She survived Hurricane Sandy. Then climate gentrification hit
By Amir Khafagy
As disasters grow more severe owing to the impacts of the climate crisis, there is mounting evidence in the US that while many white residents receive ample government help to rebuild and recover, some members of racial and ethnic minorities are instead being pushed out of places they once called home. Activists are warning that “climate gentrification” in places like Far Rockaway is on the rise.
And for Black residents like Smalls, whose families have lived in the Rockaways for generations, the process of unlocking governmental aid, which has been promised to Rockaway residents in various forms since Sandy, has been a quieter, unfolding crisis.
The trouble didn’t end after the buyout. Shortly after the city purchased her home, she and her husband moved a few blocks away, into a new home that Smalls says was hastily and poorly constructed. Cracks formed along the walls of her bedroom, she says, and the roof leaked. Three months later, her husband, who had long suffered from health complications, died.
In 2016, Smalls noticed that many of her Black neighbors were being offered buyouts, while residents in the white neighborhoods of the peninsula like Breezy Point were being given other options, such as being able to repair, rebuild and elevate their existing homes. Although in theory, Smalls’s home was eligible for repairs for many years, the red tape she encountered throughout that time made obtaining that aid feel impossible.
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