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Coney Island residents still feel forgotten one year after Superstorm Sandy

CONEY ISLAND, N.Y. With nothing but a small refrigerator, a shelf of canned food, and a plastic table with chairs, Charlene Davis' temporary apartment is a shell of what it used to be.

"Everyday is a struggle. To see the look on my daughter's face when she comes in, you know it hurts," Davis said.

The 54-year-old is one of almost 13,000 low-income renters in Coney Island who applied for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, after Superstorm Sandy hit one year ago.

Davis is in a wheelchair and needs oxygen for a respiratory illness.

She asked FEMA to help her re-locate from her flood-damaged home, but because of her disability it was difficult to find a place that fit her needs.

The mother of four realized quickly that surviving the hurricane was just the beginning of a very long battle ahead.

Davis, and her two children that live with her, had only 15 minutes before it became clear that Sandy was going to flood their home.

"I was just sitting there watching television with my family paying really no mind and all of the sudden it just hit out of no where," she said.

The hurricane's uninvited force engulfed Davis' first floor with almost five feet of water.

Her children spent an hour pressed against the front door, trying to stop the water from coming in.

Sandy's power against theirs was so strong that it left body imprints on the door.

Mother nature was winning. Davis' kids rushed her out of her wheelchair and carried her upstairs as the water started rise.

"You just had to get up. Get out of the way, and let Sandy take over," Davis said.

They spent days with no electricity, candles and a few snacks on their second floor.

All they could do was wait for the water to recede.

When Davis went downstairs the devastation was unimaginable.

"We had just gotten furniture and I just recently made the last payment. All of it gone, " Davis said.

It took her eight months to relocate.

During that time she was living with mold, which made her respiratory problems worse.

After not having any luck with FEMA, Davis picked up the phone and started calling different organizations.

Local housing officials eventually helped her get into the temporary apartment she is living in now.

She is still waiting for her old place to be repaired, which might not happen until late December.

Davis believes when it comes to Coney Island, people don't think about the poor residents living a few blocks away from the rides and boardwalk.

And Deborah Carter agrees. She is around the corner from Davis and is the resident leader of the Gravesend public housing developments

"We were the spot that wasn't looked at [when it came to Sandy recovery]," said Carter.

Residents were angry that it took so long for aid to reach them, and Carter says there is still so much that needs to be done.

"We still have people that [are] in need. In need of furniture, clothing. A lot of people lost a lot of things," Carter said.

While Coney Island's Luna Park re-opened just five months after the storm, Carter and Davis both feel that when it comes to aid, their area should not be forgotten.

"They [people] are focusing on the rides and how Coney Island is back and coming. There are people who are still struggling," Davis said.

Even with Davis' long battle and loss she has gained one thing -- courage.

"No matter how many times someone tells you, no, no, no, don't give up .... whatever you got to do, fight for what it is that you want. Because when you are right, you should fight," Davis said.

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