.

Q: I can’t even imagine.  I just want to make sure —

[Start Tape C]

A: [Unintelligible 00:02c].

Q: I just want to make sure it’s coming out alright.  What about the problems that are arising now, that you think will arise in the future?  How do you — where do you feel that you might go from here, you know, like?

A: I think the biggest problem is that we, we don’t know, number one that the flood insurance is going to be so much greater.

A2: [Unintelligible 00.23].

A: Because they might, just raise the rates to such an extreme.

A2: They’re going to raise our flood insurance rates and we can’t afford it.

A: And then also, we’re not sure if, if you know, what that means for the Governor’s plan, because the Governor, or Governor Cuomo’s talking a pilot program for Oakwood beach.

Q: Um-hmm (yes).

A: To buy out houses, and probably just knock them down.

A2: [Unintelligible 00.45].

A: For pre-standing values.  Just get an idea from the pictures, this is our, right, you saw me in the yard.  This is what the yard looked like, this was our desk and our backyard.

Q: Oh my God.

A: So everything, so it looks a lot better than it did, and that was part of the back yard, that side yard there.

Q: The hurricane did that?

A: Yeah.  It was eleven feet of water that came up.

A2: See the water line?

A: Oh that was our, our contractor.

A2: [Unintelligible 01:13c].

A: On the house.

A2: That’s how high the water came.

Q: Oh my God.

A: [Unintelligible 01:27c] pictures start.

A2: [Unintelligible 1:28].

A: If you want, we can, that was our, we had to rip out everything.  So all the walls were down, and then we, you didn’t have to take out the floor because it was all, everything was molded and.

Q: It was molded.

A: And not only mold, but warped and everything.

Q: You would think that water would go in there and dry.

A: Oh no, and that was our, back here we — oh we love this picture ’cause we this pool was down here, but the water actually put, placed it on top of the chair out there.

A2:  [Unintelligible 1:55].

A: It was kind of weird, but, oh that was our kitchen before, before Sandy, and that was our side yard, which, looks a lot better now.  And that was probably the side yard which.

A2: Tall grass [unintelligible 02:06c].

Q: Did the neighbors suffer like the same type of damage?

A: Oh they did.

Q: Worse or?

A2: Most of them, I would say most of the houses, they knocked the houses down across the street.

A: Across, you know, our neighbor, they had to demolish the house because it was not safe to [unintelligible 2:20], the structure wasn’t sound.  They had to knock it down.

A2: [Unintelligible 2:25].

A: That was how the house looked and, that was all furniture, these were actual –

[Start Tape D]

A: But this puts things in perspective ’cause he basically had three open heart surgeries and almost didn’t make it so.  So after that, anything else, you know, so what, you know, so we rebuilt, so money, so whatever.

Q: You just do what you have to do, yeah.

A: And then when I talk about people who work and really didn’t get assistance, we just know a lot of people that, that, we know, who were really upset about the lack of support and really if they were renters or if they didn’t have certain things they would get, and they’re really upset because they’re paying, they’re paying rent, and they’re paying mortgages, but they have to live somewhere else and —

Q: And they have to pay both.

A: Right.

Q: [Unintelligible 00:46].

A: And it seems like there’s no, no, assistance there for food.  It’s kind of tough, you know, how do you, you want to take care of people in this time, but to what degree do you, it’s almost like you, I don’t know.

Q: [Unintelligible 00:58].

A: It’s almost like if you’re in middle class, you get screwed all the time. It’s like everything .

Q: The tax burden is on the middle class, and I don’t think it’s easier for the poor, maybe they get this and that, food services, but they don’t get anything more.  People who are in poverty, they’re not going on vacations, they barely [unintelligible 01:19].

A: No.

Q: So it’s like they’ll help, they only help with [unintelligible 1:19].

A: No.

Q: So at the end of the day, it’s the rich.

A: Right.  And then [unintelligible 1:24] too is that, you know, you look at people that are having stress too in their life, so, but they have different types of stress, so it’s all crazy stuff.

