Red Hook after Sandy – Image from redhookrevcovers.org
This report from my friend Jenny, who took off work yesterday to volunteer in Red Hook, a waterfront area in Brooklyn that was hit hard by Sandy.
I am very pleased I went. I was working with a community center and adjacent church to service the Red Hook Homes (Houses?) a vast public housing complex (7000 residents according to Wikipedia). Some of the complex hasn’t had heat or power for 10 days, and the parts with electricity didn’t have heat in some cases. The church and center were serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to the ambulatory, as well as giving out food and blankets and some other things. They had electric radiators, but the public housing authority (or Con Edison) told them not to give them out, because they would crash the grid for those with power. The demand for all this, including the heating of the center, appeared to be huge.
I helped set up for breakfast, then went out to deliver food with a partner to list of people who can’t get out because they can’t negotiate the stairs with the elevators out. The wisdom of the recommendation of having male-female pairs of volunteers quickly became evident – the male is useful given the probably high level of crime, and the female is useful to persuade people to open their door. There was quite a difference between the lighted and unlighted buildings – in the latter, some parts were in complete darkness even during the day (we had flashlights), and people were reluctant to open their doors. When they did though, they were so grateful for the ready-to-eat meals we had. Many of the buildings stank – the trash chutes are not being emptied. For this reason, some residents had windows open despite not having heat. Lots of the people I delivered to didn’t look very old for the state of their health. Generally, whether at home or in the center and church, people were miserable.
After finishing the list after a few hours, my time started to be used less efficiently and more volunteers showed up, so I decided to go home.
If you want to volunteer in Red Hook, as Jenny has, you can contact the Red Hook Initiative (firstname.lastname@example.org) or NYC council SRelief@council.nyc.gov).
You can also find opportunities at redhook.recovers.org, a website that links those in need in Red Hook with those who can help. This site is part of a wider effort started by sisters Caitria and Morgan O’Neill, who have created a website in a box (Recovers.org) that communities can use to organize in times of disaster. Other NYC neighborhoods using recovers.org are Astoria, The Lower East Side and Staten Island.
Caitria and Morgan are trying to spread the word so that municipalities actually set up and learn how to run a recovery in advance of trouble, as part of the infrastructure for emergency preparedness. Thanks to TED.org for spreading the word about this amazing effort.