I have been without power now 96 hours. I have slept in the cold dark house at night and I have now slept in two different hotels. Moving hotels as at times there is only one room available for a night. If that’s all they got, that’s what I will take in order to make sure my son is warm. He somewhat understands a hurricane came and took our power-or rather he understands that something weird was going on outside that made it so that his TV didn’t work. What I am going through is absolutely nothing compared to what those who live in Staten Island are going through tonight.
I am a die-hard New Yorker raised in the South Bronx. I was brought up to have a sense of a good old-fashioned borough rivalry. If you grew up in the Bronx you make fun of queens and so on. You were either a Yankees fan or a Mets fan. But there were definitely things that bonded the majority of us. Those from Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Bronx often make fun of Staten Island. Staten Island used to claim the largest landfill in the world providing fodder for our collective ribbing. The fact that Staten Island is the only borough that is not connected to the New York City subway system kept it psychologically separated from the rest of us. When we were teenagers we would take the Staten Island Ferry when we wanted something free to do. But we would never get off and explore Staten Island. We would just wave to it.
It’s been like the crazy aunt or kooky uncle we have joked that we would do a trade with New Jersey giving them Staten Island (note that Staten Island is extremely close in geography to New Jersey). . In a 1993 referendum, 65% of Staten Islanders voted to secede, but implementation was blocked in the State Assembly. But all that is water under the bridge (unfortunately a bad pun). Staten Island is part of New York. It is one of the boroughs. It is part of what makes New York great. Many of our firefighters live out there. Many of our hard working class neighborhoods are out there. The backbone of New York. Yet, historically Staten Island has been called “the forgotten borough” by inhabitants who feel neglected by the city government.
That historical sense of being forgotten is alive and well today. Staten Island has been devastated by hurricane, superstorm Sandy. More have died in Staten Island than the rest of New York. An elderly coupled died together. Two children were ripped from a mother’s arm down a stream and the bodies found in marsh. Houses moved by the storm surge for over 500 ft. Refrigerators floated away to the lawns of neighbors. Hundreds of homes severely of completed damaged. Yet FEMA and the RED CROSS are just getting there –three days after the hurricane struck. The name Katrina is starting to be whispered and at times shouted. Shouted to remind us to not be complacent and to not forget the downtrodden. Let’s not let those without much lose it all, including their lives.
Staten Island’s geography is in part the reason why resources are just starting to get there. But why haven’t there been full door-to-door search for bodies? Do we really ever want to see neighborhoods blotted with X or numbers signifying number of dead in a house the way we saw in New Orleans post Katrina? Con Ed has reported that 114,000 customers on Staten Island have been without power since the storm struck on Monday, roughly 65 percent of the island. 65%, wow! That is just devastatingly sad. Now, when I watch the news coverage I understand, in part, why so many are without power. Saltwater has entered many homes damaging electrical units. However, if I can just note about Westchester-how are so many without power there? There is no saltwater in the streets. A few trees down here and there. Apologies, I am just pretty angry about this lost of power all around. Definitely, the sense of desperation must be higher in Staten Island than in Westchester.
So, what do we all think about the New York City marathon going ahead as originally scheduled. Is it idiotic as Staten Island Councilman James Oddo stated earlier today? Is it irresponsible and a diversion of vital resources? If you have not heard the ING New York Marathon was supposed to occur this coming weekend (don’t get me started that we are to call it ING –it is a global financial institution). Mary Wittenberg, chief executive of New York Road Runners, stated that “This isn’t about running, this is about helping the city”. Yes, the marathon raises money for charities. I cannot imagine being a runner that has to go by areas that have been devastated and people died –perhaps in part because they couldn’t run fast enough. Supposedly, at one of the exhibitor’s booths they were blasting the song “rock you like a hurricane.” Which seems in some bad taste, no?
I end this brief note with a plea that us, us New Yorkers band together to let Staten Island know that it is not the forgotten borough. That our search for charging stations and lattes be put aside as we think of the needs of those that are in such dire situations in Staten Island.