November 15, 2012

Sandy Recovery Continues

As residents file suit over loss of power, volunteers come together to help the region.

Scott: Tens of thousands on Long Island went days without power…

Long Island Residents: LIPA needs to change their ways.

Scott: …leaving them feeling powerless against LIPA, the Long Island Power Authority.

Now customers are fighting back. They are suing LIPA and the National Grid, which runs the power company’s network.

The lawsuit represents all customers that were affected and says the power companies were completely unprepared for the huge storm. They argue the company failed to communicate with them, further keeping them in the dark.

LIPA hasn’t commented on the lawsuit but New York State is also investigating LIPA’s storm response. And amid the criticism, a top LIPA executive announced he would step down.

Now, there are real signs of recovery in some areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. And an army of volunteers, many of them young people, is on the ground, working hard to help.

Gary Hamilton has their story.

Gary: Shalaka Cox has spent days navigating darkened hallways and staircases in Rockaway, Queens, New York.

The 17-year-old has been handing out food, water and flashlights to people stranded for days in their apartments.

Shalaka: There are times when it might be overwhelming but then I think about what we’re actually doing and how many families that we have been able to effect positively. I think in the last few days we’ve reached over 500 families, so knowing that helps me and keeps me going.

Gary: Shalaka is a foot soldier in a relief force recruited by 23-year-old Milan Taylor.

Milan Taylor: It’s really time for us to prove that we are willing to step up and we’re able to step up.

Gary: The college student has been directing the effort from his smartphone.

Milan: We put out a call on Facebook and the supplies and the food just started to come pouring in.

Gary: And they are not the only ones using social media to organize help. This week, a relief agency in Red Bank, New Jersey posted an urgent need for things like laundry detergent, work gloves and shovels. And within hours, word that a busload of supplies from Vermont was heading their way.

As for Milan, he has enlisted more than 100 teens and twenty-somethings to help their neighbors.

Volunteer: You guys alright over here?

Gary: At the core of his band of volunteers is the community group he founded a year-and-a-half ago to mentor kids. He has spent the groups last $500 to buy diapers and blankets.

Milan: There is no community leadership guiding FEMA, guiding the Red Cross, because they are not from this community. So they don’t know where the needs are.

Gary: FEMA, the government agency that provides help after a disaster, has set up a distribution trailer less than three miles away. But it might as well be a thousand miles for the elderly who live here. And that is where Milan’s group comes in.

In less than a week, the group figured out how to distribute several days worth of supplies to three different apartment houses.

Milan: They’re saying, honestly, that they wouldn’t know what they would do without us. There needs to be a little bit more faith put in young people and our capabilities and what we are able to do.

Rockaway Resident: You guys are wonderful! You’re doing a great job!

Gary: Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.


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