1. Marissa stands outside her condemned home in the snow 15 months later. The water line still visible.
    Wrapping presents for the Secret Sandy Claus project.
    Over 1100 children received gifts personally delivered by Santa, Mrs Claus and his Elf helpers this past Christmas. Here, Dan Guarino (Associate Editor of the Rockaway Wave Newspaper) plays Santa.
    Marissa last week delivering a bed and other furniture to many different households along the peninsula.
    Collecting and organising supplies for her monthly Rockaway Free Flea Market.

    1 year and 3 months - Marissa Bernowitz

    26 year old Marissa Bernowitz is amazing. Over a year after Hurricane Sandy devastated her community, Marissa and her two sons are still displaced and are living in her mother’s two bedroom apartment on Rockaway Beach Boulevard with nine other family members. 

    Aside from her own situation, Marissa is still dedicated to helping the thousands of others affected in Rockaway to get back on their feet. Her tireless efforts to continue with The Rockaway Free Flea Market, The Secret Sandy Claus project among many other community endeavours, has proved to be invaluable to the still struggling community. 

    Reaching out via social media and creating her own telephone hotline, Marissa has built a vast network of connections, which is a lifeline for many families. Sourcing food, building supplies, furniture, toys, household items and even submitting FEMA paper work for many who need the help. 

    Listen below to hear Marissa’s passionate explanation of why she’s still dedicated to the relief cause. 


  3. 12 Months - Mary Ellen Olsen

    Mary Ellen Olsen suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Along with her illness, Mary has suffered through many tragedies throughout recent years that have exacerbated her symptoms. After losing friends in 9/11 and losing her sister and nephew when AA Flight 587 crashed into the Rockaway Peninsula, she and her family had to escape her flooded and burning home on Beach 132nd St during Hurricane Sandy. She now is completely dependent on her Power Chair and her husband for everything. Even going to the bathroom. 

    Through raging waters, Mary Ellen was placed on a surfboard and along with her two sons, husband and dog, were rescued and taken to a friend’s home five blocks away to safety along with 25 of her neighbours. Almost their entire block was burned to the ground. 

    In the following months, Mary Ellen and her family were fortunate to have had a house in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn donated to them. However, without a disabled access house and no Power Chair, Mary Ellen was forced to live in a recliner chair 24/7 for three straight months. 

    Now back in Rockaway, Mary Ellen and her family are renting another friend’s house while they plan and ready their block on Beach 132nd St to rebuild a new family home with full disabled access and an elevator. She keeps the recliner chair in her study under a painting of their original house. 

    She is hoping to move into her new home by Summer of 2014. 

  4. Image by Tyler Hicks

    Our thoughts go out to the people in the Philippines. We know all too well the overwhelming road to recovery that they now face. 

    Please donate what you can to some incredible organisations that are on the ground right now in their most dire time of need. 

    Doctors without borders have an emergency fund. The hospitals in Tacloban are currently ill equipped to deal with this disaster and medical assistance is needed urgently. A lot of unnecessary deaths can be prevented.  Having seen them work in Rockaway last year, I know how amazing and quick to respond they are. 

    Convoy of Hope This organization has already distributed aid like food, water-purification kits, and clothing in hard-hit areas like Cebu and promises more is on the way. Convoy of Hope regularly posts updates on families and individuals that they help. 

    Mercy Corps have a good track record and are very transparent about where their funds are going. 

    You can also give directly to the Philippines Red Cross to ensure your funds go directly to the people who need it. 

    ** Please be careful which organisations you donate to. Make sure that they are transparent and have a proven track record. 

  5. 12 Months - Semeo Doe and Nelson Sarweh.

    The Action Center - Far Rockaway

    More than half of the public housing in the borough of Queens is in Far Rockaway. In the 1950s, Robert Moses’ urban renewal plan moved New York’s poorest residents to cheap land by the coastline. Thousands of units in high-rise public housing now create a concentrated poverty on the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula.

    Since Hurricane Sandy, one of the only community organizations still providing hot food, medical care, education and relocation and legal services to the residents of Far Rockaway is The Action Center at 57-10 Beach Channel Drive. For the past 12 years, they have relied predominantly on private grant money to sustain their work. The Action Center received no further funding from the millions of dollars of Hurricane Sandy aid raised by federal and nonprofit organizations. However, they were presented with the Mayor’s award for exceptional community service. This award came with no monetary attachment.


