It’s impossible to know how many people have become sick from what Sandy left behind: mold from damp drywall, spills from oil tanks, sewage from flood water and toilets, tons of debris and dust.
These toxic substances cause allergies, asthma and are potentially deadly for people with weak immune systems. Thousands of homes and apartments need to be cleaned, most have still not even been touched.
In the Rockaways the air is so full of particles that the traffic police wear masks. The “Rockaway cough” is a common symptom that comes from mold, dust or demolition, health officials told the New York Times. “I’ve been coughing,” Gabriel McAuley, 46, told the Times. “I’ve never felt a cough like this before. It’s deeper down.” McAuley has been working 16-hour shifts gutting homes and hauling debris.
Miguel Alarcon Morales and his family of five are among 20,000 Mexicans in Staten Island. They are still living in their damaged, moldy and unheated home, because they have nowhere else to go. “My son has asthma and now he is worse. The house has this smell of humidity and sea water,” he told the Associated Press.
Morales’ children were born in the U.S., so he can apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency help. But he has been hesitant to do it because he is undocumented.
At first the city housed many evacuees in open dormitories in city armories. Faced with widespread complaints about chaotic, unsanitary conditions, the city has shut them down, except for two on Staten Island. Hundreds were moved to $300 hotel rooms scattered around the city. FEMA will stop paying the hotels Dec. 1.
New York City Housing Authority has informed residents who lost power, heat and water that they will get a credit towards the January rent, but have to pay in full for December.
On Nov. 19 some 100 furious tenants from the Red Hook area of Brooklyn challenged NYCHA officials at a meeting held at a community center. They explained that they would not be able to pay their December rent after having lost food and not being able to cook at home for weeks, in addition to all sorts of extra expenses.
Long Island Power Authority has billed customers for the weeks they couldn’t live in their houses, as if the outages never happened. Con Edison has filed with the Public Service Commission to refund customers who lost power—$3 for those in Manhattan and $6 for those in the outer boroughs.
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