The devastation of Hurricane Sandy has even shaken the usually unflappable, unimpressed, and “only in New York” New Yorker. While relief efforts continue throughout the city, it is easy to forget that many of the areas hardest hit, like those in Brooklyn and Queens, have longed been ravaged by poverty and inequality.
As a native Queens girl who lived by the projects and went to high school in Brooklyn (pre-gentrification) I witnessed plenty of fights and robberies, and occasionally heard about stabbings and murders. Though I graduated from high school and ventured off to Syracuse for college, I was the exception, not the norm in my neighborhood.
Many of my childhood friends ended up dropping out of school, getting pregnant and/or going to jail. They weren’t bad or dumb, but just victims of unfortunate circumstances. Some didn’t see school as a necessity, especially when they needed to make money now, not later. Others didn’t have the structure or influences needed when trying to navigate the tumultuous and impressionable period of adolescence.
Disasters like Sandy draw attention to the immediate effects of the destruction. Money pours in, volunteers flood the streets, and news outlets continuously broadcast stories. But what happens when that ends? Do we all pack our bags and give ourselves a pat on the back for helping the nameless victims at the mercy of our giving? Or do we go back, learn their names, and commit to being a part of the revitalization of the community?
It’s easy to ignore, and much more difficult to solve the structural causes of poverty. It’s less sexy than disaster relief and much messier to comprehend.
But relief is only temporary. Recovery is long-term.
Do you know someone still affected by Hurricane Sandy? Tell us in the comments section.
Photo courtesy of The Atlantic