Q: Yeah, okay, let’s move on.  Okay, how do you think your experience was similar or different from others, similar to or different from others?

A: Well, I think —

Q: What do you think your neighbors experienced?

A: Well it,  I think our neighbors, they were here longer and they also had family, so they had young children, so they had to deal with little young children going to school. They had to scramble to find a place to live, so they had to live with relatives or found an apartment and then had to pay the rent.  What we did was, because we moved in that Thursday before, we actually, we called our, we lived in a housing complex and we called and they never, they didn’t rent our apartment yet, so we were able to get back in to our apartment right after the storm.  So although we had to move back with nothing, no furniture and we’re not spring chickens, so we were kind of like, sleeping on the floor with blankets, which is not easy when you’re at our age and —

Q: [Unintelligible 2:32].

A: We were able to get back there and then ultimately buy some furniture, and then, you know, rebound and start to, to work on the house.  But we, we feel that we were very fortunate, very blessed because —

Q: That’s good.

A: You know, we were able to get back on our feet and have a place to stay, so it’s very fortunate.

Q: You do have your home, okay.  I guess we’ve been talking mostly about your experiences during the storm, so we’ll make a shift a here a little bit and ask some more general questions. How has this storm caused you to see or think of or experience New York in a different way? How has the storm changed your relationship of a New Yorker?

A: That’s a good question.  If I think about, I think when this happened, I think that a lot of, between, mostly the storm too is, it’s like you have a deep appreciation for nature, you have a deep appreciation for people, and it’s really about what can you do for other people and how can you help other people.  It’s really about, I don’t know, it’s just, you want to give back, like, there’s some, I feel, I feel at this point, first coming back into this neighborhood I feel like I need, I have a purpose, I need to do something to give back to the people.

Q: Who helped you, you know?

A: Right.  To me it’s [unintelligible 04:03d], we have one person and I don’t know her name because we were only here a little while before the storm, but she was wonderful, and I want to reach out to her and just see what she needs because, she turned, coordinated a lot of effort from a blog.  And there’s just a lot of really good people here.  So it’s really just giving back to the people who helped.

Q: [Unintelligible 04:27d] you want to give back?

A: That’s it, definitely, definitely.

Q: That’s wonderful.

A: And one other thing too is that I’m also a very spiritual person.

Q: Oh, you are?

A: So I always keep, I keep, I keep all the people in my prayer and I just ask God just to bless them and their children and their children’s children.

Q: That’s wonderful.

A: Just because it’s that close a town.

Q: Some people are making a connection between the aftermath of the storm and inequality.  What do you think about that?  Do you think that this is about class or race, or what about gender?  Have you experienced any sexism or any sort of different treatment?

A: Well, I think it’s only because of ultimately, the Government [unintelligible 05:07] programs out there, and limitations on income and what to take place between, you know, some of the things, the SBA loan.  I think that if, you know, I guess it’s a lot of different things, because if people were renters and they didn’t have a lot of income, it’s one thing, but then people who owned, if they didn’t have flood insurance, it’s almost like a different thing, so it’s a, the bottom line is we’re very fortunate.  We’re very, very fortunate to be where we are because there’s a lot of people who are a lot worse off than we are.  And, ultimately, even people that, fourteen thousand or thirty thousand dollars from the government, that’s not going to rebuild a house, that’s not going to really have a major impact in what their life’s going to be going forward. So, you know, no, so the answer is we really, we’ve been very fortunate. So –

Q: So, do you think that race and class play into it at all or inequality or do you see any differences with yourself as a female based on maybe you would have gotten more of something if you were male?

A: No.

Q: Or do you feel that your husband had better treatment or worse treatment or?

A: No, I don’t think anything about that at all.  I think it was just really that there were certain limitations, salary, you know, income was taken in consideration, different programs and things, and that’s what the limitations were.

Q: Different programs?

