With Hurricane Sandy’s one-year anniversary approaching, stories from the storm will be widely reported, curated and disseminated by media outlets across the country. Yet as the public looks back, MetroFocus reporter Rick Karr visits a small local newspaper in the Rockaways that never looked away.
The Wave has covered the Rockaway peninsula since 1893. Last October, the newspaper’s offices flooded with over four
feet of Sandy storm water, destroying over 100 y ears’ worth of archives and halting publication for the first time in its 119-year history.
Despite the damage, the drowned archives and the loss of their digital subscription list, The Wave was back in business three weeks after the storm. The staff moved into a smaller office upstairs and editor Kevin Boyle returned from a 13-year hiatus to man the helm.
“If a store opened, I wanted to announce it. If a family moved back and there was a story, I wanted to write about it. So I wanted to emphasize the Rockaway renaissance,” said Boyle.
The Wave has documented the ups and downs of recovery in the Rockaways ever since, and Boyle’s responsibilities have shifted between editing and advocacy.
In Breezy Point, the westernmost tip of the Rockaway peninsula, residents are still struggling to rebuild their homes while bracing themselves against the threat of rising flood insurance costs. Late in September, Boyle joined other Rockaways residents at a rally. They directed their ire at FEMA, which manages the flood insurance program. Many of them want the agency to postpone the premium hike and conduct a study of the impact that higher premiums would have on waterfront communities. Last month, FEMA’s administrator told a Senate committee that his hands were tied and that only Congress could delay the rise in premiums. Boyle ran stories about the anti-FEMA rally on the front page, and he’ll keep running them until the issue is resolved, according to publisher Susan Locke.
In the meantime, Boyle and the staff at The Wave will continue focusing attention on the struggles and successes of Rockaway communities, in hopes of making a difference.
“[M]ost people think […] here’s a chance for a clean slate, you know. From the boardwalk, to the streets that haven’t been paved for years, to job creation. There’s a real chance here for some good to come out of it,” said Boyle.