NEW YORK — Even before Superstorm Sandy’s floodwaters crested New York City’s Rockaway Peninsula, there was an air of devastation in Edgemere, a remote seaside neighborhood of homes and vacant lots with waist-high grass. .

When the water receded, more houses in Ajmer were also destroyed. But there was also hope that the rebuilding effort would finally give the predominantly black neighborhood the boost it needs to recover from decades of neglect. In the decade since Sandy battered the coast, those hopes have faded.

Along block after block of run-down houses there is little sign of the promised development, some long vacant. Meanwhile, further west on the peninsula, predominantly white communities have flourished, with reclamation funds bringing new homes, businesses, gathering places.

“They tell me we’re one peninsula — no, we’re not. It’s a tale of two peninsulas,” said Edgemere resident Sonia Moise, whose home was flooded during Sandy. The car went with the tide.

“You go west, what do they have? They have a skate park. They have a dog park. They have concession stands,” Moise said. “What do we have? We have homeless shelters. We have hotels where homeless people live.

When Sandy hit the northeastern U.S. coastline on October 29, 2012, the storm did not discriminate as it caused about $65 billion in damage — much of it in New York and New Jersey. Luxury vacation homes on the Jersey shore were demolished. Staten Island’s small working-class homes sank to their banks.

But the rebuilding effort has been equal. The troubles in Edgemere are a case study of the disparities that run rampant across America after natural disasters: billions of dollars in recovery money go their way, and communities of color have their weakest impact. In New Orleans, the remarkable post-Katrina recovery has made for a whiter, more expensive city where poor black neighborhoods still struggle. In Florida, there’s already grumbling with rows of broken-down mobile homes that are helping resort beach communities most quickly in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

A sociologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who researches race, housing and disasters, said public spending after disasters has increased inequality.

“Communities that are white and affluent are not only recovering from the disaster, but in many cases, they’re doing better,” Howell said. “What you’re doing is giving resources to people who already have more resources and leaving everyone else behind.”

The opposite is perhaps just west of Edgemere, at Arverne by the Sea. Like much of the Rockaway Peninsula — an 11-mile long barrier coast that’s home to about 124,000 people — both communities were almost completely underwater after Sandy hit. But Edgemere residents say they’ve seen Arverne and the predominantly white communities get more help, and sooner.

Aaron’s already has a new grocery store and a Dunkin’ Donuts in a new commercial strip. And next door to Rockaway Beach is a new skate park, which Sandy tore down and rebuilt the old one. The construction of the community amphitheater is in progress.

Neighbors admit it’s not a perfect comparison. Some of Arvin’s investments were underway before Sandy. Six years ago, a $1 billion development attracted more white families to the neighborhood — which is still predominantly black, though that number is shrinking — and some of those 2,300 homes went for $1.7 million. I am being resold. The development was largely spared by winds and floods, prompting residents of Ajmer to grumble that their homes were not built to last.

What’s clear, community board leaders Moise and others say, is that Edgemere never got its fair share.

“We’ve been fighting for years to get the same thing that the rest of the neighborhoods around us have gotten. We’ve been ignored,” Moise said.

Unlike Arverne, Edgemere has no coffee shops or concession stands. Along Beach Channel Drive, the main thoroughfare, there is a bodega and a Chinese takeout restaurant. Next door, a smoke shop is moving in. Upstairs is a huge public housing project.

There is little sign of the Rockaways’ history as a beach resort community. The grand hotels of the peninsula did not survive the era of the automobile. The 1950s brought urban renewal. Authorities tore down thousands of bungalows that were home to black and Puerto Rican families, replacing some of the lost housing stock with high-rise housing projects while leaving other demolished blocks to nature.

Edgemere and other communities on the eastern end of the Rockways became dumping grounds for the city’s poorest residents, pushed across a wide gulf to the very end of the land, a 70-minute subway ride from Manhattan.

But just before Sandy, there was hope that things were improving — even if neighboring communities were growing rapidly. Edgemere was growing. People were migrating. City officials pledged to build about 800 new homes to fill the vacant lots.

Sandy stopped these small signs of hope.

The city says it’s working to make a difference in Edgemere. Earlier this year, it finalized a development plan called “Resilient Ajmer”. Every member of the community board urged the city council and the mayor to reject it. But the community did not have the political power to stop it.

The project promises affordable housing near the beach and high-rise apartments with 1,200 residential units above retail space. $14 million has been earmarked to shore up the coastline with a raised berm to protect Ajmera from a 30-inch (76 cm) rise in sea level, and $2.3 million to upgrade sewer and drainage lines. have been allocated.

But residents fear the low-income units will add to the long-standing burden of housing the neighborhood’s poor. More than a quarter of Edgemere residents live in poverty, the highest among Rockaways communities, according to a recent state report that highlighted long-standing inequality in the area.

Those who have money spend it elsewhere because the community has fewer amenities.

And while the project’s onshore work may be welcome news, many say it’s another case of being last in line. Elsewhere along the peninsula, sand dunes were quickly developed to prevent waves from encroaching as they did during Sandy. Edgemere’s beach restoration began just weeks ago.

Instead of a city plan, community board members want more duplexes and townhomes to fit in with the existing housing stock. They want a new school and grassy inland parks to help absorb the next flood. They want amenities like the fully stocked grocery stores found in neighboring, affluent communities.

City officials insist they’ve made progress — they cite wetland restoration and the construction of more than 100 flood-proof homes. Stretches of wooden boardwalks have been replaced by concrete walkways along the beach. The headquarters for the nature preserve is being built, but the construction limits the community’s access to the boardwalk and beach.

Dexter Davis, a former NYC police officer whose Edgemere home was inundated with more than a yard (meter) of water during Sandy, says his community needs more than has been described. Is.

“The things they put into other communities around us are more positive. They give them more fun things, better quality,” Davis said. “Here, they do things — but it’s not the same.”

Experts like NYU sociologist Jacob Faber say it’s not just a natural disaster that has affected Ajmer and other poor communities — it’s the lingering effect of years of neglect.

“You have these geographically and socially and economically isolated communities that are, again and again, in a position to just get hammered,” Farber said.

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Associated Press writer Deepti Hajila contributed to this report.

Follow Bobby Kenna Calvan on Twitter.

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