Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Absence of Latinos in Political Leadership Leaves Latinos in Hardship in Hurricane Sandy Aftermath

Many in the New York and New Jersey region are still recovering from Hurricane Sandy destruction, and Latinos are among those hardest hit. An absence of Latinos in key political leadership positions seems to be leading many in the community to rebuilding at a slower rate.

About 29% of New York City’s population is made up of Latinos, who make up 40% of the city’s poverty population. Many Latinos live in the outer boroughs of New York and in New Jersey and not in Manhattan, where most of the rescue seems to be currently going.

And while Latinos make up over 13% of the U.S. civilian labor force, they only make up 8% of federal government workers, leaving experts to wonder if the lack of Latino presence in the federal, state, and local levels of government is negatively impacting how critical decisions are made that directly impact communities with overwhelming Latino populations.

Many Latino business owners have seen themselves severely affected by the storm’s aftermath. Vanessa Oliver, a stylist and manager at Cielo’s Hair Design lost all power and hot water at her salon.

“Business was very much affected since we lost a whole week of work and not being able to do a singly client meant no money coming in for anybody,” says Oliver. “I can’t give an exact number of the amount we lost but it’s in the thousands.”

Reports say that New Jersey received the storm’s biggest hit, with many cities like Hoboken still underwater. In New York, lower Manhattan is in almost complete darkness, fires were reported in many parts of Queens, and overall deaths resulting from the storm have been estimated at over 110. The region’s public transportation system was paralyzed for days, with closings still in effect, and there are areas still experiencing a shortage of gas for vehicles.

The storm has also impacted this election season. According to New York City Board of Elections Commissioner Juan Carlos Polanco, New York City is the largest impacted area, with an estimated 4.6 million voters. Polling sites have been changed due to the affected areas, and New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that displaced New Yorkers could vote by affidavit at any polling place in the state.

Still, Latinos that work in other professions feel the repercussions of Hurricane Sandy.

“I had no idea it was going to last this long,” says Marco Jacal, a chef who works at a restaurant in lower Manhattan. “They haven’t told me when it’s going to be open again. I need to pay rent and buy food for my family, and I can’t do that if I’m not being paid.”

NBC Latino
National Institute for Latino Policy