Thousands Still Cold And Struggling Months After Superstorm Sandy

Frigid temperatures are blasting the northeast and in the Rockaway section of Queens — one of the areas worst hit by Superstorm Sandy — some 8,200 homes and businesses remain without power and many also living without heat are improvising, often dangerously, to stay warm.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

It is January, and it is cold in much of the country. In New York tonight, the temperature is supposed to hit the low teens, and that's especially hard for many people who are still without heat after Hurricane Sandy. More than 8,000 homes and businesses are without power in the Rockaway section of Queens. And as Stephen Nessen reports from member station WNYC, people there are relying on creative and sometimes dangerous ways to stay warm.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD)

STEPHEN NESSEN, BYLINE: At a bodega in Rockaway Park, residents grab dollar coffees, swap stories and try to stay warm. Louis DeCarolis' family lives in this dust-swept stretch of Queens just a block from the ocean. His son and grandkids are living without heat. So how do they survive? The oven.

LOUIS DECAROLIS: He's piled everybody into the kitchen. We put a sheet up over the kitchen door, and we use the oven. And that's where the three dogs, the wife, my ex-wife, I mean, my son, my daughter-in-law and both my grandkids sleep. Yeah, I know it's pretty rough, man, since Sandy hit us.

NESSEN: Down the block is a drycleaners, one of the few open in this area. Owner Xiao Mei Zhang and her 20-month-year-old son are bundled in quilted jackets. It's below freezing in here.

XIAO MEI ZHANG: No heat, no electric.

NESSEN: OK.

ZHANG: Right now, I can't do anything.

NESSEN: The thermometer above her door confirms it's 20 degrees indoors. She uses a generator that's slurping $40 worth of gas a day. She's still waiting for the landlord to restore heat and power.

ZHANG: I don't know what he do. He says you need to wait, maybe one month, maybe two months. I don't know. Still, I need to pay bills, yeah. I don't know. It drives me crazy.

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NESSEN: Follow the white contractor vans down the street, and you see they're fixing one house at a time, but not Alex Ocasio's.

ALEX OCASIO: The landlord pretty much has nothing to say other than he wants rent, and we want utilities, and so that's the standstill we're at.

NESSEN: While Ocasio has power, he has no heat. His neighbors have no heat or electricity. The Long Island Power Authority says it can't restore power until owners obtain proper electrical certificates. Meanwhile, residents of the Rockaways continue to brace for more frigid weather.

For NPR News, I'm Stephen Nessen in New York.

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