Natural Disasters

Bureaucracy Hobbles Sandy Volunteers

Why not make an emergency worse with confusion and regulations?


Despite the slow and steady progress made by residents, volunteers, FEMA, The Red Cross, and the City of New York to improve conditions in the Rockaways, volunteer manpower—a precious resource in the Hurricane Sandy recovery—continues to be misdirected or squandered by those in charge of official relief efforts. "The city hasn't reached out to us at all," said Matt Calender, a Rockaway resident who helps direct a bustling relief effort from a house on Beach 96th Street. "The Red Cross gave us 500 blankets the other day. FEMA talked to us. But that's it. We station volunteers here, but we also send people downtown, where there is immense need. If people come here we can actually give them something to do."

Yesterday afternoon, approximately 50 volunteers in pristine white Red Cross t-shirts disembarked from buses on Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 105th and Beach 108th and milled about, watching LIPA employees work. Alongside a strip mall parking lot on Beach 88th Street, a double-decker tour bus unloaded another 20 volunteers brought to the area in a joint effort by the New York City Council and New York Cares. When the bus arrived, some wandered away. Others wondered aloud what the plan was.