As Obama Visits Staten Island, Some Residents Feel a Disconnect

Thursday, November 15, 2012


An American flag still flies in the front yard of firefighter Mike Bellantoni’s two-family bungalow on New Dorp Lane.

Three pumpkins painted in New York Giants blue sit near the end of a walkway leading up to the front porch. A light-catcher hangs on the front door with the words “proud to be an American” over another small flag made of translucent red, white and blue plastic.

His house sits just across from Miller Field where white FEMA tents are clustered and the sound of distant cheers Thursday afternoon meant President Barack Obama had just arrived.

Standing on his porch, littered with bottles and debris, Bellantoni said he didn't vote for Obama, “but I'm a true patriot,” he said, "so my theory is, he's my president. I want him to prove me wrong.”

That sentiment was echoed by other residents in this historically conservative borough who had mixed feelings about Obama’s visit to the region as the clean up crawls forward. Obama won Staten Island, but the margin was 50 to 49 percent — the narrowest margin of any of the five boroughs.

It's also home to Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, who was also successfully re-elected and whose office is right up the street on New Dorp Lane.

Lisa Mazza, 42, waited to see the president along Miller Field with her video camera, even though she said she didn't vote for him either. The mother of three said Obama should have visited Staten Island sooner. She also wanted to know what else the president could do to help the neighborhood, over and above the work of non-government groups like the Red Cross.

“As far as government: what are you going to do to help us? We need to get this taken care of,” said Mazza who lost the entire first floor of her home. She applied for help from FEMA but was confused by questions on the application.

“You know some of them are a little tricky,” said Mazza. “Like one of them was, 'Did you have electric in the last five days?' I called on day two (of the power outage), so I said, 'Yes.'”

For now, FEMA has denied her claim even though she went for 17 days without heat, hot water or electricity.

Dario Veggian, 69, is having his own FEMA issues. His two story house has mold. There's a crack from the storm in its foundation. He needs a new boiler and completely new wiring. FEMA gave him a check for $17,000. But he estimates there’s more than $100,000 worth of damage.

“We got some help from friends, volunteers, it's tough,” said Veggian. “We don't even know if the house is going to be livable.”

Veggian was standing at his front gate wearing work gloves and binoculars also hoping to see the president. He considers himself an Obama supporter and if he had a chance to tell him something, he’d say this: “Mr. President thank you for coming. You see what’s happening here. And whatever help you can give us, please, hurry up.”


More in:

Comments [12]

Bells3113 from New dorp S.I.

Steven bishop, u must know me. My wife does have a chronic illness and my three children all attend private school. Guess what, President Obama hasn't helped me one bit. My bills have continually gone up over the last four years. My pay hasn't budged. My medical bills keep rolling in. Guess what , I just roll with it. I did not get affected by this storm. I was safe. My family was safe and my house fared well. I don't understand the anger of all the people posting. Why shouldn't anyone who lost their homes expect help from city and state agencies? Must u only be a democrat to get help? I don't get everyone's logic and when I stated that I want the president to prove me wrong it had nothing to do with the storm. I did not vote for Obama but I hope he proves me wrong. I hope he turns this country around. Let him show me that he could be the best president ever. Probe me wrong. Get it my liberal posters. Hopefully he will do just that and prove me wrong. But his first four years do not give me confidence

Nov. 19 2012 08:06 PM
bobk from staten island ny

i feel that any republicans that do not wish help. I respect. that is more for the folks that do wish help. I agree with states rights, for things that only effect states, but for anything that goes over state lines, it needs to be under federal control. but rush will continue to stoke folks, to battle against their own better good...well, i guess with his millions, he could afford to rebuild with out any ones help...just think about the folks that made him that rich.....

Nov. 17 2012 11:08 AM
Rush Fatpig from EIB Nutwerk

Yes! Get BIG GOVERNMENT out of our lives! Rebuild your homes with twigs. At least you won't feel like a "victim" looking for BIG GOVERNMENT handouts and entitlements. C'mon you lazy 47%ers! Buck up! Stand on your own two feet. Pull yourselves up by your own bootstraps!

