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Staten Island Residents Rally to Save Sandy Relief Hub

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 26, 2013 1:14pm

NEW DORP BEACH — Residents rallied on Thursday night to show their support for the Hurricane Sandy relief hub on Cedar Grove Avenue, after the city warned the camp it needed to move to clear a path to the beach.

More than 70 residents from New Dorp Beach, which was severely damaged by the storm, turned out for a meeting on the Cedar Grove Community Hub, where they signed a petition asking the city for more time for the hub to stay in place. Many supporters defended the center as a lifeline for them in the aftermath of Sandy.

“[It’s] horrible, who could do that?” said Eddie Samon, 47, who slept at the hub days after the storm destroyed his Center Place home. “If I know that they come here with a bulldozer or something, I will come to stay inside here. Because this is everything.”

Samon, who finally moved back into his home on Thursday, said during the rebuilding process the hub gave him everything he needed, including sheetrock.

“The hub here is a benefit for us,” he said. “I took everything you could imagine here.”

While Sandy hit the borough almost six months ago, many residents at Thursday's meeting said they still relied on the food, supplies and information that hub organizer Donna Graziano provided.

“I’m still depending on her to help feed my family. I know it’s six months down the road from when it happened, but life doesn’t stop for me to fix my home,” said Diane Camerada, who lives in New Dorp Beach.

The hub sits on a lot on Cedar Grove Avenue and Toppings Street, which serves as a walkway to New Dorp Beach. Residents, however, said that even before Sandy the beach wasn't popular.

“This beach over here we never used,” said Dom Camerada, 50, Diane Camerada's husband. “I’ve been down here for 22 years, nobody ever went to the beach.”

Graziano said workers from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the mayor’s office told her last week that she needed to move her volunteer tents so the beach can be opened in time for Memorial Day and work can be done to protect the shoreline.

She added that the city only gave her three week's notice, which isn’t enough time for her to secure a spot large enough to host her complex of five large tents.

“I’ve been saying, 'No, the residents still need me.’ And it just proves that I am right,” she said of the turnout for Thursday night's meeting.

The hub is an ongoing source of support for residents as they deal with continued talks of buyouts, changing FEMA flood zone maps and zoning regulations — a place to meet and talk and get information about the plans, Camerada said.

The Parks Department said the city gave the center ample notice and suggested it find a new location.

“We have given advance notice to the group and suggested they partner with local not-for-profits to identify possible alternative locations,” Tara Kiernan, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, previously told DNAinfo.com New York.

“We appreciate the group's service to the community following Hurricane Sandy and know they will continue to provide to those in need at their next location.”

But Graziano’s not moving from the lot without a fight. She plans to send the petition to the city this weekend, and is organizing a protest walk around the neighborhood next weekend.

She said she’s willing to work with the city to find a new suitable location for the hub, but officials need to help out by giving her some more time to get everything together.

“Work with me,” she said. “You’re just saying you only have three weeks and now what do I do?”