Sandy families fight to stay afloat in hotels

Children write names on a card at state Assemblyman William Scarborough's annual holiday party. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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Families displaced by Superstorm Sandy — scattered throughout hotels across the city — attended state Assemblyman William Scarborough’s (D-Jamaica) annual holiday party in St. Albans last week, and while the children enjoyed food and games, parents wore weary expressions and told of the hardships they continue to endure almost two months after being forced from their homes.

The assemblyman’s office has stayed in contact with about 20 families as they made their way through the support system set up after the storm — first at shelters at York College in Jamaica and the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx and then at several hotels they have been staying at since.

“Everybody’s been doing a great job, but there have been some gaps in services,” said Ernest Flowers, a community liaison in Scarborough’s office and a candidate for City Council. Flowers has been in contact with the families since the storm and he said they have been struggling to live week by week on the support they receive.

FEMA and the city have been putting the evacuees up in hotel rooms but sometimes payments are made late, Flowers said, driving them from their rooms. The families also said their rooms do not have kitchens and the $100 they receive each week in food assistance does not go that far in the city.

“Manhattan is so expensive,” said Aleya Baldeo, a Far Rockaway resident who brought her three young children to the party at the Move Your Body Kidz Klub in St. Albans, where they enjoyed food and games. Baldeo is a Guyanese immigrant with few relatives in the country and she said moving her children through different schools and trying to secure basic necessities such as diapers and formula for her youngest have taken a toll on the family.

“I don’t know what to do and I don’t know where to go,” she said.

Scarborough invites families from southeast Queens to attend his holiday party every year and said this year’s festivities seemed all that more meaningful for the families that had lost so much.

“We’re just trying to help them forget about their concerns,” he said.

The assemblyman’s office collected gifts and gave them out to the children at the end of the night.

Rachel Rivera and her daughter, Marisol, were displaced from their home in Brooklyn. The young girl enjoyed pizza and beamed at the end of the night as she clung to the toy tea set she picked out.

Rivera said it was nice to see her daughter have a good time, but it was difficult for her to relax as she worried about the days ahead.

“She can enjoy it,” Rivera said. “Me? I have to think about how are we going to eat tomorrow.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 4:41 pm, December 27, 2012
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