A: Right, and that’s pretty much it.

Q: So you didn’t see any [Unintelligible 06:28]?

A: No, no.

Q: You kind of saw that people who were needing more, got more?

A: Well, I guess it’s all relative, because people who may have needed more, who didn’t, you know, where the incomes maybe, you know, more than the limit, they, they didn’t get anything.  So there’s like that need, although people needed, there was limitations based on your income tax and other things. [Unrelated conversation 7:03].  So that’s where the limitations were I think for most people.  When I, you know, recently I went to, I caught up with a friend of mine who I think she lives in [unintelligible 7:15] Beach, and she’s only gotten ten thousand dollars from her insurance company in advance.  She has like a hundred and forty thousand dollars worth of damage, and she has to do work on the house but she can’t get any money from FEMA or from anyone ’cause she had content insurance as well as the flood insurance and she can’t really get anything moving because this is all hung up and she hasn’t gotten any money from FEMA at all. She could go for the SBA loan but then it’s, you know, have to pay back the money so she’s really been kind of [unintelligible 07:46d] because the insurance company hasn’t given the money.  So it’s, you know, I see that person and then I see my other friend who rented who didn’t have anything, who got fourteen thousand dollars from FEMA who paid whole year’s rent.  So it’s kind of like, how do you deal with –

A2: Kind of like the insurance company for the way they [unintelligible 08:03d] government to do, to step in.  Even though, even though most of the flood insurance is government backed, it’s all, it’s all FEMA money.

Q: Yeah.  What are the big wad of profit, you’re paying in because you know, in case anything happens, but they’re thinking about how are they getting money. You know what I mean?  So it’s like, you know, if something happens, [unintelligible 08:25d] government.

A2: Well we really didn’t get our, our, the large amount of money we need until that

A: [Unintelligible 8:40].

A2: [Unintelligible 08:41d] million dollars that was approved by congress. Then it seemed like everybody started getting –

A: Money.

A2: Our insurance company.

A: So it looks like FEMA wasn’t even funded.  I’m sorry, the flood insurance wasn’t –

A2: [Unintelligible 08:53].  I don’t know even why they have insurance companies [unintelligible 08:55] through the government.

Q: Well, did you guys see any help from anywhere else that wasn’t Government or Red Cross?  Did you hear anything about [unintelligible 9:04]?

A: Oh, that, the Red Cross is no help.  Nope, no, no help from red cross at all.  No. The bucket, the bucket, we got the bucket, and the mop and broom, the handle to the mop didn’t screw together, we got that too.

Q: Did you guys hear anything about Gates helping, Beyonce or –

A: Nobody, we, well they all helped our, [unintelligible 09:20d] , and they raised money but we haven’t seen or heard anything.

Q: Right, you didn’t really see anything from them.

A: No, not at all.  Not at all.

Q: In your opinion, why did this storm happen?  What do you think caused the hurricane?  One of the things that we were, we’ve been talking about in class was that sometimes we look for someone to blame.  I mean when it comes to something like 9-11, it’s like important to blame, but when it comes to a hurricane, do you think that we should blame people who study hurricanes or maybe they should have made us better prepared, or do you think maybe it’s the government’s fault because they should have had an insurance, or do you think there’s anyone to blame in this situation?

A: No, I, I don’t think so because it was really just a perfect storm.  What you had was the, you had the hurricane force come in, you had, you’re having, there was a full moon, everything was high tide, everything was really working against everything that could happen, perfect storm.  And, ultimately they told everyone to evacuate the area, although in the past, people they’ve been told to evacuate and they didn’t, and there’s really not much you can do in a situation like a hurricane.  And when you’re getting, you’re getting another, you know, wave coming in, we’re only about a quarter of a mile from the, from the ocean.  So, it, there’s nothing, unless there’s a sea wall, which they have to build around wherever, I mean this could be huge to build that, I mean it, it really, there’s no one to blame, it’s just an act of nature and —

Q: Right.

