Paterson Top Stories

The Lives of Paterson's Flood Victims Remain in Turmoil

a7d555e821a9af768d7e_flood5__1_.jpg
a7d555e821a9af768d7e_flood5__1_.jpg

 

PATERSON, NJ - Nicholas Robinson’s life changed forever when Hurricane Irene hit Paterson in late August. He and his family live a block away from the Passaic River and the floodwaters gushed straight into their home, sweeping away everything in sight.

Almost three months later, the Robinsons live a life of instability. With two kids and a baby on the way, he struggles to provide food and adequate shelter for his growing family.

Sign Up for E-News

“I don’t know where I’m going to get my next meal,” Robinson said. “But I have to make sure my kids eat, that’s the only thing I care about.”

Robinson is one of hundreds of Patersonians who still suffer in the aftermath of the flooding, long after the television news cameras and political spotlight have moved on. The aid provided by government agencies and charities has helped, but not enough to restore normalcy for many of the flood victims as the winter months approach.

The floods rendered more than 150 city houses uninhabitable, officials said. Folks who have been fortunate enough to return to their homes must fend with lingering problems like mold, ruined heating systems and damaged possessions. When asked what they lost, just about every flood victim interviewed for this story replied with one word: “Everything.’’

Mark Miller and his wife had to be rescued by boat because they were trapped inside their house. Along with hundreds of other Patersonians, the Millers sought refuge in temporary shelters. For about a week, they stayed at the Eastside High gymnasium.

“It was so packed and people were crowded on top of each other,” Miller recalled. “It was so hot and people were fighting over fans.”

Morningstar Santana had to move out of her apartment because of problems with mold, which she says her landlady failed to address. Santana now has bronchitis and a big rash on her arm that she attributes to the mold.

Other residents, like Jerome Anthony, are in the difficult process of rebuilding their homes. Anthony said his house had at least four feet of water in it, destroying most of what he owned. He is struggling to pay for the many needed repairs and is still in the process of getting a heating system. As the days have become colder, Anthony has resorted to using the oven to heat the house.

“You have to make do with what you got,” Anthony said. “And pray you don’t get sick.”

Many Paterson residents continue to seek assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Yvonne Zuidema, the president and chief executive officer of United Way of Passaic County, said nearly 8,000 families have registered with FEMA in Passaic County alone. She estimated that around 300 to 400 of the households have long term needs. A larhe portion of them come from Paterson.

Countless victims remain in limbo as they wait to hear back from FEMA. Because there are so many applications, it is taking FEMA a long time to complete all the assessments, officials said. This has put people’s lives at a standstill, leaving them unable to begin repairs or obtain supplies.

Rita Kelly, the director of Disaster Response for Catholic Charities, still encourages residents to apply for FEMA until the Nov. 30 deadline. “I strongly advise people to apply to FEMA because trying to find those resources somewhere else will be hard,” Kelly said.

Some flood victims who have received assistance from FEMA say they money was not enough to cover a substantial amount of the damage. They say it barely made a dent in the costly repairs that need to be finished. “I could use another $10,000,” Anthony said.

For others, like Rickey Chandler, the FEMA aid has made a difference. He used to live in a small apartment on the first floor. After that flooded out, Chandler eventually received aid that enabled him to move to a nicer apartment on the third floor. He said they sent a check within seven days.

“FEMA came through for me,” Chandler said. “I was one of the fortunate ones.”

Besides FEMA, many residents continue to seek help through Catholic Charities, churches and other non profit organizations based in Paterson. The Rev. Pat Bruger, the director of CUMAC-ECHO, said that the agencies continue to see a regular flow of victims. People come daily because they have no place to store food and they don’t have the resources to quickly recover. She predicted families will still be struggling by winter.

“The flood took an already bad situation and made it worse,” Bruger said. She suggested that Paterson should improve communication methods so citizens know what’s going on and where to get resources in case another disaster occurs.

