Debi Rose, the first Black elected official from New York City’s least populous borough, toured the island with President Obama.
While President Obama toured the devastation from Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island, he repeated his pledge that the federal government will provide as much assistance as necessary to rebuild the damaged communities.
At the same time, African-American leaders on Staten Island are asking that their communities not be forgotten when federal and state funds are made available.
“I just want to make sure that we are remembered, too,” said New York City Councilwoman Debi Rose, the first African-American official to represent Staten Island in the council.
“While some of the areas on Staten Island were hit harder by the storm, there could be a tendency to forget about areas like my district,” said Rose, who represents the northern third of the island. “But in my district, we had a lot of personal losses, people whose homes were severely damaged. And many of the homes were deemed by the city’s Buildings Department to have restricted habitation.”
Rose said she spent time with the president when he came to the island on Thursday, saying that Obama’s presence could only reassure residents of the island.
“It was really great to see the president come here to Staten Island to reassure people who have lost everything,” Rose said. “He said he will be in this for the long haul. He said he will come back. He said he will provide the resources to help the island recover. I just want to make sure that we’re a part of that.”
Staten Island is the least populous of New York City’s five boroughs and has the lowest percentage of Black and Latino residents. However, there is a significant population of Latino New Yorkers on the island’s northern shore as well as a sizable African-American community, which includes the largest Liberian community outside of the West African nation.
Staten Island is also New York City’s least Democratic borough, having voted for John McCain in 2008 over Obama by a slight margin. The island has also consistently been led by borough presidents who were conservative.
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(Photo: Jan Somma-Hammel/Staten Island Advance)