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Gerritsen Beach residents want FEMA trailers

November 29, 2012 3:36:57 PM PST
There are serious, new questions about relief operations stemming from Hurricane Sandy.

FEMA is spending hundreds of millions of your tax dollars to buy trailers to provide emergency housing in case of disasters.

But with thousands of houses either destroyed or badly damaged by Sandy, why haven't those trailers been brought to our area?

FEMA says the trailers wouldn't work in New York's densely populated neighborhoods.

But one hard-hit community says they have plenty of space and plenty of need which they've decided to do something about.

The days are a blur of back-breaking clean-up. The nights, a scramble to find a warm place to stay.

"Where do you stay when you're not here?" Eyewitness News Investigative reporter Jim Hoffer asked.

"At other peoples' homes," said Linda Verara, of Gerritsen Beach.

Linda Verara says she'd gladly use her FEMA rental assistance money, if she could find a short-term rental.

She wants to know, where are the trailers that have been FEMA's signature response to every disaster in recent memory.

"How would a trailer help you?" Hoffer asked.

"It would give us peace of mind. You wouldn't have to look at this in the morning cause when you get up and your here, you look around you and everything flashes back," Verara said.

Charlie Caro and his wife have been sleeping on the floor of their son's basement apartment while waiting for the city's Rapid Repair program to make it possible to move back into their home:

"What about Rapid Repair?" Hoffer asked.

"They came in but haven't gotten back to me," Caro said.

Rapid Repair which is supposed to make trailers unnecessary has been slow to get off the ground.

Eyewitness News has learned just 100 homes citywide have been repaired so far. The Caro's say it's long past time to bring in FEMA trailers:

"I think for myself and others, trailers, I know of another family same thing we could use a place to stay," Caro said.

"We can get people to consider coming here with their mobile homes," said Michael Taylor, of Gerritsen Beach Cares.

Gerritsen Beach community leaders aren't waiting on FEMA, they've put up a website seeking people willing to lend their RV's or campers to help house up to 500 displaced families.

"When elected officials told us that FEMA didn't have trailers available we had to find our solution to our problem," Taylor said.

"Did Mayor Bloomberg say no trailers here?" Hoffer asked.

"No not at all," said Michael Byrne, of FEMA.

FEMA's head of operations in New York says nearly every government agency ruled out trailers because of a lack of space.

But in many hard-hit communities, Eyewitness News has been shown unused lots and open spaces suitable for temporary housing units.

"They keep showing us places nearby where trailers could be put," Hoffer said.

"You know we're always open to recommendations people make but at this point in time we think solutions we got in place will solve the problem," Byrne said.

FEMA says its health and wellness teams canvass neighborhoods daily to check on housing needs and deliver supplies, but with many still lacking heat and unable to find a rental, desperation grows.

"I'm really worried there's going to be an elderly person or someone with disability that's going to freeze to death," Taylor said.

FEMA insists the combination of rental assistance and rapid repairs is the best solution to New York's recovery.

They say bringing in trailers and hooking them up to utilities would take weeks.

We should note that FEMA has in stock 2,000 trailers.

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