The Father English Community Center (FECC) food pantry has seen a 500-person increase since the flood. The center currently sees up to 140 people on a daily basis. Carlos Roldan, the director of Emergency Food Pantry and Referral Services for FECC, is concerned about people who too afraid to step forward and ask for help.

“A lot of people are illegal immigrants. They stay in a hole and are afraid to seek help,” Roldan said. “If they let us help them, we can help them a lot.”

Some victims feel that Paterson isn’t doing enough to help them recover. Santana complained that the charities give her a hard time about paperwork and that the lines are too long. She feels the people who need the most aid are being forgotten.

But as the holidays approach, Paterson is making an effort to show its appreciation and compassion for the flood victims. Donna Nelson-Ivy, the director of Health and Human Services, said the city is distributing $50 supermarket gift cards on Tuesday to help victims with their Thanksgiving meals. “I like to see them smile because I see the bad a lot,” Nelson-Ivy said.

Also, the Grandparent Relatives Care Resource Center Inc. and Christ Temple Baptist Church on Hopper Street will be providing needy families and flood victims with a free hot home cooked pre-Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.

Despite their trials and tribulations, the flood victims strive to keep moving forward. They say their Paterson spirit can’t be broken.

“I’m still going to strive to be a provider and a husband,” Robinson said. “I can’t just lay on my back and do nothing.”

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Paterson

‘We Must Not Be Enemies’

May 9, 2018

Dear Editor

I want to take opportunity to congratulate Mayor Elect Andre Sayegh on his awesome election night victory and for running a campaign to unite all Patersonians. His message of “One Paterson” resonated with the electorate. I believe that Paterson's best days are ahead. He will govern the city the same way he campaigned, always putting Paterson and ...

Coughlin Appoints Wimberly New Assembly Housing Committee Chair

May 21, 2018

TRENTON, NJ – Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin has named Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly as the new Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee chairman.

Wimberly will oversee the key committee responsible for addressing statewide concerns including affordable housing, residential construction and various legislation improving New Jersey communities.

He will assume chairmanship of ...

Adopt A Pet

This little cutie is the last “good” reminder of a bitter winter. The family, mom included, were rescued during a nasty blizzard. They adapted quickly to being safe inside and are now ready to find their new homes and their new families. Hailey is quite the player and is all about kitten energy. Born in late February of 2018, this beautiful grey and white girl enjoys wrestling with ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.

 

Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

Passaic County CASA Recognizes Volunteer Child Advocates at Annual Event

May 11, 2018

WAYNE, NJ- More than 50 staff members, volunteers, and board members from Passaic County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) celebrated the impact of CASA volunteers at the organization's Volunteer Appreciation Brunch on April 28, 2018, at Laurelwood Arboretum in Wayne. This annual event recognizes Passaic County CASA volunteer advocates and the difference they make in the lives of ...

Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver Testimony on Proposal to Divert Affordable Housing Funds

May 21, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- TAPinto Paterson earlier reported on the response of local community leaders and activists on a proposal by Governor Phil Murphy to divert $46 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) which they wrote in a letter signed by representatives of over 100 groups statewide is “legally dedicated to the creation of affordable homes for lower income ...

Local Advocates Join Statewide Call for Restoration of Affordable Housing Funds

PATERSON, NJ- The leaders of several local organizations including Paterson Habitat for Humanity, Saint Paul’s Community Development Corporation, the Paterson Housing Authority, and the City of Paterson’s Neighborhood Assistance Office lent their signatures to a letter urging Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature to preserve a fund dedicated to creation of affordable ...

The Elections are Over, Now it's Time to Collaborate!

May 21, 2018

For much of the past six months Paterson’s focus has been on the races for mayor and council, and rightly so. The elected officials that serve the nearly 150,000 residents of our city have an enormous responsibility, their actions dictating not just success of our community, but the way our City is perceived.

The election is now behind us, and we congratulate all who took part in the ...