Sanitation Chief John McGovern Helps Clean Up His Sandy-Battered Rockaways

"This isn't something you are supposed to see in America," John McGovern, a chief of operations for the New York City Department of Sanitation, told The Daily News. "This is like a war zone."

McGovern is a 35-year resident of the Rockaways, the 11-mile Long Island peninsula where the swelling waters and whipping winds of Hurricane Sandy upended cars, tore out the boardwalk, burned down over a hundred homes, and flooded countless more. McGovern predicts that 100,000 residents have suffered water or fire damage.

McGovern is now overseeing the cleanup of his neighborhood, coordinating 500 other city sanitation workers who are putting in 12-hour shifts, reports the New York newspaper, picking up debris and collecting piles of wood and furniture.

Residents say that they haven't seen anyone from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Red Cross pay a visit, reports Reuters. Other volunteers and sanitation workers like McGovern are providing relief in their absence. New Yorkers who had their heat and light restored had flooded into the hard-hit areas on Sunday with carloads of supplies and willing hands, overwhelming the city's relief centers, reported The New York Times.

More: NYC-area Workers Face Daunting Commute After Hurricane Sandy

"At this point these centers have more than they can really, realistically, distribute," Mayor Bloomberg said. Shelters in the Rockaways had even turned away volunteers, suggesting that they just donate money instead.

"It's like the city, the officials, have forgotten us. Only our neighbors and strangers, volunteers, have been here," Rockaways resident Gregory Piechocki told Reuters. "We don't need food or water, we need a warm place to sleep and some sign that we aren't forgotten."

The Rockaways is a low- and middle-income beach community decimated by what officials have called the worst storm in New York's history. The Long Island Power Authority, which provides power to the area, says that it will take two weeks to bring light back to this outer tract of the city.

Bloomberg has called this timescale "unacceptable," but LIPA said in a statement that more than a quarter of its 275,000 powerless customers may have dwellings too damaged to accept power anyway.

More: Hurricane Sandy And Jobs: A Few Pockets Of Opportunity

Some Rockaways residents are burning debris to keep warm as temperatures in New York plummeted in Sandy's wake. Forecasters predict a nor'easter to arrive on Wednesday or Thursday, slamming more rains and winds at fractured homes, roads and trees, and likely undoing some recovery efforts.

With power back in most of Manhattan, and a few transit lines up and running, most of New York stuttered back to its old rhythm a week after the superstorm hit. But outer, coastal areas such as Staten Island, Coney Island and the Rockaways, remained far from any kind of normality.

"It's decimated -- it's our Katrina," McGovern said of the Rockaways. "It hurts to see my area like this."

And since these areas are more low-income than Manhattan, observers say that Sandy -- like many extreme storms before her -- has brutally exposed the have- and have-not divides of America's most populous city.

Bloomberg made an unannounced trip to the Rockaways on Saturday, when a news crew spotted him, reports the New York Post, catching on a camera the furious reaction of some desperate locals. "When are we gonna get some help?" yelled one woman. "When are we gonna get some f***ing help?"

"I spoke to many people who were worried, frustrated and cold," Bloomberg said, when he arrived back at City Hall. "There's no power there and temperatures are dropping. Even those who have generators are having a hard time getting fuel."

The army of sanitation workers are providing some comfort though. "I'm glad sanitation came to help," Mike Dimotsis told the The Daily News. Sandy left Dimotsis and his 89-year-old mother's house uninhabitable. "It will take a long time, but we will be the Rockaways we used to be."

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where are the tents and trailers that FEMA had for Katrina they need them up here for these people. The National Guard should put up tents with heaters in them for the people there. Common USA government,FEMA, And NY STATE and NY CIty get with it, Mayor Bloomberg maybe if you did not turn President Obama away he might have seen the devastation here and done something about it but your big mouth and pride always gets in the way.

November 11 2012 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So George W Bush was demonized and even called a racist after hurricane Katrina. I love how the Liberal biased media acts like Obama walks on water. If this had been Black people in need and a White president, the media would be singing a very different tune.

November 06 2012 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

just call FEMA

November 06 2012 at 2:30 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

People, please keep your political opinions to yourself, this is not about politics, this is about New York City. What you people do not seem to understand is that New York City is the financial center of the world, and if New York City goes south, so does the rest of the world. New Yorkers are a tough bunch, they got through 9/11 and they will get through this one, it will take awhile though. Mayor Bloomberg is doing the best he can to get help to these areas as fast as he can, it turns out that hundreds of thousands in and around New York City are still without power.

To make matters worse a nor'easter is coming their way and may cause even more damagae to already affected areas. It is going to be cold, rainy and windy all day tomorrow in New York City and its surrounding areas. Areas along the Jersey shore have been destroyed such as the Atlantic City boardwalk,which was historic. Long Island stil has many people without power a week after Sandy hit. A lot of these towns along Long Island, the Jersey Shore, will never be the same again.

November 06 2012 at 11:23 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sdowns1470's comment

How is FEMA and the person in charge of them have nothing to do with politics? It has everything to do with politics.

November 06 2012 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

We get hit with ice storms and the remnants of tropical storms here in VA. It has been known to take 3 WEEKS to get power back. It bites but there's no magic wand.

And BTW that rumor about utility workers being turned away has been discredited

November 06 2012 at 10:59 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

People are required to have insurance......but what LAWS have been passed to make sure that the insurance companies do what they are supposed to do???????????????????? Kinda of like workers' compensation.....yes...companies are required to have it....but they can also WRONGFULLY DENY A is interesting that there is NO ONE TO HELP PEOPLE WHEN PEOPLE NEED HELP THE MOST....but this is AMERICA....and it is how it works.....whether we like it or not......

November 06 2012 at 10:55 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

It will take months and perhaps YEARS to get everything cleaned up and is sad but really WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?????????????????????????? Just look at Katrina.....I am not even sure that everything is back like it should be there......DOES ANYONE HAPPEN TO KNOW? As long as something does not affect you....people tend not to be worried about it....we are a SMART GROUP OF PEOPLE in this country....BUT the country is RUN (RUINED) by morons and idiots....and there are also people who just do not care, one way or another....May GOD help those in need....

November 06 2012 at 10:52 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Well, now you know how we felt down here in Gulf Coast after Ike........................

November 06 2012 at 10:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

What? Volunteers showed up at the shelters and they were turned away? And the residents said they could give money instead? I would assume that most homeowners up there have insurance. If you have insurance, it should pay for you to stay somewhere else. If you were renting, great, you don't have any ties and can move somewhere else. I feel for these people, but they need to quit whining and start taking care of themselves. You are responsible for your own property. The government is responsible for the public areas. Now, I do think that anybody who can "accept" electricity should get electricity, but, unfortunately, the "low and middle-class" people are not usually the first in line for things. And just remember, you can't fight Mother Nature.

November 06 2012 at 9:36 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The UNIONS sent everybody home,!!!!!!!!!!!!...........NO UNION,,,,,NO WORK,!!!!!!

OH,,,,OH,,,,,,,I forgot,,,,you can not fly,,or walk on water like the 2008 voters though you could.....The black lady in Flordia,,is still waiting on a house you promised if elected.!!!

November 06 2012 at 8:41 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pdbliz's comment

Sorry your wrong no one got sent home it was a bad rumor that was started by fools!

November 11 2012 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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