Sandy Relief Update: FEMA, Bloomberg and Cuomo Fail, Christie and Occupy Sandy Win


The success of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts is a mixed bag teamed with twists challenging deep seeded mind-sets on parties and movements. A Republican governor took the lead, a Democratic governor barely moved forward, while an Obama backing Mayor plays catch-up to Chris Christie and Occupy Sandy (an off shoot of OWS). Did anyone mention New York state’s publicly owned utility companies can’t get the lights on for the New Yorker’s who were hardest hit?

Hurricane Sandy is truly the upper North East’s Katrina. The local response in New Jersey highlights the numerous things that continue to go right in New Jersey as they move from recovery to rebuilding. Meanwhile, in neighboring New York City, numerous things continue to go wrong. Horribly wrong. What went right and wrong continues to challenge the common precepts of political parties and movements. 

To see what went right in this disaster, look no further than New Jersey’s Republican Governor, Chris Christie. For starters, he put politics aside to get the ball rolling for relief support at the time of impact. He crossed party lines, called the president for an expedited disaster emergency declaration, called up the guard, and worked with all utility companies for a coordinated effort to get power up and running. 

In anticipation of the time delay inherent to getting resources to the affected areas, Christie kept the communities, state, and nation updated on all actions from the federal, state, and local level. Gas rationing was put in place to reduce the lines at the pump as FEMA workers, Red Cross volunteers, National Guard members, and utility workers from around the country streamed into the region to assist in the relief.

Yesterday, Christie announced that all buildings certified for power will have full restoration by today. And, next week, he’ll make a decision if gas rationing can be ended. Christie is now focused on rebuilding the Jersey Shore and getting businesses up and running, people in temporary housing and back to work. 

Now that FEMA is on the ground, New Jersey citizens are experiencing the frustrating realities of federal red tape and FEMA limitations. Due to the shortage of available short term housing, FEMA is looking to bring in trailers for the tent cities that have started to pop up. 

To help offset the FEMA frustrations, a literal train load of Katrina survivors arrived in Newark yesterday with volunteers and additional aid. The Katrina survivors will be fanning out to the smaller communities that may have been forgotten. 

Meanwhile, New York continues to play catch-up as disaster recovery specialists look at the New York response as a Katrinaesque example of what not to do. Mayor Bloomberg continues to ignore the plight of the citizens in the areas of Staten Island and Rockaway, Queens. In absence of a coordinated relief effort, the residents have begun organizing their own relief centers as FEMA remains visibly absent. 

Unlike the actions of re-elected House Representative, Michael Grimm (R), who was on the ground in Staten Island securing a warehouse to be used as a donation center, listening to his constituents’ needs, and helping with relief efforts, other politicians were remarkably absent. To fill the void, Occupy Wall Street found their purpose and transformed from OWS to Occupy Sandy

Occupy Sandy has really put FEMA to shame by partnering with religious communities to bring assistance to the communities left behind. In Brooklyn, Occupy Sandy set up two distribution centers in two churches and volunteers are busy preparing meals to bring to the affected communities. Their efforts are extremely organized; the Red Cross recognized this and delivered a shipment of blankets to one of Occupy Sandy’s Brooklyn distribution centers. 

They continue to use their tech and social media savvy as an outreach tool to obtain supplies and equipment for those who need it most. Like Governor Christie, Occupy Sandy is now thinking of rebuilding and started organizing teams to go into the neighborhoods to help in the restoration/rebuilding efforts. In true Occupy ingenuity, Occupy Sandy has set up a bridal registry on requesting items ranging from work gloves, drills, duct tape, diapers, and clothing. Updates on Occupy Sandy’s efforts can be found on Twitter and Facebook

On the energy front, New York continues to fall short. While New Jersey contemplates ending gas rationing, New York finally implemented it in an effort to reduce the lines at the pump. As New Jersey announced that power will be restored by all companies by Sunday, many New Yorkers are told, ‘Eh, maybe by Thanksgiving,” by the publically held Long Island Power Authority. However, customers of privately held Con Edison have been assured that 98% of their grid has been restored, and their employees are going door-to-door on the remaining buildings to check customer owned equipment to ensure its safe to turn the power back before the weekend is over. Unfortunately, customers with equipment damaged beyond repair will have to wait on FEMA for relief.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sits for press conferences in a freshly pressed suit,  blasting the publically held power company for not getting power restored quicker and answering why he fired his chief of emergency management, Christie’s windbreaker has become a part of the Christie brand as he continues to provide updates on relief efforts, at the areas impacted.  Additionally, three more transit lines will be operational this week. The contrast in the response of the two states is clear and begs the question, “shouldn’t Cuomo enlist the help of an outside source to aid in New York’s Sandy response?” 

Rumor has it Jeb Bush formed a company specializing disaster relief.