October 30, 2013 Heather Chin
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Canarsie was hit hard by Sandy, but residents “were excluded from” a lot of relief aid and recovery services, says Assemblymember Nick Perry.

“People in Canarsie, especially the Paerdegat area, were excluded and it was very hurtful to me and the people I represent who saw homes devastated, lost cars, basements flooded, and structural damage,” Perry explained, noting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “system was inadequate.”

Part of the problem was the fact that much of the neighborhood is located in the lower-priority Zones 3, 4 and 5, placing much the neighborhood outside of the immediate evacuation zone and the attendant federal and city aid. There are also fewer public transportation options, and flooded subway tunnels kept volunteers at bay.

According to the initial findings of the Brooklyn Recovery Fund’s one-year report on the state of Sandy recovery efforts, “FEMA’s refusal to cover the cost of damage to illegal units led directly to the displacement of immigrant tenants and foreclosure on homeowners.” Canarsie’s foreclosure rate today has doubled to over 3,000. The sizable senior population was also left stranded, as only buses were still in operation in most areas.

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Still, hope remains important to recovery, and representatives from the Canarsie Recovery Coalition (CRC), located at 744 East 87th Street, are “definitely optimistic about what’s going on in our community.

“From Sandy to now, there has been a huge difference,” noted Nefertiti Leach, project administrator at the CRC. “From recovery to sustainability, and whether we’re [providing] repairs and access to resources, we’re optimistic. There is a sense of urgency in the fact that, as much has been done in the past year, there is still a lot of work to do as a team.”

The experience has also united the previously fragmented community of African Americans, and Haitian Creole, Italian, West Indian, and Spanish immigrants, said Leach. Everyone is now communicating, she said.

The CRC holds monthly meetings at which residents, faith-based organizations, elected officials and others can brainstorm and coordinate resources. For more information, email [email protected].

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