In the Rockaways, nightfall isn’t met with the familiar bloom of glowing windows. This string of seaside neighborhoods, part of New York City’s borough of Queens, is still without heat and electricity and, just minutes after sunset, the world fades to black. People who spend all day cleaning and dragging out the contents of their flooded houses either head to shelter in warmer neighborhoods, or tuck in for a cold night.
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Those brave enough to stay on in the streets cluster under scattered generator powered lights.There amid drifts of sand and trash, they charge their mobile devices and draw a sense of warmth, as much each other’s company as from the bulbs.
But on Tuesday night, there was another place to gather. Under a cluster of tents and generators provided by the Board of Elections, a makeshift polling supersite hummed in a school parking lot. Poll workers, many of whom had lost their own homes, wore dust masks. A day earlier, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an order allowing people displaced by Hurricane Sandy to vote at any location in New York. Many chose to return to their devastated neighborhoods.
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And so on Election night in the Rockaways, people shared their stories about recovery and feelings of bitterness toward FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard, groups that many residents feel took too long to respond. Others said that they have been receiving crucial assistance from private citizens while they waited for the national organizations to arrive. As people spoke, many cast their eyes to the northwest. From the Rockaways, the glittering skyline of Manhattan is visible, but feels very far away.