A: Just like a tsunami, just like anything just.

Q: I think I agree with you.  I think mother nature’s going to win no matter what.

A: And what you have to do sometimes is get back to land, because, what they said, it’s like, in some areas, they built in areas they shouldn’t have.

Q: Yeah.

A: And now if you get back, at least the water it gets absorbed into the land.

Q: Well yeah, in that respect people do like to assign blame to just say, well, the houses shouldn’t have been here and they should have known better.  And sometimes, I know not everything’s their fault, but sometimes you know, maybe they could of taken, taken it into consideration, you know, what will happen if people are close to the water. And that’s where [unintelligible 11:24] blame.  You know, none of those people did it on purpose.

A: We’ve never have experienced any storm like this, and we, my husband grew up here. He was raised, born and raised in Staten Island, so he’s been living in this area and basically this, like below the boulevard and New York Beach and Oakwood Beach for all his life, basically, and he’s fifty eight, and so am I.  And primarily, I’ve been mostly on Staten Island, I think, I was only  even or eight years old when I moved from Brooklyn and we lived in Jersey for a number of years, but we’ve been more than forty years on Staten Island.  So we’ve never seen a storm like this before.

Q: Wow.

A: We’ve seen some flooding, there’s been hurricanes, there’s been some things come in, but never this, this bad. It was really –

Q: Wow.

[Start Tape E]

A: And, a part of my husband, like we almost didn’t leave, and he’s like, oh I wish we were here, I think if we were here, I would like freak out when if saw all the water coming in.

Q: I would probably flip out.

A: I would be hysterical

Q: [Unintelligible 00:12] all that damage was happening.

A: Oh my God.

Q: I know.

A: Well yeah, they tried to help as much as they could, you know.

Q: Definitely.  Okay, so the next question is, do you think that we’re likely to see similar storms happen again?

A: Why not.  I think we will because of all the things that are happening within the climate and with global warming and the solar cap, you know, the polar caps melting, I think that we, we will.  And they’re talking about every year water levels rising, so I think we’re going to see more.

Q: Yeah, see more.

A: And we’ve also seen so much–

Q: Global warming.

A: And we’ve seen so much different changes in weather across the entire world that things are just a little strange out there, what’s happening.  So really, you know, wherever you go, you’re going to come up with different pockets of things.

Q: Yeah.

A: It could be some flooding, it could be something where it’s drought, it could be tornadoes, you have all sorts of things everywhere so.

Q: Right, yeah.  I think I agree with you.  Some people say that the storm was caused by climate change or at least we’ll have more storms like it because of climate change, what do you think about this?

A: I do, I think that’s what happened, yes.

Q: You agree?

A: Yes.

Q: Climate change [unintelligible 1:38]?

A: Yep.

Q: Okay.  If this storm is connected to climate change, what can you build going forward to ensure this kind of thing does not keep happening, or get worse?

A: Well, I think it is really a question of doing things, like Governor Cuomo really plans on doing, buying people out, giving the land back to mother nature, so basically, you know, my understanding is, he wants to make this really into a preserve, so it’s more like the wetlands.  So, give it back to nature and protect other properties further in because now, there’s no damage, there’s no more insurance that has to be dealt with.  I mean, it’s not always a question of raising houses, and maybe we shouldn’t be in certain places as human beings.  Maybe we don’t need to be on the edge of a beach or whatever.

Q: Yeah.

A: Maybe we need to be further back and we just go and enjoy.

Q: Do you think that, that the mayor should give all of the area back to nature?

A: Well, it’s what the government, the governor, the governor is proposing for the —

Q: Oh, that’s what he’s talking about.

A: He’s talking about doing that for the Oakwood Beach — and that’s what this is, Oakwood Beach —  buyout, to give back to mother nature, which makes sense, I mean I really, sometimes that doesn’t belong in certain places.

Q: Yeah.

A: And sometimes you [unintelligible 2:51] here.

Q: Um-hmm (yes).

