Five cops from the Park Slope police station had their homes destroyed in Staten Island and Queens during Hurricane Sandy, but thanks to one woman, a long-time Slope resident and community volunteer, the cops have received needed money, clothing, and food.
Erika Clark, a freelance photographer for Condé Nast and National Geographic, is the corresponding secretary for the 78th Precinct Community Council — a non-partisan group of Park Slope residents that meets with police officials to help solve local problems. And when she found out that four officers and one sergeant were left homeless after Sandy, men who dedicate their lives to keeping the neighborhood safe, she felt she needed to do something about it.
Within a few days, Clark started a relief fund for the homeless officers and spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, and mass e-mails. With donations pouring in from as far away as Minnesota and California, Clark raised over $7,500 through January.
“Look, we have officers who have lost everything to Sandy,” said Clark. “We have to let them know that we care and help them as much as possible.”
The story that broke Clark’s heart the most, and further inspired her to help, was the story of a 78th officer who nearly lost his wife and newborn.
The officer, who wanted to remain nameless, was on duty in Park Slope the day Sandy hit land when he got a phone call from his wife, who was at their Staten Island home with their three-month-old baby girl. She called because the water was coming in to the house.
“She was on the second floor holding the baby, thinking she was going to die,” Clark said as she retold the story. “He was in the precinct, hysterical. She was literally saying ‘goodbye’ to him on the phone. He was keeping her on the line, thinking it would be the last time he would speak with her.”
Luckily, an ESU crew was able to rescue the mother and child, but according to Clark, it was a close call. The floodwaters ruined the officer’s home and now, his family is renting an apartment on the other side of the island.
Another Park Slope cop who also lives on Staten Island said that he saw the floodwaters climb up his living room wall. He, like the others, also lost everything.
“Even though they lost their homes and have to rebuild, all of them said they were incredibly lucky,” Clark explained. “They still have every one of their family members and friends.”
After raising close to $8,000, Clark gave each of the five families $1,500 each. And as donations keep coming in, from as little as $40 to as big as $4,000 (from one Park Slope resident), she will continue to give the officers the money. Her end goal is to give $5,000 to each family.
“They all said how grateful they are to the donors. They are used to being the ones who put their lives on the line, to reach out and help others,” Clark said on behalf of the officers, who all did not want to be identified. “They were all touched that people reached out to them and recognized how important they are in our lives. It really touched them.”
If you are interested in making a donation, checks can be made payable to:
78th Precinct Community Council Relief Fund
c/o 78 Precinct Community Council
65 Sixth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
If you prefer, you can drop off clothes, toiletries, gifts cards, etc. at the 78th Precinct. The affected families consist of 10 adults (5 men, 5 women) a teenage boy and a 3-month-old girl.