The New York Times has the back story on the bright idea of putting a lot of vulnerable elderly people on the front lines of a hurricane:
The urban renewal program of slum clearance, a federal program begun in 1949 and locally controlled by Robert Moses, used eminent domain to acquire and destroy thousands of the remaining bungalows. "Many had already been converted into substandard welfare housing," Jack Eichenbaum, the Queens borough historian, said. In their place went swaths of public housing projects.
Ms. Vitullo-Martin wrote, "The city also used federal and state financing to support the development of dozens of nursing homes."
...One reason for building housing projects in the Rockaways was that their residents were thought not to need easy access to the city's job centers. The same reasoning made the peninsula a logical choice for nursing homes. As with much of urban renewal, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Unintended consequences, failed central planning — it's all there.