Nov. 16 2012 01:11 PM
Marie from Putnam County NY

I wish that our President had spent his time visiting areas inhabited by citizens enlightened enough to appreciate what he has done for them since Sandy arrived. I wish that he had told these ill advised persons that he would have visited earlier but was asked to hold off until the situation improved. And mostly I wish that the residents of Staten Island who did not appreciate the visit of their President would try seeking information from sources other than FOX NEWS and its sister, THE POST. A lot to wish for, perhaps, but I remain a hopeful soul!, m

Nov. 16 2012 12:08 PM

Goes to prove just how stupid GOP supporters are.

I'm sorry. It's just an observation of FACT!

Nov. 16 2012 11:05 AM
Xtina from E. Village

What is the point of this story? If these people are Conservatives, what do they want from the President? Prove you 'wrong' how, exactly? Mitt Romney said FEMA should be disbanded and states should help themselves after disasters. That's what YOU VOTED FOR. So get out of line with your hands out.

And the President would have been there 'sooner' if Bloomberg hadn't him told him not to come, unlike Gov. Christie who did the right thing.

I did vote for the President and he's not visiting MY neighborhood, which also suffered after the storm. "You people" (to quote your candidate's wife) are INGRATES.

Nov. 16 2012 10:44 AM
Brenda from NJ

With how the earth is changing, we should be SMARTER about how we build around risky areas that are prone to different natural disasters. People in tornado areas have bunkers for emergency. People close to the ocean should have cement house that can withstand the beating of the waves, and so on. Now, innovation and engineering should be driven/paid by the people who live there for their own safety. I could not afford to live close to the ocean and I do not really go to the ocean, so I don't think we should be paying for the shore to be safer. We should be using tax payer money to make our roads, bridges, rail roads, hospitals, schools, and parks better, not just sections of the ocean that few people take advantage of.

Nov. 16 2012 10:24 AM
Amanda from New York City

Heard this story on WNYC this am as I was waking up. When the Staten Island woman said that she wished Obama had come earlier, I wanted to scream. HE DID WANT TO COME EARLIER. But the Staten Island authorities asked him to wait as they were dealing with the emergency situation and having the President of the United States come requires a huge amount of security and logistical attention that the Staten Island authorities could not deal with earlier. WNYC should actually push back on things like that. Reporting misinformation just because someone is misinformed or not informed is not helpful in this political and social climate.

I am heartbroken for people- but I just shake my head when I see folks who voted against their best interests (or the best interests of other people who might be similarly affected in the future) and then change their entire position on a dime. Same woman said: 'As far as government: what are you going to do to help us? We need to get this taken care of...' And yet- in the midst of her own destruction, she went to the polls and voted for the Republican idea of things, which is the exact opposite of her statement. I don't get it. I really do not.

Nov. 16 2012 09:38 AM
tim m.

I hate to discuss politics in regard to the hurricane disaster, but honestly, how can anyone who voted Republican be whining about not getting their "government handout"? Are these people serious? So sorry to hear that your house was ruined because you chose to live too close to the ocean - and so sorry that President Obama hasn't had time yet to personally come and build you another one!

Nov. 16 2012 08:58 AM

"I want help"??? Staten Island??? You're REPUBLICAN!!! You vote for Klowns® like ROMNEY!! Romney doesn't believe in climate change and said FU to FEMA!!

Republicans DO NOT do "HELP"!!

Sorry Staten Island, YOU'RE ON YOUR OWN!!


Nov. 16 2012 07:44 AM
Stephen Bishop from Staten Island

Nothing like a municipal working voting against their own self interest...

Mitt Romney chiding President Obama:

"He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

Mike, imagine that your wife had a chronic illness and you sent your kids to private school. How would Mitt Romney have helped your situation with less government?

Nov. 16 2012 07:28 AM
ROGER BEEM from San Francisco

If mr Romney had won he would have turned over FEMA to the states and he said that private company's would help. Let's see New Jersey is in debut for 35 million and it's going to take 30 Billion well let me tell you after major earthquakes the state could not handle it was the federal govmt. under G W Bush that provided federal help

Nov. 16 2012 02:54 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.


Latest Newscast




WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public


Supported by