A: You know, years ago, I mean, these areas were all bungalows and, and, you know, you basically went down here because it was easier to buy a house, it’s first of all the areas because it’s more [unintelligible 3:02].

Q: Yeah, and location.

A: Right.

Q: Okay, so [unintelligible 03:08\] questions are kind of like more for Government [unintelligible 03:11] organizations.

A: So you were looking for people?  You probably didn’t find too many people out there when you were –

Q: Well,  I have a little car, so I was hoping maybe they would like hang out in front of their houses to ask them, but I actually went to [unintelligible 03:30e] rescue, and yeah, they said, you know, [unintelligible 03:33e], and one of them in there, she refused to do it.  I don’t really know why.  If you don’t want to do it that’s fine, but, it was a really good time, and I was really happy to see this place, they had food in there, they had people, they had toys and clothing for children.

A: Which is great.

Q: Yeah.

A: It’s really great.

Q: [Unintelligible 3:49] do that.  Okay, questions.  Have you ever worked like as a volunteer [unintelligible 4:07]?

A: Have I ever worked as a volunteer.

A: [Unintelligible 00:00] probably were a lot, lot younger, and I volunteered for things.  Recently haven’t.

Q: [Unintelligible 00:13]?

A: No, no we’re in the middle of trying to –

Q: Yeah.

A: Kind of rebound ourselves.

Q: These questions are really very similar to the ones in the beginning, so, let’s just sort of go through it.  It may be sort of repetitive, so if it’s something we’ve said already, then we really don’t really need to [unintelligible 00:35] anymore.

A: Okay.

Q: Okay, who are you interacting with?  Like which agencies have you interacted with?

A: So we interacted –

Q: You said the Red Cross, right?

A: Well, they only, that was really through the Oakwood Rescue Center, they have [unintelligible 00.50] and the Red Cross. That’s where we got that, so we never really, and the chaplain who walked around who really didn’t do anything.  But we also interacted with FEMA and with the SBA loan program, and of course Oakwood Rescue Center which is phenomenal, and FEMA has been, has been good to us, I mean –

Q: Red Cross just wasn’t great?

A: I, I don’t know what they, I don’t get it.

Q: They could have put a little bit more thought into it?

A: Oh my God, it’s a shame.

Q: Okay, and the day back at the storm, how long did you expect recovery would take?  How long were you and your neighbors without power?  How much longer do you think it will be before life gets back to normal around here?

A: Well it’s kind of funny, when you first see it, you really don’t know what to comprehend, and you don’t really know how long things will take and you don’t realize how bad things are until you really start to, to come back and then see what the house is like and what damages there is, but, time and all, we knew it was going to take, it’s going to take us quite a bit of time to, to really repair and rebound.

Q: Um-hmm (yes).

A2: And some people, when they left here, they had to probably move in with in-laws.

A: Oh, I know, everyone.

A2: Luckily we were, we had to move back to where we were.

A: Right.

A2: And coming back here every day.

A: Oh it was tough right?

A2: [Unintelligible 02:13f].

A: Yeah, ’cause we were coming up, coming back here from northern New Jersey every day to the —

Q: Oh, right.

A: Commute back and forth, it was just a lot.

Q: Some people say this has been a remindful thing they’ve experienced before, others say that this is unlike anything they’ve ever seen.  Is there anything else you and or your family committee have experienced before that was anything like this?

A: No.

Q: Can you tell me about that?

A: No

Q: Nothing at all?

A: Nothing at all.  This is, this is like the, this is –

A2: The big kahuna.

A: The big kahuna, definitely.

Q: So you wouldn’t compare it to Pearl Harbor or 9-11.

A: No it was definitely different because it [unintelligible 02:48] –

Q: [Unintelligible 02:48]?

A: No what you had, experiences differently because you know people who died, or you know people who were in the buildings.  But you really, what happened here was –

A2: We weren’t actually there, you know.

