On a cold rainy day last fall, dozens of people gathered in a plaza across the street from New Jersey’s state Capitol. They held press conferences and slept overnight in lawn chairs.
Everyone had come to make the same point: They’d made it through Superstorm Sandy, which hit the shores of New Jersey and New York in October 2012. But three years later, many hadn’t made it home.
Doug Quinn, a 51-year-old from Toms River, N.J., had been in the plaza for two days.
“I should be at home in my house and part of my community and instead I’m here doing this,” said Quinn. “I thought it’ll be all right; my insurance will take care of what needs to be taken care of and I’ll be back home in three to four months. It’s [been] three years and I’m still not anywhere close. I look back now and think how naive I was.”
Superstorm Sandy wasn’t a disaster for everyone, though. For some, it was big money.
NPR and the PBS series Frontline have spent the past year investigating the business of disaster and have uncovered a complex system in which private companies profit and homeowners and clients suffer.
At the center of that system is the National Flood Insurance Program, which is designed to help in disasters like Sandy. Almost everyone with a mortgage who lives near water pays for flood insurance through the program, so more than three years later most residents expected to be home.
But in many cases that didn’t happen. While thousands of homeowners like Quinn said they have not received the recovery help they need, our investigation found that their private insurance companies that administer the government’s flood program made as much as an estimated $240 million to $406 million in profit annually over the past four years.
Trailer for a documentary entitled, “The Age of Consequences.” Description of the film from EcoWatch:
This harrowing yet dispassionate story opens with stark footage (like this) of soldiers scrambling out of trenches, some to, some away from the mushroom cloud rising in the distance—a fitting introduction for a film that suggests we are already perilously close to a new order of global disaster. From there, tension is sustained throughout, as some of our nation’s highest ranking military and State and Defense Department leaders walk us through eight concrete ways in which climate change is emerging as a grave threat to national security.
Graphically illustrating how years of unprecedented drought have contributed to the rise of radicalization in Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan, as well as catastrophes yet to come, such as sea-level rise and mass displacement in Bangladesh, the film lays bare the implications for global conflict. It also shows the vulnerabilities at home, from Katrina to Superstorm Sandy’s crippling effects on New York City, to projections that the world’s largest military base, in Norfolk, Virginia, is on track for frequent flooding as soon as 2040.
The film traverses the world and the offices and libraries of major military leaders to show the cascading impacts of climate-related disasters like extreme weather, drought, sea-level rise and food shortage on other pressures … like poverty, conflict, capacity issues and migration, all together making existing vulnerabilities even more fraught.
The story ends with a call to action. Just as the precise future of climate change impacts is unpredictable, so too is the human potential to rise to the challenge. Wrapping up with a veritable PSA for renewables and for programs that connect veterans with clean energy jobs, the film closes with the reminder that there is still time left to act. And time is the one resource we can’t replenish.
The article also suggests that we read The Tropic of Chaos, which outlines the convergence of poverty, violence and climate change; and or the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report on sea rise and naval bases. Learn about the Solar Ready Vets project.
As the rain and wind swirled outside the window during Superstorm Sandy more than two years ago, Liz Treston’s family helped her into bed.
Treston, 54, was disabled in a diving accident when she was in her twenties. She uses a wheelchair to get around her Long Island, N.Y., home and an electronic lift machine to get into her bed. The night the storm hit, she wanted to be ready for sleep in case the power went out.
Her basement was ruined. There was the fridge, a washer and dryer, five bikes, her family’s winter clothes, a bedroom set and other kitchen appliances.
She received a $7,000 dollar grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for the hotel she and her family stayed in while the house was repaired. She got another $4,500 grant to help cover things in the basement that were destroyed.
She says she spent the money soon after and that she was grateful for all the help. So this past October, when she received an envelope with FEMA letterhead in the mail, Treston wasn’t sure what to think.
While driving to his studio in New York’s Rockaway Beach neighborhood, artist Christopher Saucedo looks out across Jamaica Bay. Saucedo grew up playing stickball on the streets in Brooklyn and watching the original World Trade Center rise over New York City. His father took him and his brothers to the construction site to watch it being built. The youngest, Gregory, died in the line of duty in the north tower on Sept. 11.
“He loved being a fireman,” Saucedo says, his voice catching.
A few days after the attack, Saucedo drove frantically to New York from New Orleans, where he then lived. “I’m a sculptor, so I packed my boots, my gloves, my respirator and some crowbars because I imagined I would be at the pit helping to find my brother,” he says. No trace of Gregory was ever recovered and Saucedo went home to New Orleans in grief. Four years later, when Hurricane Katrina hit and the levees broke, his house was flooded to the rafters.
Saucedo’s family evacuated to Houston. Returning to a ruined house was anathema to his wife, who wanted to move back to New York, so they bought a house in Queens just steps from the beach and 7 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, during Superstorm Sandy, a 12-foot tidal surge deluged the house with 5 feet of water.
Art helped Saucedo make sense of his experience living through three of the worst events on U.S. soil in the past 15 years. He hopes his art helps people relate to his own experience and, more generally, what it means to lose and how we manage to survive.
Image: Christopher Saucedo’s World Trade Center as a Cloud, No. 4 is part of a papier-mâché series on display at the U.S. District Court in East Brooklyn through mid-November. Courtesy of Christopher Saucedo and LeMieux Gallery, New Orleans
Superstorm Sandy was devastating. Hundreds of thousands are without power and millions in the northeast are still coming to terms with what happened. But we know that it is in moments like these people come together and help one another. Let’s get these stories out to the world.
If you have a story about an act of kindness someone did for you during the storm or its aftermath, please send us a message, or call 617-651-0909 and record your story. Thanks, and stay safe!
US Senate votes to approve $50.5 billion Sandy aid package
Reuters: The US Senate has approved a $50.5 billion disaster aid package for victims of Superstorm Sandy, three months after the storm destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The measure goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
Photo: A vehicle makes its way near homes devastated by fire and the effects of Hurricane Sandy in the Breezy Point section of Queens, New York, on Jan. 15, 2013. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters)
Guys, help! My family hasn’t heard from my cousin Rosalie or my Great-Uncle Joe since before Sandy hit the East Coast. Both of them live in New Jersey, and are really close to New York (Rosalie works in the city), and they might have been affected by the storm.
Great-Uncle Joe with my brother and me.
The pictures are a few years old, but they’re the best I’ve got. Please signal-boost so we can find them and bring them home.
For the world of urban policy, Superstorm Sandy was, in many senses of the word, a watershed moment, rearranging decades long priorities and forcing policy makers and urban planners alike to reflect on what city life means in an era of climate change.
The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned on Tuesday night without acting on a $60.4 billion Superstorm Sandy disaster aid bill, prompting angry denunciations from members from the states hardest hit by the storm.
“I have just been informed that we will be having perhaps no further votes in this Congress,” said Democratic Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “I am deeply disappointed at that information. We have millions of our fellow citizens who have been badly damaged by a storm called Sandy.”
“We help each other,” Representative Rush Holt, a Democrat of New Jersey, said on the House floor. “We always have … There are thousands of people who are not going back to their homes. They deserve our help.”
They and others pleaded with the Republican leaders of the House to rethink the decision, but few were in the chamber to listen.
There was no sign of a response from House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio or Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who are in charge of scheduling the House.