WNYC's Bob Hennelly is an award-winning investigative journalist. While at WNYC he has reported on a wide gamut of major public policy questions ranging from immigration and homeland security to power outages and utility mergers.
More than 100 days after Sandy struck the region, the impending blizzard has officials and social service non-profits worried about the thousands who maybe living in substandard housing damaged by the October storm.
A foot or more of snow is expected in New York City and surrounding areas —a forecast officials fear threatens the welfare of vulnerable populations displaced by Sandy or living in poor conditions because they fear coming forward. Currently, the city is providing accommodations for 800 families.
"Staten Island, the Rockaways and parts of southern Brooklyn — particularly there appears to be significant numbers of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants who have not been going to evacuation centers for various reasons," said Patrick Markee, senior policy analyst with the Coalition for the Homeless.
New York City's Commissioner for Homeless Services Seth Diamond said the city will still make hotels rooms available to residents who have been toughing it out in storm damaged housing.
"We have done a lot of outreach to people, particularly focused on those who are in unheated or in homes that have not been connected to the electrical grid," he said.
Diamond said that unlike the FEMA program that restricts participation of undocumented immigrants, the city's program is open to everyone.
In New Jersey, there are about 43,000 families that are displaced by Sandy but have safe shelter as the blizzard approaches, according to Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable. But he said it's hard to estimate how many people remain in marginal housing conditions after Sandy because there are no statistics.
"I can not tell you because sadly they are in the shadows," he said.