It’s been 10 months: Do you know where your neighbors are?
This catchy phrase from the local organization The11518 Inc. is only fitting, especially in Bay Park, where, by some estimates, 40 percent of residents are still not back in their homes so many months after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread damage.
Members of The11518 — East Rockaway’s ZIP code — have organized an Aug. 31 rally to bring attention to the fact that many people are still suffering, still displaced and still at a loss as to what to do next.
“The purpose of the rally is to promote awareness,” said Dan Caracciolo, co-coordinator and founder of the organization, which shares information and helps provide resources to storm victims from East Rockaway, Bay Park and surrounding communities, coordinating its efforts with Friends of Long Island, an island-wide long-term recovery group. “We’ve invited politicians, their constituents, and made fliers,” Caracciolo added.
He said that there were other rallies in neighboring communities eight and nine months after the storm, and he thought East Rockaway would be a good location to mark the 10th month.
“We want to get out there and let people know that their neighbors are still not in their homes,” Caracciolo said. “We also have the [Bay Park] sewage plant that’s been in the news a lot lately — it’s like the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and it’s been a political talking point.”
The plant was inundated with a nine-foot tidal surge at the height of the hurricane, throwing it offline as it dumped an estimated 2 million gallons of raw sewage and 2.2 billion gallons of partially treated sewage into Reynolds Channel in the 44 days after the storm — the worst sewage overflow in New York state and the second-worst in the Northeast, according to scientific researchers at Climate Central.org.
One family’s story
For Rachel Sumerson and Gene Gamache, the parents of two young children, the days, weeks and now months since the hurricane have been a learning experience. The main level of their small single-family bungalow in Bay Park took on two feet of water during the storm.