A week after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, New Yorkers are dealing with an aftermath beyond comprehension in many neighborhoods. Thousands are still without power, heat and hot water.
In Brooklyn, residents of Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Seagate, Red Hook and Gerritsen Beach are pumping water out of buildings and struggling with the aftermath of the crippling storm surge, with power still out for thousands of residents, and some without running water as well.
In Staten Island, the neighborhood of Tottenville has residents still picking up the pieces and searching for loved ones.
In Queens, a fire destroyed 111 homes in Breezy Point and the areas of Rockaway and Belle Harbor are devastated.
Comptroller John Liu’s office has estimated that damages will cost the city $85.4 million.
Buses are up and running, and many schools have been re-opened, but some subway lines are still not functional and commutes remain hellish.
The New York City Economic Development Corporation has re-instated temporary ferry service across the East River from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park to alleviate congestion on public transportation.
But as the temperature drops, things are becoming more difficult.
“We have been knocking on doors in public housing developments for several days to see if people need help. We are trying to proactively reach out,” stated Mayor Bloomberg.
The New York Aquarium was completely underwater thanks to the storm surge, but all of the animals are safe and do not need to be evacuated.
“We have received an outpouring of support during this past week,” commented Jim Breheny, WCS executive vice president of zoos and aquariums. “We have a long way to go toward assessing the damages and doing what we need to do to reopen the aquarium.”
In Bensonhurst, engineers are assessing the damage to stores at Caesar’s Bay, specifically Kohl’s, Toys R’ Us and Babies R’ Us and the community is awaiting results.
But as with every extreme disaster, there is a silver lining. Dozens of community organizations – including the 13th Avenue Merchants, the Merchants of Third Avenue and the Norwegian Christian Home in southwest Brooklyn — have been collecting non-perishable foods, water and clothing, and donating them to victims.
“At night in Coney Island, you see young people with boxes of water on their shoulders knocking on door and asking if people need water or food. It’s amazing,” said Assemblymember Alec Brook-Krasny. “Seven nights ago, I never could have imagined we would have so much help. Not only are we going to rebuild, but I know it is going to be much, much better.”
Father Michael Gelfant, pastor of St. Finbar’s Church has been collecting food, clothing and toiletries along with his parishioners and has been transporting them to Rockaway, Breezy Point, Coney Island and Staten Island.
Reaching Out Community Services set up in Coney Island last week to dish out hot meals to residents, and has a food van visiting the most hard-hit areas with essentials, and local churches – among them, St. Ephrem’s and St. Bernadette’s — as well as elected officials, including State Senator Marty Golden and City Councilmember Vincent Gentile, have mounted drives to collect necessities and money for storm victims.
At the same time, representatives of the areas hardest hit – including Brook-Krasny, Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, Congressmember Michael Grimm, State Senator Diane Savino and City Councilmember Domenic Recchia – have been on the ground with staff members rendering whatever assistance they can.
Thousands of industry workers from SEIU 32BJ, sent three large trucks with $10,000 worth of blankets and other essentials from Clifton, New Jersey; Stamford, Connecticut and the South Jersey-Philadelphia area to the Rockaways.
“I know things will get better,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “We’re alive, and the best is yet to come. We’ll rebuild. We’ll pick it up. We’ll get the relief out and it will be better than ever because we’re Brooklynites.”
He cited “thousands of volunteers all around the borough who have little to do with the neighborhoods [that were affected] and people coming from outside New York just because they care. People are beautiful and overwhelmingly we are so blessed to have people who care.”