Approximately 200 people — the majority of them displaced victims of Hurricane Sandy — braved a whipping rain during a march from Island Park to Long Beach last Saturday to express their frustration with NY Rising.
The 1.6-mile Walk a Mile in Our Shoes was organized by Sandy Victims Fighting FEMA, an advocacy group for storm victims, and began outside Island Park Village Hall and ended at the Long Beach boardwalk. It was held concurrently with other walks in Staten Island, Brooklyn and New Jersey, to show solidarity with “thousands” of others who are looking to rebuild and have yet to return home 17 months after the storm.
Many toted signs that read, “We had flood insurance. Why are we homeless?” while others wore shirts that read “Homeless with a mortgage.” Many shouted “Bring us home!” and “Enough is enough!”
“These are middle-class people who for years paid their flood insurance, and when they file a claim they’re not getting paid,” said the event’s organizer, Michele Mittleman. “It was nice to see everyone come out — when you see people wheeling baby carriages and elderly people coming out, they’re marching because they can’t go home.”
Mittleman, a Freeport resident who is currently renting in Westbury because her home was destroyed, said she was outraged that the NY Rising Housing Recovery Program “has the funds to adequately pay victims, but they have disbursed only a fraction of the funds allocated by HUD” — the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The rally was held just two weeks before the April 11 deadline to apply for NY Rising, which is distributing billions of dollars in federal Sandy aid money allocated to the state, and began releasing grant award letters last October. The program was announced a year ago as a way to help homeowners fill the funding gaps left by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration and their insurance, a reimbursement process that residents and local officials described as sluggish and complicated.
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