Sandy Relief Camp Stays Open Despite Passing Deadline to Close

By Nicholas Rizzi on January 2, 2013 1:39pm 

NEW DORP BEACH — A tent city set up to offer relief to Staten Island victims of Superstorm Sandy was still operating Wednesday, a day after organizers feared it would be shut down by the city.

Donna Graziano, 52, organizer of the Cedar Grove Community Hub, said that nobody from the city had come to shut down her camp on Jan. 1, which she had been warned would happen.

But she said she's worried that she could be ordered to close her assistance center at any time.

“I’m still on eggshells,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that they won’t come around and still do something.”

Two weeks ago, Graziano told DNAinfo.com New York that workers for the city told her she would have to shut down her group of relief tents on Cedar Grove Avenue near Marine Way because of the upcoming cold weather.

“January 1st I’m being shut down because of weather conditions,” she had said.

However, a city spokeswoman later denied the claim that it planned to shut down the tents, and was unsure who told Graziano she would need to close.

“The city did not order the Cedar Grove volunteer group to shut down their tents,” said Samantha Levine, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

Levine said she was not aware of any immediate plans to shut down relief camps for victims of the storm.

At a meeting between Graziano and affected residents on Dec. 20, people who suffered severe damage to their homes said the need for the tents was still strong, even though Sandy hit the island more than two months ago.

“They can’t come down,” said Lorraine Orobello, 54, who lost her home in the storm. “What are we going to do? This is part of the healing process.”

Organizers are gathering signatures from residents to petition the mayor to keep the tents open. They currently have nearly 1,700 signatures online.

For now, Graziano said she is trying to get the city to help her move into the Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church next door to the existing camp to continue to provide food, shelter and supplies.

“I really want them to move us indoors,” she said.

Graziano said she would stay in the neighborhood until she wasn’t needed any more. After a rain storm re-flooded homes this month, she said that might not be in the near future.

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