As Sandy moved up the Atlantic coast, The New York Times summed up the conventional wisdom about the hurricane and the feds in an editorial headlined "A Big Storm Requires Big Government." It wasn't long before that story started coming apart, and at this point it may be safe to say that the narrative has completely reversed. Here's The Brooklyn Bureau, reporting under the rather different headline "Grassroots Groups Have Taken Over Sandy Relief":
As I've said before, the main difference between the response FEMA to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy is the media. For Katrina, they had the message prepared in advance, Katrina was Bush's fault (I don't know how they got there, but they did), and that any action he or FEMA took was wrong or too little. In the case of Sandy, with their darling facing reelection, the narrative was that Mr. Cool Bomber Jacket (they're cool when worn by our guys) presided over a reformed FEMA that did everything necessary and everything right (please stop whining about the water in the street, the lack of power, and the bodies in the basements, at least until the election is over)Twelve days after the storm, the Vollies headquarters in the hard-hit "old section" of Gerritsen nearer the ocean is a hive of donated food and clothes, volunteers from all over, lists of electricians and plumbers hastily scrawled on pages from legal pads and taped to a wall. A food truck, normally resident in Midtown, has been dispatched by the mayor's office to serve free meals. National Guard troops based at nearby Floyd Bennett Field sort through a mountain of clothing. Amid the maelstrom, Assistant Fire Chief Doreen Garson is a nonstop ball of energy, directing volunteers, "Right now," she says, "we're acting as our own little city."...
By comparison, there has been less visible support from city and federal agencies. In particular, the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- which has already been lambasted in the media for shutting down many of its aid centers for two days "due to weather" when a nor'easter swept through last week, and for being outperformed by a bunch of ragged veterans of Occupy Wall Street -- gets little praise from the storm survivors thronging the Vollies hall.
Craig Fulgate* is the current director of FEMA, if you hadn't heard.
UPDATE via Insty: Coney Island; Poor Black and Still in the Dark:
Nehemiah Mims, 80, who lives in nearby O’Dwyer Gardens on the 13th floor, left her apartment early the day Hurricane Sandy hit New York. “When Housing knocked on my door and asked was I staying or leaving—I left,” she told The Final Call laughing.
Ms. Mims, like hundreds of others, has found her way each day since the hurricane to the doors of the Coney Island Gospel Assembly at 29th and Neptune Ave. Ms. Mims finds a hot meal and needed supplies for her apartment, which she says still has no power, no heat and no hot water.
The Final Call visited the church Nov. 9, and according to reports, 35,000 public housing residents in Coney Island and Far Rockaway were still in the dark. Many of them had the same complaint that Ms. Mims had: “City not saying nothing.”
The NYC Housing Authority, however, did send out a notice that tenants would receive a rent credit for January due to the lack of services and temporary boilers would arrive by the end of the week.