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Sandy Victims Speak Out on Losing Homes, Combating Mold, Still Without Power and Heat; Unions, Faith, Community and Environmental Groups Urge Cuomo to Create Transparent, Community-Driven Rebuilding Process

Albany, NY
Seventy members of The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding – a group of over fifty community, faith, labor, and environmental organizations – traveled from devastated areas of New York City and Long Island to Albany today to announce their recommendations for a just and equitable rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.  Just before Governor Cuomo discussed his rebuilding plans in the State of the State address, the group presented their own recommendations for rebuilding the city and state in a way that serves all of its residents.

Make the Road NY, an Alliance member, also hosted a State of the State viewing party in Staten Island, attended by dozens of people directly impacted by Sandy and faith and community leaders.

At the pre-State of the State rally, and in an open letter released last week, Alliance members asserted that Hurricane Sandy exposed deep inequity in New York, as under-resourced communities experienced the most risk of prolonged damage.  The Alliance called for immediate relief for residents who were displaced from their homes, are without power and heat, or are dealing with an increasingly serious mold epidemic.   As New York City and State plan to rebuild communities that were demolished by the storm, the Alliance also called on officials to build sustainable infrastructure that addresses economic inequity and unemployment, and to include ALL New York communities in a transparent process when making decisions about rebuilding.

“I live in Coney Island Houses and there are still mold and repairs problems from Sandy,” said Ann Valdez, Member-Leader of Community Voices Heard and resident of Coney Island Houses.  “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.” 

Organizations in the Alliance also spoke about the need for all New York communities to play a meaningful role in decision-making in the rebuilding process, and for resources to be allocated first to communities directly impacted by Sandy and communities suffering from systemic inequity.  Noting the lack of significant representation of community, faith, labor or environmental organizations on the Governor’s Commissions for recovery and rebuilding, they called for these constituencies – particularly organizations working in communities hardest hit by the storm- to have a permanent place in planning and budgeting of all rebuilding funds and projects, including climate response planning.

“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.

Finally, speakers spoke of the opportunity for New York can create itself as a global model of sustainability and equity – calling for equitable investment in all rebuilding to create jobs and economic opportunity while rebuilding infrastructure to prepare for a new climate.

“We can’t just rebuild our city the same way knowing that future disasters are coming, or ignoring the infrastructure problems that made Sandy so devastating,” said Brian Pearson, leader at VOCAL New York. “We are calling for a rebuilding that provides good jobs, quality housing and makes New York a model for fighting climate change and protecting its residents when the next storm comes”

“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.

Yesterday, several hundred members of the Alliance held a large rally at New York City Hall with NY City Council and State representatives. 

The Alliance for a Just Rebuilding represents a broad range of the city’s community and labor organizations, including, ALIGN, Brown Community Development Corporation, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, 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,, Make the Road NY, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, National People’s Action, NEDAP, New York Communities for Change, New York State Episcopal Public Policy Network, New York State Nurses Association, New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, New York State Tenants & Neighbors Coalition, the North Star Fund, NYC Labor-Religion Coalition, Occupy Sandy, Participatory Budgeting Project, PICO National Network, the Pratt Center for Community Development, Public Employees Federation, PUSH Buffalo, Queens Congregations United for Action, 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, TWU Local 100, UFCW Local 1500, and VOCAL-NY.