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Queens Chronicle

Red Cross slammed for Hurricane Sandy relief

Local officials say organization’s relief efforts have been lackluster

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:25 am, Thu Nov 29, 2012.

In the employee parking lot of Resorts World Casino, dozens of American Red Cross disaster relief vehicles sit idle or buzz around the white tents and work vans that fill up the space along Rockaway Boulevard.

But while their presence there is apparent, where they have not been seen much are the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, according to residents of those neighborhoods.

Citizens and officials in the Rockaways, Broad Channel, Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach were left wondering where the Red Cross was in the first few days after the storm and that has local officials incensed.

“Maybe instead of running TV ads asking for money, American Red Cross should be helping my constituents. I wouldn’t give them a dime,” said an angry Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) on Twitter last week.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Far Rockaway) described the Red Cross’ response as an “absolute failure.”

“It’s just an utter disappointment,” he said. “They’re great at their promotional materials and self-promotion, but this is the first time I saw their response on the ground and it was horrific.”

He said the Red Cross was not on the ground in the Rockaways until a week after the storm — two days after it raised $23 million from a celebrity-hosted national telethon for the survivors of Hurricane Sandy.

“I did not see a presence until day 6 or 7,” he explained. “When it came to helping people, they just weren’t here.”

Goldfeder acknowledged that he met with Red Cross officials three days after the storm to discuss relief efforts, but said it was at least three more days after that when he started seeing them in the neighborhoods affected. He said the Red Cross officials had told him they would be on the ground 24 to 36 hours after that meeting.

“Until they came, it was neighbor helping neighbor,” he said. “We’re not waiting for anyone else to save us.”

In Howard Beach, the Red Cross handed out blankets and boxes of food a week after the hurricane. The organization has set up a number of places in Queens where it is giving out meals twice a day — 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. — including Charles Park, Ave Maria Catholic Academy, both in Howard Beach, the American Legion Hall in Broad Channel and six locations in the Rockaways.

The Red Cross is under fire for its response citywide and for at least one other Sandy-related controversy. On Monday, the Huffington Post reported that its volunteers were being lodged in the SoHo Grand Hotel in Manhattan, where rooms can run over $300 a night.

In Staten Island, Red Cross trucks drove around last week offering food to residents in the Tottenville section, many of whom have already gotten their power back.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday said 66 percent of New York City residents — including 72 percent of Queens residents — rated the Red Cross’ response to the hurricane as “excellent” or “good.” But the opinion of the Red Cross’ response is not positive everywhere. The poll shows half of respondents from Staten Island thought the agency did a “fair” or “poor” job in response to the hurricane.

The Red Cross could not be reached for comment before presstime.

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