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Justice Center Now in Rockaway Restoration Center for Superstorm Sandy Response—by Alice Morey

After three clinics on two cold weekends, sitting in make-shift quarters on the street and in an unheated dusty store-front in the Rockaways, the Justice Center’s Superstorm Sandy volunteers landed plush quarters by comparison in one of New York City’s Restoration Centers.

Provided with tables and chairs, internet and copy machine access, and toilets in a large, well-lit and warm space at the Arverne Restoration Center in the Rockaways, Justice Center staff and volunteer attorneys have been holding free legal clinics on Saturdays since the beginning of December. Each week, four or five energetic volunteers have interviewed and assisted an average of 12 clients who otherwise would not have access to legal help.

The issues seen mostly involve problems with FEMA and private insurance disputes. We have matched five cases for extended pro bono representation and, happily, those cases were picked up within 24 hours. We also have been working on a pro se appeal letter for people who are denied by FEMA or do not receive the amount from FEMA that they have claimed. Thanks to Andrew Adams of Debevoise, Courtney Dismore of Skadden and Meghan Faux of Brooklyn Legal Services for helping us draft that. The pro se appeal form is now ready for use along with a two-page pro se guide and a sample request-for-file form.  All can be downloaded here.

Sandy volunteersNew York City has set up seven Restoration Centers in areas hit hardest by the storm in an effort to bring information and referrals to available government services to affected New Yorkers in conveniently located neighborhood offices. Together with FEMA and representatives from various state agencies, such as the Department of Labor and the Department of Financial Services, representatives from the City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), Department of Health, Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Department for the Aging are available on-site to counsel and connect residents and businesses impacted by the storm with needed services.

The City has agreed to house bar association pro bono legal clinics at each of the Restoration Centers and we have coordinated with local bar associations, law firm pro bono coordinators and the larger legal aid and legal services community to staff those clinics. Currently, we have groups at all but one of the centers holding clinics on Thursdays and/or Saturdays, and we are adding some additional days.

Great thanks to Priya Raghavan, Danielle Gill, David Rochelson, Chris Vena, Andrew Adams, Jim Cross, Vanessa Browder, Trevor Owens, Aidan Leonard, Matt Ingber, Stephen Rooney, Brian Nolan, Emily Nash and Peter Haveles for helping the residents of the Rockaways as they struggle to put their lives back together.

Alice Morey is Managing Attorney at the City Bar Justice Center.

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