Queens residents struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

I think Rudy Giuliani is just being a good partisan by claiming that the federal response to Superstorm Sandy has been worse than Katrina. But has the media run with a narrative of competence and professional response while residents in Staten Island and Rockaway Beach, for example, yell for help? I think that’s beyond question. And the anger is growing in these areas.

How the storm response will be viewed could come down to how the next several days get handled. New York City in particular faces what Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday called a “massive housing problem,” with thousands of residents lacking access to heat as temperatures plummet.

While much of New York City is approaching a semblance of normality, state governor Andrew Cuomo and the city’s mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Sunday that plummeting temperatures were now one of the main threats facing residents in other stricken areas such as Staten Island and Long Island.

Cuomo warned of a “massive, massive housing problem”, with up to 40,000 people – mainly residents of public housing – needing relocating because of damage from the storm and the lack of electricity and heat.

“People are in homes that are uninhabitable,” Cuomo told reporters at a press briefing. “It’s going to become increasingly clear that they’re uninhabitable when the temperature drops and the heat doesn’t come on.”

Warming shelters have been set up for residents, and blankets are being handed out. But if we start to see a number of deaths from the cold, because of a lack of attention to the problem or a response that comes too late, that could shift the narrative considerably.

One needed perspective here is that a storm in this area of the country could never deliver the same level of response as a storm that hits the less-populated Gulf Coast. Just Staten Island has the same population as New Orleans. You’re talking about a storm that affected upwards of 60 million residents. You need a response several orders of magnitude larger for this region than you would for the Gulf Coast.

The proper lesson to draw there is that this region, now a magnet for hurricanes and big storms – two in the past two years – must be protected in a different and more unique way before the fact. In addition, the new threats must be seen as every bit a national security issue, requiring a massive response to stop the warming of the planet as soon as possible.

Photo by SpecialKRB under Creative Commons License