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Local News November 30, 2012  RSS feed

The Wave Starts Presses Again

Battered By Storm, Rockaway Paper Returns
by Robert Pozarycki

The Rockaways’ oldest weekly newspaper was knocked down by Hurricane Sandy, but The Wave will begin to rise again in earnest tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 30, by publishing their first print edition since the storm struck last month.

“It’s going to be a great relief to actually get started again. It’s going to be important for the community,” Sanford Bernstein, the newspaper’s general manager, told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview on Tuesday, Nov. 27. “It’s a stabilizing factor for us. It means we can go back to business again. We can go back to work and make that first really big step toward a return to normalcy.”

Like many homes and businesses on the peninsula, The Wave’s Rockaway Beach office was devastated by the Oct. 29 storm, Bernstein said. Computer equipment, office furnishings and other essential items needed to publish a print newspaper on the first floor of its office were wiped out by the surge, though electronic equip- ment on the second floor was spared.

It was a cruel double whammy for Bernstein and many Wave employees who also live in the Rockaways, as not only was their livelihood crippled by Sandy, but their own homes were also severely damaged or destroyed.

Unable to publish a print edition, The Wave was able to maintain limited contact with Rockaway residents and the world through updates on its website, www.rockawave.com. Bernstein noted, however, that those updates were few and far between since the area continues to struggle with utility outages.

Meanwhile, The Wave—which first published in 1893—had to figure out how to start from scratch while simultaneously repairing the office and replacing equipment. Bernstein stated that the newspaper received donated computers which had to be reconfigured and updated in order to be operational.

“We bought some equipment. We built desks out of two-by-fours” and store-bought sets that needed to be assembled, Bernstein said. “We wired a room upstairs with a network cable and created a place that we could operate out of based on sweat and tears. We’re keeping it together.”

According to the New York Daily News, the first post-storm issue of The Wave is likely to feature an editorial on the response as well as photos of the damage. The issue will have a new set of advertisers, mostly construction and repair companies, but Bernstein added that the fate of the weekly paper’s regular advertisers remains largely uncertain.

“We’ll get some of the businesses back, but a lot of them will be gone forever. I don’t know what that number is going to be,” he told this newspaper in a phone interview.

Rockaway businesses are facing many challenges in getting back on their feet following Sandy, Bernstein noted. Struggling in a rough economy before the storm hit, he observed, many proprietors are now trying to receive federal assistance through the Small Business Administration

(SBA) are being hindered by red tape.

Bernstein suggested that the SBA eliminate much of the documentation requirements for well-established businesses in order for them to easily and hastily receive loans to rebuild.

“They need to prime the pump. These businesses don’t know what to do and they’re engulfed under their own problems, he added. “We are in an economic war and Rockaway is economically dead. You need to revive the patient. You’re not going to do it by handing that patient lying on the gurney a pen and telling them to fill out their insurance forms.”

Asked about how long he thinks it will take the Rockaways to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Bernstein believes that “we’ll be back to something else, but I don’t know what that’s going to be.”

“You’ve got a multiple-year recovery period, like Katrina,” he added, comparing the situation to the one New Orleans faced following the monster hurricane in August 2005.