Southern Brooklyn

Editorial: Local Pols Need To Be More Visible In Sandy Recovery Efforts, Especially On Gas And Power Issues

Any pol, Sheepshead Bay? Maybe.

There are a lot of things missing around Sheepshead Bay in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Some homes vanished. Gas has dried up. Most waterfront blocks are without power, heat or hot water, and no one has seen FEMA or Red Cross in the neighborhood.

And, in the hundreds of e-mails, phone calls, text messages, tweets and Facebook comments we’ve been getting, residents have noted time and time again that our local politicians are also AWOL.

Now, I don’t completely agree with that. Councilman Lew Fidler was the first we heard from after Hurricane Sandy, compiling a list of resources for recovery. State Senator Marty Golden has been shooting out about a dozen press releases each day, some seeking volunteers to help in Gerritsen Beach, others passing along resources like to help constituents find operating gas stations. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and Councilman Michael Nelson – both booted from their offices by the flood – have done site visits, and Cymbrowitz has sent out resources for FEMA and Con Edison.

But our readers are pretty adamant that it’s not enough, and they’re demanding more.

Few of the locally elected, that we’re aware of, have criticized Con Edison for their lackluster response. They have failed to fight back against the requirement that homeowners – already hard hit financially by the storm – now have to pay out of their own pockets for electricians to provide certification to the city that the home is safe to be energized (the requirement itself is understandable, but the added cost is not).

Here are a few suggestions for our pols regarding Con Ed from reader Richard K.:

  • Con Ed should send representatives to post notices regarding the certification requirement (with the required forms).
  • Con Ed should send their own electricians to homes just as they send meter readers to each home every month.  Many people cannot even afford the additional cost of a certified electricians.
  • Con Ed should set a deadline for certification by their electricians. Homes that have not been certified, due to lack of entry, by the deadline should be cut from power individually. A few people should not be allowed to prevent power restoration to the entire neighborhood.

We’re also hearing a lot of outcry from readers that, once they go through filing the forms, there’s little response from Con Edison, and some have said that Con Edison representatives seem unsure of what to do with it. When these constituents contacted their local officials, the officials chose to defer to Con Edison – not exactly a solution if the problem is Con Edison.

Residents, of course, want gas for their cars, and are fed up with waiting hours in line just for a gas station to run out before they get to refuel. And, yet, when the government was distributing free gas in Brooklyn, they did it at the Brooklyn Armory in Crown Heights. That’s right, Crown Heights, where there was no real damage from the storm; where residents did not need gas to power sump pumps; and where mass transit options opened up long before the did here in Southern Brooklyn.

Oh, and where you’d need to drive to actually fill up, since they were not allowing people to fill up gas cans.

That gas should’ve been distributed in Southern Brooklyn, where people really needed it. And our local elected officials should’ve been shouting from the neighborhood’s splintered roofs to get it.

But that has passed, and no more free gas is available. So, now, where are our local pols demanding that operating gas stations in Zone A and Zone B receive gas before less resource- and transit-starved neighborhoods?

And then there’s FEMA and Red Cross. Senator Marty Golden has done a great job coordinating in Gerritsen Beach. We’ve heard Councilman Michael Nelson and Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz have been involved with efforts down at the Shorefront Y in Brighton Beach. But how come there have been no similar efforts in Sheepshead Bay? How come they have not demanded FEMA mobile units to park themselves on Emmons Avenue, and help those in the bungalows and the co-ops and the businesses fill out the proper forms for assistance? How come they have not helped in organizing teams to go door to door, like in Brighton Beach and Gerritsen Beach and Coney Island, where homebound seniors are being brought blankets and food while those in the co-ops of Sheepshead Bay’s Zone A have received nary a visit (or at least that was the case when I knocked on doors earlier this week, letting people know they could get supplies from P.S. 52)?

I don’t agree with the majority of our readers when they say the local pols haven’t done anything. But I do think they need to forcefully and enthusiastically seize the opportunity to help their constituents. And they need to summon up some of that burning indignation you see during the campaigns and set their sites on Con Edison, gas distributors and FEMA.

Sheepshead Bay will not be forgotten. Its residents will make sure of that on many election days to come.