Labor and Community Organizations Call for Fair and Equitable Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy
FUREE joins other Non-Profits, Unions, and Faith-Based Groups to Urge Local and National Leaders to Create Transparent, Community-Driven Rebuilding Process
We Must Learn Lessons From Hurricane Katrina, Group Asserts in the Following Open Letter:
New York, NY – On the day that Governor Cuomo’s NYS 2100, NYS Respond, and NYS Ready Commissions on post-Sandy response are set to release their recommendations, a group of fifty labor, faith and community organizations came together to announce their vision for a just, equitable, and sustainable rebuilding of New York City and other affected regions in the face of a new climate. This vision is included in an open letter sent to local and national leaders on Jan. 3rd. The groups called on President Obama, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg to release funds for New Yorkers still suffering damage from the storm, rebuild the city’s infrastructure to address economic inequality, and include affected communities in a transparent process when making decisions that impact their neighborhoods. They also blasted House Republicans for failing to vote on a measure to bring a much-needed $60 billion in federal aid to New York and New Jersey, and called on leaders in Congress to pass the Hurricane Sandy relief bill right away, before the Congressional session ends today at noon.
New York’s response to the storm has exposed deep inequality across the city, the letter states. In the storm’s aftermath, under-resourced communities were exposed to the most risk of prolonged damage – low-income people who work low-wage and hourly jobs, residents of public housing, those who lack access to safety nets, and New Yorkers barred from public relief and other opportunities due to their citizenship status. Many communities remained without heat or power for more than a month after the storm hit.
The group’s statement outlines recommendations for rebuilding the city in a way that serves all of its residents. They called for immediate relief supplies, including food and water, housing for the homeless, and materials for repairs. As the city begins to rebuild communities that were demolished by the storm, they urged the inclusion of public and low-income housing. The groups called on the city to build sustainable infrastructure, and stressed the importance of transparency and community input when making decisions that affect their neighborhoods.
“Now more than ever, we can’t afford to have a city that serves some New Yorkers and not others,” said Alexa Kasdan, Director of Research and Policy at the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. “As we recover from the storm, we have an opportunity to rebuild the city in a smart, sustainable, and just way that addresses economic equality and gives real decision making power to those that are most affected.”
The groups will hold a press conference on January 8 with community leaders and labor groups to call for an alternative rebuilding process. The group and its supporters will also hold a rally in Albany at the State of the State Address on January 9.
“We believe as faith leaders in the prophet Isaiah’s call to be ‘repairers of the breach and restorers of streets to live in,’” said Father Darrell DaCosta, Chair, Queens Congregations United for Action (QCUA). “With so many families and congregations hit hard by Sandy, the faith community in Queens is committed to making sure the recovery effort in New York is equitable and community driven.”
Some of the groups raised concerns that some of New York’s business leaders are already seeing dollar signs and development opportunities in the wake of disaster. Noting a recent op-ed in Roll Call co-authored by Felix Rohatyn – widely regarded as the mastermind behind the adoption of severe austerity measures in NYC after the fiscal collapse of the mid-1970s – Jeremy Saunders, lead organizer from VOCAL-NY said: “Red flags go up for many of us when we hear proposals for rebuilding from the same voices that transformed our city into two New Yorks decades ago. We hope our elected officials have community members in mind, rather than just those who primarily seek profit, when deciding how to rebuild our City.”
"The voices, concerns and well-being of all communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy must take center stage as New York makes plans to rebuild and recover. Make the Road New York's recent report found that three out of four immigrants in devastated areas have been unable to access relief. We call on New York State and local governments to ensure that immigrants' concerns are included in the recovery planning process, alongside everyone working hard to rebuild their blocks and communities," said Deborah Axt, Co- Executive Director, Make the Road New York.
“Our members showed up to work right after the Hurricane and continued to supply New Yorkers with food and important necessities throughout the holiday season. Many are traveling to their jobs in communities that have fully recovered from the storm. Unfortunately, they are going back home to neighborhoods that are still facing severe devastation from the aftermath of Sandy. Rebuilding all of New York's communities, fast, fair and safe, is essential for New York State,” said Pat Purcell from UFCW 1500.
"Complete transparency and just distribution is what we need as we move forward with rebuilding this city, said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. "We must make sure those who are most in need receive priority assistance from the aftermath Hurricane Sandy caused."
"Community Voices Heard supports this statement because we need to rebuild, but we need to do it differently than we have before,” said Ann Valdez, Member-Leader of Community Voices Heard and resident of Coney Island Houses. “I live in Coney Island Houses and there are still mold and repairs problems from Sandy. This, of course, on top of repairs that we have been waiting on for years. Public Housing residents have been left out of the equation for years, and it is time that we who live in public housing have a voice in fixing our homes, getting jobs for public housing residents, and in the post Sandy recovery."
"For too long, development policies have overlooked and undervalued low-income and working New Yorkers. The plans to repair and rebuild from Hurricane Sandy could be an opportunity to tackle the jobs crisis in New York's struggling communities, but only if we prioritize policies that are equitable, transparent and accountable," said Matt Ryan, Executive Director, ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York
“Planning for recovery and rebuilding must address substantive issues put forward by members of the most impacted and vulnerable communities – residents, workers, and small businesses,” said Adam Friedman, Executive Director, Pratt Center for Community Development. “The Pratt Center urges the City, State, and Federal agencies involved to meet directly with those communities, on a timeline that allows those who have suffered the most harm from the storm to meaningfully participate in the far-reaching and difficult decisions that we face.”
The signatories to the letter include a broad range of the city’s community groups, including 350.org, ALIGN, Brown Community Development Corporation, Buffalo CEJ, Center for Community Change, Center for Popular Democracy, Center for Social Inclusion, Center for Urban Pedagogy, Chhaya CDC, Citizen Action of NY, Chelsea Coalition on Housing, Clergy Campaign for Social and Economic Justice, the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, the Carbon Disclosure Project, Community Voices Heard, the Communications Workers of America, the Communications Workers of America District 1, El Puente, Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, Gamaliel Foundation, Hunger Action Network of NY State, Laborers Local 78, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Long Island Jobs with Justice, MoveOn.org, Make the Road NY, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, National People’s Action, NEDAP, New York State Episcopal Public Policy Network, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition, the North Star Fund, NYC Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupy Sandy, Participatory Budgeting Project, the Pratt Center for Community Development, Public Employees Federation, Queens Legal Services, Red Hook Initiative, RWDSU, SEIU 32BJ, Supportive Housing Network of New York, Tenants Political Action Committee, The Other 98%, The Opportunity Agenda, UFCW Local 1500, and VOCAL-NY.