  7. 12 Months - Steve Stathis

    Many months ago, I visited Steve Stathis. The president of the Graybeards, a nonprofit organization that has been a staple of the Rockaway community for over a decade. Since Sandy, the role of the Graybeards has been critical. Managing donations and getting the funds directly to those that most need it has almost become a full time job. As FEMA and insurance companies deny many claims in the area, the Graybeards have become the last resort for a lot of desperate people. Steve read through letter after letter from his neighbors and becomes emotional as he tells me about who they have helped, and who they cannot help enough. we spent an entire day surveying the Peninsula and meeting some of the residents needing a little extra help in their initial recovery. 

    Steve and his son Christian also own Boarders Surf Shop, which has been a Rockaway institution since 2004. Both stores were completely destroyed in the storm.  Almost a year on, Steve had reopened in time for summer. But even as the beach-goers returned to Rockaway, his business was still only running at 30 percent of what it was last year. Now he must weather the Winter months with next to no business until next Summer. 



  9. Last Chance to Apply for Fee Relief for Business Recovery



    The Restoration Business Acceleration Team (RBAT) has helped many business owners save money through the fee waiver program. If you are still rebuilding your business due to damages caused by Hurricane Sandy, we encourage you to apply - you may save your business thousands of dollars as you continue to rebuild.

    The deadline to apply is October 31st.

    Read More

    (via nycgov)

  10. 9 Months - Phil Cicia

    Hurricane Sandy hit small businesses especially hard. Along the Rockaway peninsula there are more shutters than ‘Open’ signs. After nine months, most proprietors still aren’t able to get back up and running. 

    Phil Cicia owns four shop fronts along Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 87th and Beach 88th Streets. One of the spaces is his beer distribution business, which serves local bars, restaurants and hotels. He’s been there for 23 years. 

    Phil’s commercial insurance will not cover the flood damage. However, the cost of the flood option on his policy over the last 23 years would far outweigh the cost of the damage caused. “I’m just taking from Peter to pay Paul” he says. 

    When asked if staying in business in Rockaway is worth it, Phil replies, “If it works it works. If it doesn’t, well then you pack up and go, but I got too much invested out here and I can’t let it go.”


  12. There was a tornado warning today in NYC. There was no one in the water at Rockaway beach…. Except for Pablo and myself. 
The Atlantic almost took me down.
    After retiring from the ocean, we stopped to grab some supplies and I spoke with Phil Cicia. He was petrified that tonight’s high tide would bring another flood into his store on Rockaway Beach Blvd. He told me that the entire Beach Channel was on edge. 
It’s now just over 11 months since Sandy. Nerves are running high this hurricane season.

  13. It is my very great pleasure to announce that How Sandy Hit Rockaway will be featured in New York’s prestigious Photoville Festival!! 

    From September 19 - 29, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, a selection of 14 portraits, audio and text stories from this page will be featured in it’s own 20ft container exhibition. Alongside exhibitions from TIME magazine, NY Times, Magnum Foundation and many many more incredible photography shows. 

    Click here for more information on Photoville’s exhibitions, it’s awesome workshop programs and night time events!!

    Hope to see you all there!!

  14. Growing up in Rockaway, Mary Leonard is now a part time resident of Breezy Point. All her family live in Rockaway. One of her brothers lost his house in the Breezy fires and another has only just been able to move back into his home. All her many nieces and nephews also live on the Peninsula and were affected by Hurricane Sandy. 

    Her love for the ocean and Rockaway is complete. After surfing her local Rockaway break for her whole life, 60 year old Mary hated the ocean after Sandy hit. She couldn’t even go to the beach after witnessing the devastation that her beloved ocean had caused. Now, after 10 months, she has just started surfing again. 

    On Saturday, I was privileged to be able to go out and catch a few small waves with her.  

  15. $1 Van driver, Jay stands proudly in front on his own van. He is one of over a hundred van drivers that work from 7am till 3am, transporting the residents of Far Rockaway up and down the peninsula. The $1 Vans are an integral part of Rockaway’s life line. Although they are an underground part of the community and most likely very illegal, these drivers and their vans became indispensable in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. These guys transported thousands of people amidst a two week gas shortage and months with no train line.
    Far Rockaway heroes.