While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unloaded food at a Waldbaum’s parking lot in Long Beach Saturday, dozens of volunteers a mile away handed out much-needed supplies to Superstorm Sandy victims at an abandoned Long Island Rail Road station in Island Park.
Both oceanfront communities were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, though the latter hasn’t grabbed as many headlines.
“All of Island Park, Barnum Island, Harbor Isle, we’re still suffering, we’re still bleeding,” said Island Park Mayor James Ruzicka, standing outside a trailer at the village’s powerless LIRR stop that has been serving as its town hall.
“Everyone was going to Long Beach, Long Beach, Long Beach,” he added. “It seems like Island Park was forgotten.”
Ruzicka told the Press that his ruined neighborhood hasn’t been visited by Cuomo or any of Long Island’s senators or congressional representatives, now on Day 12 post-Sandy.
The resident of 40 years isn’t complaining; he doesn’t want their presence if it means just smiles, handshakes and flashbulbs, anyway. Ruzicka wants money and answers.
“I don’t need a photo album shoot here,” the mayor said. “What are they going to do now to help us rebuild?”
Hundreds of storm-weary Island Park residents flooded the makeshift emergency disaster staging ground that now encompasses the transit lot.
They picked from piles upon piles of donated clothing and huddled in a Federal Emergency Management Agency warming station tent. Volunteers ranging from the Red Cross to local church groups served hot food and coffee.
National Guard troops directed traffic alongside Nassau County police while military humvees and supply trucks delivered added necessities. Soldiers handed out donated blankets and representatives from insurance providers advised a steady stream of storm-stricken families.
The sheer destruction unleashed upon Island Park was such that FEMA spokesman Sheldon Smith, who was on scene and whom served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, likened the South Shore community to the latter’s war-torn capital of Kabul.
Island Park and Hempstead Town’s Barnum Island and Harbor Isle—which Ruzicka has been managing in absence of town officials—is still without heat and electricity. Miles of businesses and storefronts remain in shambles while the communities’ streets remain cluttered under tremendous heaps and mounds of assorted wreckage from gutted homes alongside totaled vehicles.
Ruzicka said every business was effected by Sandy, evident in the hellscape of shuttered and depressed shops in varying degrees of waste along Long Beach Road.
Homeowners interviewed by the Press in front of their flooded houses on McKinley Avenue in the secluded, tightly knit community of Harbor Isle also felt abandoned, expressing sadness, resilience and rage.
Their fury was directed at the Long Island Power Authority and elected public officials.
“Nobody even mentions Harbor Isle,” said Alice Teich. “It’s like you’re living in a black hole.”
She and her neighbors were greatly concerned about the looters and scammers who have descended upon their neighborhood as quickly as mold has formed on their water-logged possessions.
“It’s neighbors watching neighbors here,” said Michelle Violana, 50, noting a lack of police presence.
Another neighbor said the looters now replace generators with old, noisy lawn mowers amid the darkness, making away with the scarce, invaluable power supplies with residents none the wiser until it’s too late.
Ruzicka hopes that recent promises of aid from local officials aren’t empty, lamenting that if his team of five is left to shoulder the full weight of the communities’ recovery alone, “I don’t know if we could do it.”