News

NY State Senate Forms Bipartisan Task Force On Sandy Recovery

Rockaways Resident: 'In The Situation That I'm In, Hope Is All I Can Look Forward To'
Sandy Task Force In Rockaway Beach Dec. 10, 2012 (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Sandy Task Force In Rockaway Beach Dec. 10, 2012 (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A bipartisan committee of New York state Senators toured the Rockaways, talking to residents about their needs to recover from superstorm Sandy going forward.

The new task force includes the planned new majority of Republicans allied with five breakaway Democrats.

WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports

Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza and Queens Democrat Malcolm Smith are co-chairing the task force charged with identifying need and working on Sandy-related legislation.

“We’re not here as Republicans or Democrats. We’re here as family members, as neighbors who have been affected by this terrible, terrible storm,” Lanza said.

Residents of the Rockaways still digging out from the damage gave state lawmakers an earful.

“We have people with children that are still sleeping in houses with mold. That is cold,” a Rockaways resident told the members of the task force.

Smith said Monday after touring the Rockaways that it’s “unacceptable” so many homes in the area he represents still have no heat or hot water six weeks after the storm hit. He joined the tour of the neighborhood with other legislators from areas still struggling to regain basic services.

“There’s no money coming to help rebuild this and the longer these folks are out of their homes, there’s going to be nobody here for any of the businesses here,” another resident told lawmakers.

Residents of the Rockaways who lost everything said they need help quickly.

“In the situation that I’m in, hope is all I can look forward to,” a resident whose rental homes suffered damage told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

The task force goals are to identify the areas most in need of recovery assistance, a task already under way by federal and Cuomo administration officials; review and improve rebuilding and storm planning policies, a task already assigned to one of the three commissions created after Sandy by Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and to develop legislation to implement findings of Cuomo’s commissions.

Three legislative reports since 2005 and a 1978 law required similar preventive measures to prepare for a superstorm like Sandy, but most of the recommendations weren’t implemented as political attention waned and in the face of hard fiscal choices in state budgeting.

“We have really been suffering here. This is six weeks out, I still don’t have power, lights. I think I’ve moved to maybe about eight different hotels,” a woman told the task force.

The task force is headed by Smith and Lanza. Of the task force’s other eight members, four are Republicans, two are Independent Democratic Conference members, and two are members of the traditional Democratic conference.

“We want to make sure that all the relief, all the remedies, whatever legislation needs to come out of all this hits the mark,” Lanza said.

The news conference in the storm-battered Rockaways was the first test of the Senate’s new coalition government, which will control the perks and power of the majority beginning Jan. 1.

In an unprecedented deal last week, Republicans allied with five breakaway Democrats to deny majority control to the traditional Democratic conference, even though it had won more seats in the November election than Republicans.

The members of the task force will tour and hold hearings in damaged communities across the New York metropolitan region.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)