Report: Impact of Sandy on Immigrant Communities


News Release From

Make the Road New York

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Contact (English and Spanish):

Sara Cullinane, (917) 676-3210,

Make the Road New York Releases First-Ever Report on Devastation of Immigrant Communities in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy in front of Flooded Home of Immigrant Woman in Midland Beach

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Make the Road New York released a report today that documents the devastation and lack of access to relief after Hurricane Sandy. The report, “Unmet Needs: Superstorm Sandy and Immigrant Communities in the Metro New York Area,” is based on surveys and in-depth interviews of 416 residents of selected localities in Long Island and Staten Island. The report, available at, documents the high levels of economic and physical devastation suffered by immigrants, as well as the astounding absence of government and private support for immigrant victims of the storm.

Today, with immigrants affected by Superstorm Sandy and allied community groups, Make the Road New York released the report in front of the home of an immigrant woman who lost her home during the storm. Maria Raquel, an immigrant from Mexico who has made her home in Midland Beach for the past nine years, lost her home and all her belongings during the storm. She testified today in front of her completely flooded, uninhabitable former home on Baden Place in Midland Beach. “I am here today to ask our Mayor and our Governor to step in to support immigrants. We are members of this community. We work hard, have families and suffered just like our neighbors in Midland Beach and we have worked side by side to rescue and rebuild our community. But FEMA has left us behind and we have no way forward out of this disaster,” she said.

Daniel Coates of Make the Road New York said, “This report illustrates the need for FEMA and our city and state government to act now to ensure that immigrants are able to access critical relief and disaster assistance services. The extraordinarily low level of assistance obtained by immigrant victims, reflected in this report, means we are leaving immigrants with many unmet basic needs after a horrifying storm that left many without homes and jobs.”

“We also need participatory and inclusive planning when it comes to rebuilding after the storm,” Coates continued. “This is one of our key recommendations, and it goes not only for immigrants but for all Staten Islanders, for all communities devastated by the storm from Mastic Beach to the Rockaways, from Red Hook to Midland Beach. Our communities’ voices, concerns and wellbeing – both now and in the future – must have a center place when it comes to New York’s plan to rebuild and recover from Superstorm Sandy, both in the short-term and the years to come.”

Rev. Terry Troia of Project Hospitality said, “I commend FEMA and all the recovery workers for their efforts in Staten Island. Still, there is more work to be done. We need to establish a New York task force to meet the needs of immigrant communities and fill the gaps where FEMA and other aid have not pulled through, particularly in the area of long term housing for displaced people. Project Hospitality endorses the findings and recommendations of this report and looks forward to working with the city, state and other groups to make sure that everyone who works to contribute to the economy and calls Staten Island home has the opportunity to rebuild and recover here.”

Key findings from Unmet Needs include:

  1. Sandy has had a significant negative economic impact on New York’s immigrant communities.
    • 40% percent of immigrants surveyed report economic damage because of the storm; in Staten Island, 60% reported economic damage.
    • All respondents who had a job at the time of the storm reported missing some days of work. 33% percent surveyed missed four or more days of work. 11% permanently lost their jobs as a result of Sandy.
  2. Immigrants suffered devastating damage to their homes and personal property and, as a result, have been displaced or face hazardous living conditions.
    • One in three surveyed suffered damage to their home or property.
    • 40% of immigrants surveyed in Staten Island were displaced from their home because of damage.
    • Of those who reported damage, one in three have significant mold contamination in their living space.
    • Immigrant tenants are more vulnerable to landlord abuses, including withholding return of security deposits for immigrants fleeing damaged homes and charging exorbitant rent for new apartments.
  3. Startlingly few immigrants living in the declared disaster area have applied for disaster-related public and private relief. The number applying for relief is even lower for immigrants who are limited English proficient.
    • 78% of immigrants surveyed in disaster zones had not applied for relief.
    • 82% of limited English proficient immigrants surveyed in the devastated areas had not yet applied for relief, private or public.
    • The top reason stated for not applying for relief is not knowing how to apply, suggesting that New York and FEMA have failed to conduct adequate outreach to immigrant communities.
    • Eligibility and institutional barriers meant that of immigrants that applied for relief, only one in four surveyed was actually able to receive help.
  4. Ineligibility and inaccessibility of government and private relief services has caused great hardship for New York immigrants affected by the storm.
    • 31% of immigrants surveyed reported feeling anxiety or depression since the storm.
    • 27% have fallen behind on their rent.

Make the Road New York (MRNY) is the largest participatory immigrant organization in New York with 12,000 members. With vibrant community centers in Bushwick, Brooklyn; Jackson Heights, Queens; Port Richmond, Staten Island; and Brentwood, Long Island; MRNY gives voice to thousands of immigrants and working class New Yorkers through community organizing, educates tomorrow’s leaders and provides services to support families. To find out more or to make a donation, please visit our website:

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