A: This was even more people impacted and it was really, it was an act of nature versus an act of war, so it was totally different.

Q: Right, true.  Well Titanic was kind of an act of nature, kind of.

A2: More like an act of –

A: [Unintelligible 03:18] didn’t do the right thing. Wasn’t it more that he –

Q: Yeah I guess kind of, yeah, cause I know in the, in the movie he was warned about the iceberg but he kept speeding up anyway, so yeah, they crashed into the iceberg.

A: Right.

A2: Right, the cruise ship[Unintelligible 03:30].

A: [Unintelligible 03:35] cruise ship, yeah.  [Unintelligible 3:36].

A2: [Unintelligible 3:37].

Q: How were your needs met after the storm?  Can you tell me about what you needed?  And how you went about getting it and what you needed and what you were lacking, and what did you need that you did not have?  Which of your needs were met and which of your needs weren’t met or do you or anyone in your family community have what you need now?  You definitely got food around this time, [unintelligible 04:00f] and Red Cross was helping you.

A: No, the Red Cross never helped.

Q: I didn’t mean to say Red Cross.

A: Never, clearly state Red Cross never did anything.

Q: People helped you with food?

A: Yeah, neighbors came around –

Q: And they were helping you with food?

A: Yes, and also when we moved back to our other old apartment, we were able to get back there, there was just, really what we, we were fortunate FEMA did give us some assistance.  So that was very good.  That’s pretty much it I guess.

Q: Okay, so, did like, there’s nothing that you needed like in particular or?

A: Well, we needed everything ’cause we had nothing, we lost everything.  So what we did was, we, you know, basically, we went out and bought things, like, I guess the fact my car was destroyed helped us because they got money for the car, and, but it was, no, nobody really jumped in there and you know neighbors came by, but then we had to move out of here, so we weren’t really here, ’cause you couldn’t live here.

Q: Okay, so your needs weren’t met or –

A: They weren’t met, no, they weren’t met, no, they weren’t.

Q: So how did you cope with it?

A: Every day, you wake up, and you get up and you go a little further.

Q: So you use what you have and try to obtain what you don’t?

A: Right. So what we did was we, we had blankets and pillows and the next day we would have an air mattress and the next day we would have something else, and we’d just kind of work it through.

Q: You worked it through.  Okay, which people or groups do you feel have been most helpful or most unhelpful, and how do you, how did people [unintelligible 05:46f] interact with you and your neighbors?  So Red Cross you said did not help?

A: Oh, forget it, Red Cross.

Q: Forget Red Cross.

A: No.  It’s really the older grassroots.

Q: Grassroots, right, you said that.

A: And also, and also the Oakwood Rescue Center.  They were fantastic.

Q: They helped the most?

A: Oh my God, yes.  They, they organized volunteers, they had supplies, they had food, they had everything up there.  They were incredible.

Q: Okay, what kind of aid did you apply for?  I know you said you had your insurance, what kind of aid has been offered?

A: Well, FEMA and then the Small Business Administration loan.
Q: Right, and you were talking about that earlier.

A: Right, and that loan –

Q: – you said the small –

A: Small Business Administration loan. The [unintelligible 06:34].

A2: SBA.

A: Yes.

Q: Right.

A: Which then they want the pay of, they want stipulation loans, we had to pay back money FEMA gave us, which made us –

A2: [Unintelligible 06:46] we had to make the SBA a co-mortgage of our house, and then, they didn’t give us information up front.

A: Yeah.

Q: What about in general financially?  Do you feel that if you had more money then you would, this wouldn’t affect you as much?  I mean you could just take it out of your pocket and just fix everything.

A: I kind of felt like, anybody who’s gonna take, what we’re talking about is, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage for everybody.

Q: But like, if you had hundreds of thousands?

A2: Yeah.

A: If we had millions then we wouldn’t be living here.

Q: This would have impacted you in a different way?  Would you have been less devastated? Would you be less shocked?

A: Oh I’m sure we would.

