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Frustration Grows as Storm-Ravaged Communities Face Fourth Day Without Power

Common Dreams staff

“Nobody comes to help us,” says one resident of a public housing complex in Lower Manhattan. (photo: Reuters)

UPDATE: News agencies are reporting Friday evening that New York City has canceled the marathon scheduled for Sunday.

As residents in New York and New Jersey enter their fourth day since the devastating storm brought tearing wind, surging water and widespread power outages, feelings of desperation and anger are growing with the growing need for electric power, food, and fuel.

But some area residents are feeling that some areas are receiving priority for assistance over others.  In These Times writer Michelle Chen points out: "As Hurricane Katrina demonstrated, floodwaters have a way of exposing the race and class divisions that stratify our cities."  And The Nation reports that "municipal and federal aid to neighborhoods populated by low-income residents and people of color—such as Chinatown and the Lower East Side—has been largely absent."

Brice, a resident of Jacob Riis Houses, a public housing complex in Lower Manhattan, tells the Washington Post, “Nobody comes to help us,” as he walks through the dark. “The cops don’t come in here. No one’s bringing us flashlights. No one’s bringing water. No one’s doing anything.”

“There could be dead people inside these apartments,” he said. “We wouldn’t know.”

Helena Wong, Executive Director of Chinatown-based organization CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities tells The Nation, "The city hasn't been here.  Look around.  There's no city officials here at all."

"Where's Red Cross for the blankets or for water? We have no ice. We have no food."Caroline Marino, a resident of the Howard Beach neighborhood in Queens, spoke with one reporter about the complete absence of government or relief organizations in her neighborhood. "Where's Red Cross for the blankets or for water? We have no ice. We have no food," she said as she walked through her mud-filled home. Pointing to the endless piles of debris that crowded the sidewalks, she adds, "because we're the little people out here, [Bloomberg] doesn't care about us. That's the way it feels."

In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, resident Khadijah says, "Now I'm in darkness, complete darkness. We can't flush our toilets because we have no water. The food that I had in the freezer, we had to use it up, you know give it to this one, give it to that one, but a lot of that stuff spoiled. I don't even want to go back into my apartment because I know it's going to be a wreck in there."


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Democracy Now! also went to Red Hook to hear stories from people without power.  One woman tells the correspondent, "The hallways are dark. The building is dark. The whole project is dark. It's like a war zone out here.  ... and they have people in wheelchairs that they can't get downstairs. The elevators are out of course. ... It's bad out here." Another man tells Democracy Now!, " was like man against Mother Nature.  And mother Nature won. I wouldn't wish a storm like this on my worst enemy."

"They should be getting resources to the elderly people who can't fend for themselves. That's more important than a marathon right now."There is special concern for the elderly, many of whom remain inside their homes. 

"It's been mostly older folks who aren't able to get out," Monique George of Manhattan-based Community Voices Heard told the Associated Press.  "In some cases, they hadn't talked to folks in a few days. They haven't even seen anybody because the neighbors evacuated. They're actually happy that folks are checking, happy to see another person. To not see someone for a few days, in this city, it's kind of weird."

"It's too much. You're in your house. You're freezing," Geraldine Giordano, 82, a lifelong resident of the West Village, told AP

The decision to carry on with the New York City Marathon on Sunday has sparked outrage, as struggling residents see needed resources and energy diverted from storm relief.

"I am from Coney Island where everything is flooded and underwater," Yelena Gomelsky, 65, told the New York Post. "I live 1 block from the ocean where everything is floating. "[Seeing the generators and water] makes me feel so bad. People have no food, no water, nothing."

"They should make all of these runners bring food and water to people's houses who need it. They should bring all of these generators to buildings where old people live and give them power."

Staten Island resident George Rosado told AP that the decision to hold the marathon as scheduled was "repulsive."  "They should be getting resources to the elderly people who can't fend for themselves. That's more important than a marathon right now," said Rosado.

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