Schumer, D'Amato push for Sandy aid bill

Sen. Charles Schumer is 'optimistic' that the U.S. Senate will pass a bill approving monetary relief to areas such as Island Park. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Jan. 28, 2013)

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About 80 people joined U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato at an Island Park rally Monday to urge immediate Senate passage of a proposed $50.5 billion relief fund for victims of superstorm Sandy.

"We need 60 votes, Democrats and Republicans," said Schumer (D-N.Y.). "We voted for their aid [around the country] when they needed help. The New York taxpayer has been there for them. We don't want the rules changing now that we've had a major disaster. But it's going to be close."

That last remark brought boos from many rally participants, most of whom were from Island Park, which was heavily damaged by the disaster and has not completely recovered.

The public library and many schools and churches remain closed, as well as 60 percent of the businesses on the village's main street, Schumer said.

"So far nobody has helped us at all," said John Weber, owner of the Island Park Laundromat on Long Beach Road, the site of the rally. The business was flooded by seawater and sewage, and Weber said he doesn't have the money to reopen.

Next door is Jack's Pizzeria, which only reopened Jan. 14.

"The storm almost destroyed us, and we're still struggling hard," said owner Josephine Natalello. "One federal agency told us we could borrow money at six percent interest, but we can't afford that. We just bought this place a year-and-a-half ago and are deep in debt. We need help now."

Schumer, who left to catch a train to Washington, D.C., for the Senate vote scheduled for later Monday, said he fervently hopes that Monday's bad weather does not keep any of the senators on his side of the vote from participating.

D'Amato, a Republican and an Island Park native, also urged passage of the Senate bill, which the House of Representatives has approved.

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