This statement originally appeared at Pastebin
We the residents of affected areas in Staten Island, along the coast from South Shore to St. George, will not be silenced. Staten Island will be heard.
Hurricane Sandy has passed. In most of the city life is back to normal, but here the crisis is far from over. Where we live, the electricity and heat are not on for everyone. Many of us are still displaced and may lose our homes and apartments for good. Each family is on their own, going further into debt to survive an environmental disaster they did not cause. We have lost our life savings right before Christmas and none of us know what the future holds. We are fighting for our lives and our communities against black mold and bureaucracy.
While volunteers and staffers of relief organizations have worked heroically to provide aid to people in need, such efforts are not enough to combat the unfolding crisis. We need engineers, architects, and doctors. A health needs assessment of our community is urgently required. The government response has been glaringly inadequate. We are tired of being given the runaround, by elected officials, the insurance companies, FEMA, SBA, and Rapid Repair. Each resident has a different experience dealing with these organizations. No two stories are alike. They say different things at different times. We hear nothing for weeks or they lose our paperwork. Some have taken donations in our name without accountability. We demand clear and timely answers.
Instead of giving people cash assistance to rebuild their lives we are offered loans. More debt is not aid. Residents can only get cash assistance if they have been refused a grant, and many end up getting nothing at all. How is that fair?
This is a public health emergency. Mold is taking over people’s homes and bodies, and it is deadly. We need public education and mobilization to stop this emergency in its tracks.
The vultures are circling our community. They see valuable beachfront property, not a place where families live. Leaders talk about development, but why isn’t the community leading those discussions? We, the community, should decide how Midland Beach is developed. To be meaningfully engaged in this process we need information and a seat at the table.
We love our neighborhoods and our neighbors. We love Staten Island. Some of us grew up here. Our parents and siblings and cousins live nearby. Some of us just moved here, from other cities or countries, and are raising our children and never want to leave. We will fight for our homes and our community.
To our families and friends in Midland Beach and elsewhere, join us at noon at 1128 Olympia Blvd on Saturday, December 15th as part of a citywide day of action. We deserve more. We demand emergency local housing, immediate mold remediation, and an end to the red tape. Let us come together as we have during hard times in the past. We will stand with people in the Rockaways, Red Hook, Coney Island, and other affected areas and make our voices heard.