Hurricane Sandy: Focus on People, Not Property


In an illuminating piece at Ebony, contributor R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy says that conditions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy should remind us that the combination of natural disasters and socially engineered poverty creates a damning situation for many.

Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard and New York City very hard. We must not just focus on clean up, but we also must make a concerted effort to assure those with the least get the most attention. The current political climate has stressed the importance of the middle class and the need to shrink government. If we follow both of those leads, the path to recovery will be a long and dangerous one, as we'll be more obsessed with property than people.

In New York City, the conversation about Hurricane Sandy quickly morphed into a real estate story when a crane partially collapsed in Midtown Manhattan. News reporters began to talk about the adjacent multi-million dollar apartments rather than the lives that were endangered on the ground, the workers attempting to secure the crane, or even the real people in those apartments. It's hard to fathom that we had more reports on potential property damage than the lives at stake around this country or globe.

At a press conference held as the storm approached, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked about Rikers Island — a major jail complex in New York City which sits in the East River — and if they were prepared for the hurricane. Bloomberg interpreted the question to be about the potential for prisoners to escape, not […] about the safety of prisoners. Bloomberg's answer is not surprising, given that there was no evacuation plan in place during Hurricane Irene in 2011; men and women within the prison industrial complex are often forgotten and their needs overlooked. While most of the people locked up on Rikers Island are Black, Brown and poor, there was relatively little consideration given to the island in in the mainstream media. As a public, it's our responsibility to press elected officials to make sure the safety of all is a priority, not an option.


Read R. L'Heureaux Lewis-McCoy's entire piece at Ebony.

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