Quick Community Assessment of Post-Hurricane Sandy in Jersey City

On November 1, 2012, from 12:30-3:00pm, members of Anakbayan New Jersey walked around Jersey City to speak with the community regarding Hurricane Sandy.  We surveyed 37 people, mostly Filipinos, throughout West Side and Mallory Avenues (From Fulton St to Roosevelt Ave).

We identified the following as the community’s major concerns:

  • Lack of electricity
    Phones losing charge
    Limited supply of batteries
    Cash only transactions (ATMs are closed)
    No heating systems
    Loss of income (people can’t get to work; perishable products in small stores)
    Lack of transportation (trains are not running; no access to NY; road closings; limited gas stations; increased gas prices)
  •  Lack of communication
    Limited phone service
    Phones losing charge
    No internet access
    No landline
    Hard to get information other than through the radio   
  • Safety and security
    No street lights at night
    No traffic lights
    Rumors of break-ins and burglary

Beginning yesterday, October 31, Jersey City instituted a strict 7pm-7am lockdown. Pedestrians and vehicles are prohibited from the streets overnight in an effort to control incidences of burglary and store break-ins. Most of those surveyed were not aware of this, while less than ten people heard about it through word-of-mouth or from the radio. Overall, people thought the lockdown is a firm but fair safety measure, especially to avoid motorvehicle accidents and to ensure the community’s security.

There were mixed reviews regarding the response time of government agencies. Most people surveyed observed that the state’s disaster preparedness plan does not seem apparent because fallen trees are yet to be cleared up. In Ege Ave. there are 2 electric posts that are still laying around, 4 days since Monday, posing danger to residents. Country Village and Society Hill weren’t evacuated, and power has not been restored.

According to the PSE&G, their expected time to bring power back is on Monday, November 5. This is already affecting small businesses, schools and people’s livelihood. Majority of the businesses (banks, gas stations, offices, autoshops, etc) remain closed except for deli’s and groceries. These stores are also running low on basic commodities to sell and are only open  until 1pm, 6pm the latest. On the otherhand, folks we’ve talked to are already complaining because of the lost income due to businesses not opening.

Majority of the people surveyed were not receiving updated information, and relied solely on word-of-mouth. The local government is failing to effectively disseminate information on resources available, current state of the city, and other public service announcements.

Analysis:

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is affecting the lives of many Jersey City residents. 5 days and counting of no power is harmful to the predominantly working class communities of Jersey City. Many are unable to go to work due to the lack of reliable transportation or workplace being temporarily closed (due to lack of electricity). Therefore, many people are worried on how they are going to pay their bills, and local stores are faced with limited supplies.

Despite the community’s lack of access to power and information, the only government response present is the massive police presence and a citywide lockdown enforced by the JC police. The state’s obligation to keep its citizens informed with access to vital social services is not being fulfilled.

 

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