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Even before watching reports from Israel, Mann could see that New York needed help, noting, “There were transportation difficulties, miscommunication between relief efforts and needs.” He quickly realized that the situation was direr than emergency planners originally expected. Later, when he arrived in Far Rockaway, he did not see FEMA workers. In Sea Gate, he saw only local police and some Verizon workers on the ground.
When Ein Prat was in Coney Island, cleaning up stores along the boardwalk, Mann said he did see FEMA and Red Cross workers in the neighborhood. But local residents reported very little help from those organizations. Chabad Rabbi David Okunuv, who leads the Warbasse Jewish Heritage Congregation in Coney Island, said he did not see workers from either agency at the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses. Okunuv said he heard rumors that the National Guard was supposed to help as well, but could not confirm their presence.
Ruth Lichtman, an 89-year-old Warbasse resident who walked down 16 flights of stairs to escape her apartment after the storm cut her building’s electricity, has stayed at a friend’s apartment across the street at the Trump Village Apartments. Lichtman said National Guard members knocked on her friend’s door five days after the storm. “We asked for blankets and food, but no one ever came back,” she said.
Warbasse resident Anya Klozner, whose family also lives Warbasse, wrote in an email that she spoke with security guards who had specifically “asked Bloomberg and Cuomo for FEMA, Red Cross and National Guard assistance but NOTHING ever came.”
Their experiences were not unique. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera reported visiting Belle Harbor, one of the most devastated Rockaway communities, on November 9 — 11 days after the storm hit. “To the extent that there was a government presence, it consisted mainly of a Medicare truck parked outside,” he wrote. Team Rubicon, a volunteer disaster relief group made up of U.S. military veterans, had parachuted into the breach and begun organizing other volunteers in the relief effort.
FEMA did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Anne Marie Borrego, director of media relations at the American Red Cross, said mobile units have been canvassing numerous neighborhoods in New York, including those with large Jewish communities. The Red Cross’s online disaster newsroom has been listing the locations where units will be stationed daily.