It took more than two weeks, but most of our neighbors in Red Hook finally have power, and more and more public housing buildings are getting their heat restored each day. Residents are rightfully angry that it took this long - and there will be a time soon to look at what happened, what should have been done differently, who’s accountable for it, and what we need to learn for the future. But I’m sure glad to see the progress.
In another sign of recovery, our guests from three adult homes that were evacuated to the Park Slope Armory following Hurricane Sandy are moving to more permanent housing. The final group is scheduled to move out on Sunday. One group was able to move back to their building, and the other two into transitional housing in other assisted living facilities while their original buildings are repaired. You can read more about the extraordinary community that has been created at the Armory on my blog. I’m proud of what we were able to do together - City employees, Federal disaster teams, not-for-profit groups, and so many neighborhood volunteers - to show our displaced guests hospitality and even love in their time of trauma. It has really mattered. I am thrilled that they are able to return home, but it is also a bittersweet moment to see them go.
Today, the displaced veterans who have been sheltered in Carroll Gardens are headed back to their Long Island City residence, which is now ready for their return. In the short time they were here, the vets pitched in to help Red Hook recover (see a picture of the volunteer team here), and many members of our community donated coats, socks, and toiletries to make their stay comfortable. (Now that these Sandy evacuees have gone back to their residence, we'll need to resume our efforts to insist that the Dept. of Homeless Services treats our community fairly, follows the law, and provides the basic information that we’ve requested about the long-term proposal for use of this building.)
Work continues in Prospect Park, with dozens of trucks and scores of workers still cleaning up the damage from over 400 downed trees, and on some of our side streets as well, where Parks Department workers and contractors have cleared many trees (let me know if there is still a tree that needs attention on your block).
But even as the images of the storm’s impacts slowly disappear from our community, recovery still feels far off elsewhere in the city. Take a look at pictures on the New York Times website to get a sense of where things stand for many of our neighbors.
I hope you can volunteer or donate this weekend and beyond to help these communities continue recovering.
- To volunteer in Red Hook this weekend, report to 499 Van Brunt Street to help distribute donations and clean up businesses and residences damaged by the storm. They are especially in need of skilled workers this weekend (electricians, plumbers, etc). And support the work of the Red Hook Initiative, which has been coordinating volunteers and donations on behalf of the people of Red Hook since the storm hit.
- In Coney Island, volunteers are needed at the “Relief Village,” where they are distributing food, clothing, and other much needed supplies. The Relief Village is next to MCU Park at 1904 Surf Avenue, near the Stillwell Avenue subway station between 8:30 AM and 3 PM. Visit coneyrecovers.org for details.
- Congregation Beth Elohim continues to provide hot meals and other support to communities in Far Rockaway and elsewhere. Volunteer here for a shift this weekend or donate on their website.
- Old First Reformed Church has partnered with the restaurant Two Boots to cook meals for neighborhoods that were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. Learn more about their efforts and sign up to help or donate on Old First’s website.
- The Masbia Soup Kitchen was named one of Newsweek’s Heroes of the Hurricane, a much deserved honor. Masbia was at the Armory on day one with hot food for evacuees when they needed it most, and have since expanded their operation to other communities as well. Donate to support their work here.
- The Brooklyn Recovery Fund is collecting donations to support the great nonprofits that are working across the borough to support their communities. Contribute here so they can sends funds where they are needed most.
The recovery process is going to be a long one, and will continue to require our hard work and attention even after it fades from the front pages. We’ll need to keep supporting families and communities for many months. I was pleased that President Obama came to visit New York City yesterday, and especially that he appointed HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan - a former Brooklynite, a smart housing leader, and someone who cares deeply about communities - as the point-person for the federal recovery effort.
But this effort can’t just be about rebuilding what we had before. We need to learn from Hurricane Sandy about the sustainable infrastructure our city needs, to pay real attention to some of the inequalities the storm highlighted (like how long it took to get power and heat back on in public housing), to build upon the remarkable volunteer and civic relief efforts to include communities more deeply in planning, and to recognize that climate change is a stark reality that we simply cannot ignore any longer. I’ve offered a few thoughts about what this means for the future of the Gowanus Canal, and will share more thoughts next week about what a just and sustainable recovery will require.
For now, as we approach Thanksgiving, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with reminders of the many blessings I have to be grateful for -- for my family, for our vibrant and diverse neighborhoods, for our wounded but resilient city, and for the tremendous outpouring of love, care, and hard work that makes it possible to rise above disaster and tragedy. Thanks to everyone who has contributed something to help our city recover.