"It’s been the worst nightmare possible," said Vinny Accetta, a Staten Island resident from the flooded Midland Beach area. He, his wife, Devon, and their toddler twins are staying with relatives seven miles from their home.
Eight days after Hurricane Sandy, Accetta is still waiting for FEMA to come and assess the damage to his home. After the hurricane, he was given a case number by FEMA. Now he waits in the cold.
"FEMA came to my block and a few neighbors were assessed," he said. "I asked the worker if he could check my home and he replied, ‘You’re not on my list.’ "
President Barack Obama promised during his visit to the Northeast as he surveyed the damage that there would be no "red tape."
That promise has not been fulfilled.
"It is a crazy run-around with FEMA," Accetta said. He went back online to check his status, which showed nothing new, and then he said he tried calling FEMA for hours. He still has no answers and has no idea when they will show up.
When asked if he thought there was any type of organization in FEMA, Accetta responded, "none whatsoever."
The local response also has been slow. The New York City Building Department, according to Accetta, has not assessed the damage to his home and labeled it with a sticker. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that residents’ homes would be tagged with either a green, yellow, or red sticker, indicating how to proceed into a home.
"I heard they were coming today, so I waited from nine o’clock until five," Accetta said. They did not come. After losing nearly everything, all he is waiting for is a sticker and word from FEMA so he can start to move on and determine what he can do with his home.
FEMA’s incompetence is putting people’s lives at risk as the situation deteriorates.
Temperatures have dipped below freezing in New York City, making matters worse for those suffering without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and placing thousands at risk in the upcoming Nor’easter scheduled to hit the area on Wednesday.
Power is unlikely to return for many before the winter storm hits. Con Edison Spokesman Allan Drury said they were working on a press release announcing that homes that were flooded must hire a licensed electrician and get certification before their power is restored.
When asked if a federal agency could do the inspections to alleviate homeowners of this added burden, Drury said, "I believe homeowners are responsible for their own equipment."
"If their equipment is damaged, they can’t receive electricity," stated Drury.
Sources tell the Free Beacon that if homeowners aren’t certified, their lines will be cut, an action that would affect approximately 14,000 residents in Staten Island.
The pending Nor’easter may cause additional problems for Con Ed, which has now restored power to almost 90 percent of Staten Islanders.
Many fear that power that has been restored may be knocked out again by the coming storm, so crews from out of state on hand to help with Sandy’s aftermath are being retained until after the storm, according to Con Ed.
Estimates of the damage are soaring due to the storm, and according to Eqecat, a disaster modeling and analysis company, total economic damage could reach $50 billion.
Some of those in the flooded areas in New York from the Rockaways, Queens, to Midland Beach in Staten Island have lost everything. Now they must wait until they get an electrician to clear their home’s equipment before power is restored. That could take weeks with the considerable damage up and down the Northeast.
It is pitch black and uninhabitable in Accetta’s area of Midland Beach, and most homeowners have now sought housing with relatives. Renters are now in shelters, he said.
With no power and with major intersections without working streetlights, it takes a half hour for Accetta to travel seven miles from his parents’ house to his home each day. As a licensed electrician, he said he understands Con Ed’s decision, considering many people’s electrical panels were submerged in water. He said the company is doing a "fantastic job."
While the local and federal agencies have not yet responded, Accetta has received a warm meal from Red Cross. More help has come from what he labeled a "great network" of family, friends, and even strangers.
"I contacted my insurance adjuster, who has yet to come, and told him that the smell is so bad in my home and I can’t take it anymore," he said. "He told me to take pictures, and that I could remove the carpeting and other contents."
He said that, after he made a posting on Facebook, 30 people arrived to help him rip up all the carpeting in his home and discard the contents. Some were friends and family, but many were people he did not even know. With so much help, he moved the crew from his house to five other neighbors’ homes and was able to clean out their homes, too.
Staten Island Councilman James Oddo, on his Twitter account, has been vocal about the lack of attention to Staten Island.
"Funny, I don’t remember seeing Chris Jones on any of the streets in Midland Beach," he wrote. One day ago, he addressed Hollywood and wrote: "Hey Hollywood, feel free to come to the fore en masse to raise $ for long-term housing needs of Sandy victims."
The tag was #walkthewalk.