Almost a week after Superstorm Sandy pummeled New York and New Jersey, scenes of increased desperation — residents wielding bows and arrows against possible looters, tempers flaring in long gasoline lines, and impassioned pleas to officials for help — are highlighting what has become an uneven recovery from the storm.
While power has been restored to many parts of New York City and most subway lines are up and running again, there is a palpable void in the New York/New Jersey region between those in need of help and those whose lives are returning to normal.
And it's getting cold, very cold. Temperatures are plunging into the 30s overnight as some 700,000 homes and businesses in New York City, its northern suburbs and Long Island still lack electricity six days after the storm, As a result, many homes are becoming uninhabitable, leaving tens of thousands without a place to stay.
On Staten Island, destruction and devastation were visible everywhere.
Out of the 41 deaths in New York City for Hurricane Sandy, 22 of them were on Staten Island. Officials rushed to get food, water and clothing to victims there on Saturday. In the Midland Beach section, one house was lifted off its foundation and moved about 20 to 30 feet into the middle of the roadway. The scenes were being replayed on New York’s smallest borough over and over, according to New York’s CBS affiliate.
Coney Island, Brooklyn, which was the site of rampant looting earlier in the week, is still feeling to the storm’s toll.
About 6,000 residents of a housing complex of five 24-story buildings in the neighborhood famous for its boardwalk and hot dog eating contest, have been without power, heat or running water for days, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Amalgamated Warbasse Houses Inc. had its basements flooded and power equipment damaged by surging water, sand and seaweed.
“The great majority of the residents are elderly, a lot are home-bound, bed-ridden,” property manager Thomas Auletti told the Journal.
“The sanitary situation isn’t good,” Auletti told the paper. “We really need some police presence. Security is an issue right now.”
In the Rockaways, in Queens, residents were still awaiting help.
“I’m still waiting for the guard, FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, Red Cross to set up shop in Rockaway and start helping people back to a life. I’m not seeing it,” Brian Kelly, a retired FDNY firefighter from Belle Harbor, Queens, told the New York Daily News.
“Listen, I was a firefighter,” he told the paper on Friday. “I know relief doesn’t happen overnight. But we’re four days out now. I’m staying with relatives in Staten Island. I drive back to Rockaway every day because I’m afraid of my house getting robbed. In that time I haven’t seen any help in Rockaway. There are some city cops. I saw just two city garbage trucks. I saw the National Guard drive by a few times.”
Locals from the Queens peninsula are arming themselves with “guns, baseball bats, booby traps — even a bow and arrow — to defend against looters,” according to the Daily News.
Another Rockaways resident whose home was mostly destroyed told the New York Post about the extent of the looting.
“I knew it was going to be real bad, but I never expected this devastation,” resident Ned Morgan told the paper. His basement flooded up to 6 feet, destroying furniture, family pictures and electronics.
“They’re looting cars all over the place. This is New York City. They have to help us.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited the Rockaways on Saturday.
“I spoke to many people who were worried, frustrated and cold,” he said. “There’s no power there and temperatures are dropping. Even those who have generators are having a hard time getting fuel.”
Meanwhile, in Brooklyn and elsewhere around the region, a frenzy for gas reached a fever pitch and had residents at each other’s throats as lines were measured by miles instead of blocks.
At one 12-block line in Brooklyn, it almost reached a boiling point.
“People have been cutting the line like crazy, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Adam Brahimaj told the Daily News.
One man with a two-gallon gas can tried to cut a line and had to be restrained by six police officers.
“It’s not good getting into fights over little things like this,” local resident Sandra Dyer told the Daily News after watching several near fistfights. “People get killed over things like this.”
Desperate New Yorkers even headed to Connecticut in search of shorter lines and fuel.
At gas station which was out of fuel since Thursday, a group of motorists stayed nearby in hopes of its re-opening.
“This is absolutely insane,” Lee Fenstemaker told the Daily News. “I think I'm getting delirious. I've been here for 16 hours. I haven't slept. I feel stupid.
“We have no choice but to stick together. It's a matter of survival at this point.”
In some New Jersey counties, a gas-rationing system based on license plate numbers entered its second full day on Sunday.
As of Sunday, more than 700,000 remained without power in New York State, including 404,000 on Long Island and 154,000 in New York City, and nearly a million customers in New Jersey and 70,000 in Connecticut were also without power, the New York Times reported.
In New York City, nearly 80,000 people were without electricity in Queens and 30,000 lacked power in Staten Island. Power restoration in those places could still be a week away.
In New York, 178 city schools still had no electricity as of Friday, according to the Daily News.
The death toll in New York City continued to rise over the weekend as a 90-year-old man was found dead Saturday inside his home in the Rockaways, bringing the total to 41.
The desperation is being compounded by fear of colder weather moving into the region as temperatures fell into the 30s on Sunday and a freeze watch was issued for part of New Jersey, where many residents remain without heat. A Northeaster could hit by midweek, according to forecasts.
In New York, 30,000 to 40,000 people, mainly residents of public housing, will have to find new homes, Bloomberg said, comparing it to Hurricane Katrina.
“I don’t know that anybody has ever taken this number of people and found housing for them overnight,” the mayor said, according to the New York Times.
Residents in New Jersey, on Long Island and in Connecticut face a similar problem.
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