Sandy victims march on City Hall over aid

Participants and organizers carry signs as they walk in Howard Beach. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A group of hurricane victims commemorated the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy by walking with clergy from Far Rockaway to City Hall to demand that the next mayor speed up recovery and create jobs as well as affordable housing in the hard-hit Rockaways.

“We are still a community trying to get back on our feet and trying to even get better than before,” said teacher Shawn Adams, who participated in the 21-mile, two-day march.

The “Sandy Sojourn” started at First Church of God in Far Rockaway Saturday morning, concluded that day’s walk at St. Helen’s Church in Howard Beach in time for 5 p.m. mass and continued the following day toward Lower Manhattan.

About 30 people walked with the group over the Brooklyn Bridge and the brigade joined in a Sandy remembrance rally Sunday with about 550 people at City Hall, organizers said.

Faith in New York, in partnership with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, which organized the event, said many Rockaway residents are still dealing with the impact of the storm one year later.

Marcia Forbes Bennett, who works as a legal secretary, has been living with her husband and two children ages 17 and 23 on the second-floor of their home, which is equipped with a bathroom but not a kitchen, as they continue to rebuild the destroyed first floor.

“We have to eat out a lot,” she said.

She said the family spent several months in a hotel in Manhattan and returned to the Rockaways in August.

“We don’t want people to forget that there are people who are still hurting,” she said.

Adams moved back into her house about three to six months before it was ready for her and her three children. She said she had to borrow $13,000 to repair a crawl space that was not covered by her insurance.

On Saturday, Adams said her home on Beach 63rd Street still needs repairs to the roof.

“If there is rain, the water falls on the house,” she said.

Adams said she wished there were programs for her 17-year-old daughter to prepare her for the workforce, help her secure an internship or organize volunteer opportunities.

“I’m walking for my kids, but I’m also walking for all of the youth in Far Rockaway,” Adams said.

Even things that New York City residents often take for granted like cab service have become more difficult to find after Sandy, she said.

“Most of the vehicles were damaged in the storm,” Adams said.

Daniel Green, a community organizer with Faith in New York, joined participants, who carried signs and sang religious songs, before forming a prayer circle in front of St. Helen’s Church.

“The Rockaways have been forgotten for some time,” he said. “It’s a tale of two cities within New York City in general.”

Joseph McKellar, executive director of Faith in New York, an interfaith, multicultural federation comprised of more than 53 congregations, said Alliance for a Just Rebuilding has been advocating for equitable recovery spending that addresses issues which existed in storm-ravaged communities before the storm like the need for affordable housing and job training programs.

“It’s not just about Manhattan or one borough, but it’s about all of the boroughs,” he said.

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at timesledgerphotos@gmail.com by phone at 718-260-4589.

Updated 1:36 am, November 1, 2013
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