Throughout Hurricane Sandy, I've tried to put accurate, non-hysteria producing information up here on Brooklyn Based, on our Facebook page and out on the Twitter wires. I've tried to stay away from re-posting chain emails and instead give you places to volunteer--verified info and things to do to help rather than inducing panic or tugging at your heartstrings. All weekend though, I've been talking to friends and friends of friends about how shaken volunteering in the Rockaways has left them, how awful the conditions are down there right now, and last night I got a really moving account in an email, which I'll share with you here. First though, how you can help today, on this sunny Sunday after an extra hour of sleep.
Occupy Sandy seems to be the best, most organized way to help, and to get to the Rockaways today. They are organizing ride shares throughout the borough that leave at 10am and 1pm, or you can get yourself to their staging area in Sunset Park, San Jacobi Church (that's the 53rd St. stop on the R which is running), and help or catch a ride there. More volunteer efforts from Occupy Sandy, here. El Puente in Williamsburg, 211 South 4th St. , (718) 387-0404, is also collecting supplies for the Rockaways and needs volunteer help organizing them, email email@example.com.
SUNSET PARK (MAIN DISTRIBUTION CENTER FOR OCCUPY SANDY)
St. Jacobi Church is our main distribution center. Please come any time after 10am to help out. Bring a vehicle and gas if you can! Cars will be taking volunteers, food and supplies to the Rockaways throughout the day.
We will be transporting volunteers and supplies from St Jacobi Church in Sunset Park to impacted areas throughout the day. We prefer that new volunteers come to Sunset Park if possible so that we can route you to the locations with the greatest need, rather than going directly to one of the volunteer sites.
To catch a ride to Sunset Park, vehicles will be leaving from the following Brooklyn locations at 10am and 1pm.
Please arrive a little before the hour as cars will be leaving on time!
Fort Green/Clinton Hill: 45 Waverly Avenue
Park Slope: 120/122 16th St btw 4th and 5th ave
Park Slope: 361 15th Street
Williamsburg: 190 Withers, First Fl
Bedstuy: 136 Jefferson Ave, apt 2
East Williamsburg: 342 Maujer st
We will be transporting volunteers and supplies from St Jacobi Church in Sunset Park to impacted areas throughout the day. If you can’t make it out to the Rockaways, Coney Island, Staten Island etc. please come here and we’ll try and get you there.
St. Jacobi Church
5406 4th Ave
And here's a letter from the Rockaways, it's for real and it's awful.
We went from block to block asking people if they needed anything. Some people took. Others declined and told us to give it to others in greater need. One person suggested we go further down “where things are REALLY bad.” Driving down Cross Bay Blvd some more, handing out more supplies to people we saw straggling along that road, we stopped in what looked like a makeshift staging area, replete with a FEMA truck, some fire trucks, an a PBA truck feeding some of the policemen in what looked like a town square.There were hundreds of people – Asians, Latinos, Whites, African Americans, Russians – seemingly encamped there, obviously stressed, some looking like they were in dire straights. The area looked like a war zone. All we saw again was just a docking station for people to charge their mobile phones. Where was the food? The water? Blankets? Coats? Ray, Paul and I were horrified.In the small park/'town square' there was a small fold-up table with two guys there and meager supplies – they mentioned they were from a local church and that they had also been going from place to place doing what they possibly could. That was it.I ran over to what looked like the Captain within a group of policemen and asked if we could start passing out food and drinks in that spot. He assented. I ran back to the car and we opened up the trunk.Within seconds, people saw what we were doing and it was a mob scene. Hands reaching in panicked to get something... Within a very short time–maybe 20 minutes, almost all of our supplies were gone.
We left that square to go to a final destination on 91st street–a place where Ray's friend lives. We got to that road and were horrified at the tragedy that happened there... A woman named Sharon who told us a great many things about how people have no power, no internet, no gas (or cars destroyed), no food, no shelter, no blankets, but yet they are afraid to leave their shattered worlds because there is a gang war going on not too far East. We met a few men who had set up a fire in a very safe pit, were cooking some food, had set up supplies for their block. One of them told us how there were 13 gun fights the night before, they were counting. They could hear the shots and the cries. Terrifying. There are children living on that block. That block is cut off from the world.
They all asked us, each person we met: “Does anyone know what is happening here? Why hasn't anyone come to help us yet?”As dusk began to fall, I grew concerned that we had outstayed our visit there. One of the people told us that after 5pm things started to get rough, and by 6pm, “bad things are going to start happening here again.” The couple of men at the fire on 91st seemed to have that steely, confident reserve as block elders that whatever came, they were going to deal with it. They seemed to be the rocks of that particular community. Imagine that kind of thing going on all over Staten Island, the Rockaways, and beyond? There is hope in the strength of a community.Ray had purchased a few pounds of ham and bread for his friend, who actually wasn't home–he was out doing relief work himself, despite the fact that his own home was destroyed with a large piece of boardwalk slicing it right through. We decided we'd bring our last bit of food and drink supplies back to that park we were at earlier.One of us noticed a woman hunched over with a baby in the park. People were overlooking her existence, as everyone seemed to be concerned with the coming of night and saving their own skins. I bent over and asked her if she needed anything. She said “I have four other children in the car. We don't have a house anymore.” She had the smiling, reassuring face of a mom that was trying to make her little child feel things would be ok. Her eyes showed terror.I gave her the two pounds of ham and the bread, along with water, and I said to her “we are with you ma'am.” I thought of my own children, and spoke to her girl, maybe a 2-year-old, with fear and hurt in her eyes, definitely she was afraid of a stranger, I said “little girl, its going to be all right. I'm sorry this happened, but you're going to be ok.”I don't know that is true for a fact. But I want it to be.
As I walked away from that young mother and her child, I began to cry. That doesn't happen too often.
We need to somehow make this all right for these people. I implore you all to find a way to do that, in your own ways...