By Sophia Ricco and Bethany Smith
Five years ago, when Hurricane Sandy tore through Long Island, the streets around the Venetian Shore Park in Lindenhurst were more like rivers than roads.
The sights this Sunday weren’t all that different. People trekked through puddles up to their knees. Water flowed over flooded storm drains, rendering them useless.
The weather in Lindenhurst was a cruel reminder of the hurricane that decimated many parts of Long Island. On the 5th anniversary of the storm, NY Renews and about 100 Long Islanders came together to rally for the government to provide more relief to those who are still suffering from the effects of the hurricane.
“My neighbors are gone now because of Sandy,” Claire McKeon who is running for Suffolk County Legislator for the 14th district said. “Two houses across the street were bought out by the state, and now they’re gone. The house next to them is gone. The house across from them is gone. The landscape has changed. The community is starting to look more like Staten Island than Lindenhurst.”
The speakers demanded Long Island Elected Officials to get survivors back in their homes, address mold problems, create a comprehensive flood protection plan for at-risk communities and educate communities on emergency preparedness. They also want to see roads raised and drainage systems repaired to stop flooding.
“We need to have mechanisms in place that allow people who are affected by these events to recover in a better manner than people were able to recover from Sandy,” Paul Merkelson, a member of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said.
The rally was held at Venetian Shores Park, a beach along the South Shore of Long Island, and was followed by a walk that passed by houses that were in still in disrepair due to the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused.
“When I started advocating, the motto was ‘until everyone is home,’ but I never thought we would be here five years later with no true end in sight” Beth Henry said as she attempted to hold back tears in front of the crowd. Henry is a volunteer for Adopt-A-Home and her home in Massapequa was damaged in the storm.
As the group walked in the pouring rain, NY Renews members pointed out abandoned and devastated houses that still existed on Venetian Blvd. Many could relate to the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused, as they had experienced it firsthand with their own homes. However, the area in Lindenhurst was hit significantly worse than others due to their proximity to the coast.
“Five years is too long for our families to remain in various states of recovery from Superstorm Sandy,” Michele Insinga, Director of Adopt a House, a volunteer run group that is attempting to rebuild communities after Sandy, said. “It’s vital after this past hurricane season, we move in urgent in getting both our families and the communities they are a part of more resilient, elevated to safety, and with repaired infrastructure to support quality of life.”
Though the members of the coalition come from different backgrounds, they are all reaching for the same goal.
NY Renews was founded when a few organizations that were involved in the 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC formed a coalition in 2015. Now, it is made up of over 100 New York groups and organizations.
“When legislators see that different groups of constituents are coming together on an issue and they’re coming together for one clear purpose, then they pay attention,” Rabbi Glenn Jacobs from the New York Interfaith Power and Light Coalition, a member of NY Renews said
Along with advocating for hurricane relief, NY Renews is pushing for The New York State Climate and Protection Act to be put into legislation.The Act demands that 40% of clean energy funds goes to disadvantaged communities and that the state moves to 50% clean energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
“Governor Cuomo must commit to 100% renewable energy, thousands of good union jobs in the new economy, including retraining programs for workers in the fossil fuel industry, and true environmental justice by making corporate polluters pay for the climate-destroying pollution they dump into our air that threatens our safety,” Ryan Madden, the Sustainability Organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, who played a large part in arranging the event, said.
It’s broad policies are to have worker protection and job creation in the renewable energy market, ensure resources are provided to communities affected by climate change, and create a penalty that corporate companies must pay for polluting, according to Dan Sherrell, NY Renews’ campaign coordinator.
“If you’re going to be religious then it’s a moral imperative to save the planet,” Rabbi Jacobs said. “If you believe God created the planet and you believe in God, human beings created this mess and it’s up to us as people of faith to fix the mess that we and our ancestors made.”
Although, the Climate and Community Protection Act was not passed by the New York State Senate this year, NY Renews will continue to push for their goals and for the act to be passed in 2018.