A2: Yeah, of course, you have another place to live and you don’t really care.

Q: Yeah.

A2: You get your insurance and you don’t have to wait for the insurance money.

Q: [Unintelligible 7:30].  It’s devastating no matter how you slice it, but if this would of happened to people who were rich, they could have their house fixed in a week.

A: [Unintelligible 07:38] your second house.

A2: [Unintelligible 07:40] not, not a lot –

A: Jersey .

A2: No, you know, millionaire’s home.

Q: Yeah, [unintelligible 07:46].

A: It’s their second house, it’s their vacation home.
A2: It’s their vacation home, they don’t care.

A: Right, and we even had a friend of ours is an adjuster, insurance adjuster, he worked there just a couple weeks ago, like he was, you know, a month after the storm.

A2: And they’re still going, they’re still going to people’s, like rich people’s homes. [Unintelligible 08:08]

A: Right, right.

Q: Of course you have like twenty homes.

A2: Yeah, so, you think she was devastated? [Unintelligible 08:13].

A: No, but for us, yes, we’re not really there, so we’re devastated.

Q: Yeah but I wasn’t even, I wasn’t just asking about what material things [unintelligible 08:20f], I mean like how do you think it would of impacted you psychologically. The people who have more money have a different perception on life in general.  They see the world in a different way because they have it, so they act like that.

A: What I find is like, people who are really rich, I find one of two things.  Either that they are, they have so much, [unintelligible 08:38].  So rich that they count every, every penny, and they’re very – so I, I find two different schools there for people who are very rich.

Q: So people who have so much money, some of them would care?

A: Well some of them, well yeah.

A2: Well I think all the accounts are, accountants that they have, right?  Those people loaded that they –

Q: So it depends on who they are?

A: Yeah I think so. ‘Cause I just know from a business perspective, when, you know, people who have a lot of money, they’re looking at their, at you know, at working pensions and they’re looking at pennies and you know they’ll balance all those numbers out for like dimes and pennies some times, and people who are just were able, were able to focus in, on not looking down to that level.  So you have, I think two extremes. You have some who have so much money they kind of like, whatever, I don’t know.  What, we don’t know because –

A2: [Unintelligible 09:33f] move down here either.

A: No. I guess I really don’t know the answer to the question.

Q: No, it’s [unintelligible 09:40], about every penny.  Has there been discussion of contamination [unintelligible 09:47], what kind of contamination?  What kind of effect has it had, is there any conflicting stories about it, or who do you believe on what’s being done?

A: Well I think the biggest thing was mold and the air quality.

Q: Yeah, you said mold.

A: So what, I think what’s happening, most of our neighbors, they all saw this as really tear down things, and they still had mold in their houses, so we don’t really know what the air quality is gonna be like.

Q: How is the air quality affected?

A: We don’t really know.

A2: [Unintelligible 10:17] month, so.

A: But right now, we’ll say not even air quality, but –

A2: [Unintelligible 10:23] to be projected at just, twenty thousand have been ignored, and the mold is overgrown.

A: Probably rampant, yeah, probably rampant.

Q: Social sciences talk a lot about inequality in terms of race, class and gender categories, we talked about that already.

A: Right.

Q: Are you or other residents that you know, have been affected talking about this issue explicitly with respect of your work, in the aftermath of Sandy?

A: No, no, no, no. Everybody really, they were sort of like everyone, I love that oven, sorry, everyone’s just, we’re just a little [unintelligible 11:00].

A2: We try to get by.

Q: I think that’s all my questions.

A: It definitely puts things in perspective in like the, whole thing.

A2: Mother nature is a bitch.

A: Yes.

Q: Yeah, she won. She’s out of control [unintelligible 11:28].

A: Unbelievable.

Q: What made her that mad? So I’d like to thank you for your time and answering my questions, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

A: No, I think I [unintelligible 11:44].

Q: [Unintelligible 11:42] everything. [Unintelligible 11:49].

[End of Recording ]

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