By Skyler Gilbert and Antonia Brogna
Pellets of hail splashed into the puddles in the parking lot. White-capped waves crashed on the coast. Fully grown trees bent over to the ground. Above, a gull flew toward the shore, but was moving backward in the wind.
“It was nice of Hurricane Sandy to show up for her anniversary,” Rabbi Glenn Jacob, executive director of New York Interfaith Power and Light, joked.
It was on the same day, October 29, that in 2012, Hurricane Sandy slammed New York City and Long Island, causing $71 billion in damage. On the anniversary of the storm, about a hundred local residents gathered under a pavilion at Venetian Shores Park in Lindenhurst for a vigil and a call toward the state government for action.
“Sandy is not over,” Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said. “Communities are still feeling impacts. Five years later, funds have still not been allocated to ensure that all the problems have been fixed.”
After the storm, about 11,000 qualified homeowners without flood insurance enrolled in NY Rising, the state-run housing recovery program. There are still 2,400 that have not been rebuilt, according to a source within the program.
On the Lindenhurst coast, down the street from the rally, some houses still have plywood boards over the windows, with plastic covering flapping in the wind. After storms like the one this weekend, nuisance flooding still affects the low-lying residential areas, as drainage systems were damaged and never properly repaired after the hurricane.
“We’ve been fighting an uphill battle for five years,” Donald Werle, a Lindenhurst resident, said. “Instead of putting things back together the right way, the government came in and half-assed it.”
While Werle’s home was repaired after an expense of $100,000, some houses, he said, were never fixed. A foreclosed building next door is now only home to mildew and mold.
“There’s black mold all up the wall, and a school across the street,” Werle said, pointing to Harding Avenue Elementary School. “I’m not looking for them to make things special. I just want it healthy to live here again.”
One woman was in tears Sunday as she talked about her experience after the storm. It took her family four years to receive money from their flood insurance claim. But most of all, she was concerned with the health effects of the storm, which she said impacted her now 6-year-old daughter.
“Ella was diagnosed with one autoimmune disease,” Beth Henry, a school teacher that lives in Massapequa, said. “Then she was diagnosed with another.”
Adopt a House, which Henry is affiliated with, was a main sponsor of the event. It is a nonprofit agency dedicated to rebuilding local communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. The organization both aids recovering families both monetarily and with case-by-case advisory, director Michele Insinga said.
Several sponsors of the event also made a call for government action to combat climate change, in the wake of the worst north Atlantic hurricane season since 2005.
“We need proactive measures,” Jacob said. “Long Island is just one big sandbar, which makes it incredibly susceptible to rising sea levels and tropical storms. We can’t keep being reactive. We must be proactive.”