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Staten Island Sandy recovery meeting gets heated

November 30, 2012 3:20:52 AM PST
It was standing-room-only on Staten Island as people who lost everything in Hurricane Sandy begged FEMA for help. But what was supposed to be a discussion quickly erupted into outrage.

The residents feel like the recovery effort has come to a standstill. Along Father Capodanno Boulevard, some area look the same as they did a few days after Sandy hit.

That's why many went to the town hall meeting at New Dorp High School Thursday to voice their frustration. They were looking for help and looking for answers, but many left feeling like they didn't get either.

"We are extremely, extremely frustrated," one woman said.

The auditorium was packed to the rafters with more than 700 people jammed in, many shouting questions or shedding tears.

"No one is doing what's right for us," another woman shouted.

All were looking for reassurance, but few seemed to get what they wanted.

"We go from one to another," one homeowner said. "We go from FEMA to our homeowners. My homeowners' insurance offered me $150. What can I do with that?"

Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro tried to calm the situation as the crowd became more and more enraged.

"We are friends, we're here to help," he said. "There's a lot of confusion. There's a lot of statements and mis-statements being made by individuals."

But that did little to quell the crowd's anger.

"You think it's a joke? You really think this is a joke," one angry man yelled. "You go home for the holidays. I don't. But you sit there with your dumb smile. You know what? I wish it was election year, because you'd do better this year."

When officials said testing showed the air quality was safe, there were howls. And when FEMA talked about registering people for aid and for help rebuilding, many simply walked out.

"It's not safe for people to live here," a woman said. "The next storm that hits, everybody is going to be vulnerable."

Another 100 people filled the hallway right outside the doors.

"The reason why this place is mobbed, these are the people that weren't helped," a man said.

A lot of questions surrounded the rapid repair program, specifically if residents can participate in it and still qualify for FEMA assistance. And the answer is, they can do both.

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