The thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy in South Queens, the Rockaways and other shoreline areas in the region have suffered enough. More than enough.
Those in Queens first suffered through the brutal storm that struck nearly 18 months ago, seeing their homes flooded, their possessions destroyed, their subway line across Jamaica Bay rendered inoperable and more, including the loss of life.
Then they suffered through the operations of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Red Cross, which, while well-intentioned, were inadequate.
Then those who own homes suffered through the hassle of dealing with insurance companies so they could try to rebuild, along with the financial burden and stress of massive premium hikes the government started imposing on them, until voices of reason put those on hold.
Then those with no better options suffered through the catastrophic failure of former Mayor Bloomberg’s Build it Back program, which was so poorly run that it has aided only a handful of people to date. Mayor de Blasio outlined a set of reforms to the program last week that should get it to live up to its name, but whether they will remains to be seen.
Now comes word that as much as $3.5 billion in federal money that people thought was coming here to fund the rebuilding effort could be diverted to assist other areas of the country that have been hit with natural disasters, such as tornados in Missouri and the mudslide in Washington State.
Those people certainly deserve aid too. But it should not come out of the pot people believed was allocated to regions struck by Sandy.
The decision apparently is up to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which may award the funds through competitions to come up with projects that improve a given region’s ability to withstand future natural disasters. The law funding Sandy relief allows the money to be spent elsewhere. It shouldn’t have.
Now U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is leading the “fight to ensure that every one of New York’s needs are met before a national competition sends a single Sandy relief dollar elsewhere,” as he said in a prepared statement Monday. We hope every lawmaker in our region is on board.
One element that may prove key is how quickly New York can spend the funds that are available. Let’s all hope that de Blasio’s reform of Build it Back will get the money to the people here who need it, fast, before some Washington, DC bureaucrat sends it somewhere else.