Posts tagged "Red Cross"

November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving is here and it’s amazing to me how hard people are working to make it a day of gratitude - and delicious turkey - for everyone in New York City. 

This week I posted a list of Thanksgiving-related volunteer opportunities,  but there’s still much to be done if you and your family want to spend some of the day helping other people. 

1. Occupy Sandy needs drivers to run meals to distribution sites. They also need hotel pans, tents, and other supplies . Check out their site for more information.

2. An Occupy Sandy guy named Fab says he wants live music for a Thanksgiving block party he’s organizing today in Sheepshead Bay at the corner of Emmons and Brown. Due to the lack of power, you gotta be an acoustic act that can get loud, but Sheepshead Bay needs some love. If you want to play or help in the neighborhood, contact Fab at 575-779-5899

3. It them a long time (LONG time) but the Red Cross is here and doing their part. In some places they’re absent and in some places - like Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island - they’ve been the primary force serving hot meals. They’re hosting a three-day people-feeding event (which they call a “bulk distribution event” for that feedlot feel…) starting today; and they need volunteers. You can sign up here

4. Today, Coney Recovers needs volunteers to help distribute Thanksgiving meals to thousands of residents. Please RSVP here to volunteer. (via Bill DiBlasio)

5. The Imperial Room (located Inwood, NY on the Queens/Long Island border) will be hosting a Thanksgiving Dinner for their neighbors in the Rockaways. Volunteers are needed to help set-up and serve dinner. Please RSVP here to volunteer. (via Bill DiBlasio)

6. Post a message of support to first responders who helped people survive the storm. The Public Advocate’s office put together a site where you can post messages of support and gratitude. It’s very touching so only read all the messages if you want to get all verklempt. (If you have a heart of stone then this won’t be a problem.) Wouldn’t it be a lovely Thanksgiving day activity to sit with the kids and write a nice note to the total badasses who saved this city? Some suggestions… the National Guard, the volunteers who came ‘round with cupcakes, your neighbors who worked at the Park Slope Armory, the Occupy Sandy guy who put you in a car to the Rockaways, THE SANITATION DEPARTMENT WORKERS WHO ARE GETTING NO CREDIT BUT WHO HAVE BEEN THE MOST AMAZING PEOPLE EVER, Johnny Bravo for offering Red Bull and succor to the masses. 

I like the superlatives and option #2.”

- Sidra

I talked to some city officials and found out it’s because the Red Cross isn’t allowed to set up and operate shelters for reasons that make pretty much no sense. 

For more, click here.

Bob Hardt, NY1’s director of political news coverage, lives in the Rockaways in a large white house next to the washed away beach and the destroyed boardwalk. He spends his days watching the National Guard clear debris and the circus of cell phone charging stations and food trucks that have taken over Beach 94th.

Bob has a generator and his house is in tact, so his porch has become a meeting place where workers, stray officials, neighbors, and people who need a flushing toilet swap stories and potato chips and whatever other supplies have been trucked into the peninsula. It’s sorta like the stoop in that TV show 227, but with middle aged guys and a smart, funny woman named Diane.

“People don’t realize that this place is so big, as large as a small city in New England,” says Hardt. “If you had all of Hartford, CT without power, people would be freaking out. If you had significant portions of a small city living in housing projects with no way of getting outside, people would be outraged. 

“A part of the problem is that people in New York don’t realize whats going on in their own backyard. The NYTimes is trying to tell people. NY1 is trying. Because, hey, do you really want to live in a city where someone freezes to death in their own home because we couldn’t take care of this situation?”

F*%k yes Bob Hardt. 

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I wondered about this yesterday as stories came in about lung killing mold and seniors with medical problems trapped in public housing projects. How long will it be before Sandy morphs from natural disaster into a public health crisis? 

Now a volunteer with Occupy Sandy name Eric Moed, an architect who lives in Clinton Hill, has been tweeting at public officials about the terrible conditions in the Coney Island housing projects. He tells the Huffington Post:

The situation in public housing projects in Coney Island, Brooklyn remains a “humanitarian crisis” in which the government and the Red Cross have been nearly completely absent…  Moed says all of the supermarkets on Coney Island have been flooded or looted. 

Bobby Hansen watched FEMA and the Red Cross leave his area of New Dorp. He explains to Sidra why they’re bonehead losers. He just might be right.


Two days out there in what is called the hardest hit along with Rockaways where we were last week. DIDNT SEE: FEMA, Red Cross or politicians. DID SEE: People with their own homes destroyed helping their neighbors, NYPD were incredible, NY Sanitization was everywhere and doing the most. Where the fuck are all these agencies? This is still happening. It’s like being on the set of Black Hawk Down. Babies crying, people hungry, things still falling. They need more help. (at Midland Beach)

From the lovely Lisa Cooper, who is using her gallery to help with the relief effort:

Dear Katie
I own a small New York Art Gallery, Elisa Contemporary Art, and as part of the Sandy Relief Efforts we are doing 3 things:
1) A Portion of every gallery sale will be donated to the American Red Cross between Now and the End of the year 
2) We have a limited edition print by Houston Artist, Mitch McGee, entitled What I Did for You and 100% of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross
3) Our next exhibit, A Toy Story and Other Delights, will include a Toy Drive and we’ll be partnering with a local Girl Scout Troop to provide holiday presents to kids affected by Sandy on Staten Island.
We believe in the power of art to help heal and transform lives (and normally donate a portion of all sales to charities helping underserved children heal through art.)

You can see more on our website at 

The Rockaways has seen a flood of volunteers and donations. It’s still devastated and in need of all the care it can get. It’s still important for you to bring yourselves to the area, prepared to work. But its’ getting a little chaotic down there. Annaliese adds one caveat:

"Now that there are so many people and things are coming together, it’s more important than ever for people to sign up and go through volunteer channels… I think Occupy Sandy, Congregation Beth Elohim, and neighborhood community groups that are well organized."

Annaliese, will do.

Definitely help at the hard hit areas, but try to do it via a group that is plugged into the bigger grassroots network. (No  need to, you know, go rogue.) We’ll be posting  sign up sheets and volunteer opportunities from those groups in our daily list of things you can do to help. In the meantime, check out:

Occupy Sandy

Congregation Beth Elohim

The Red Hook Initiative

Staten Island Recovers

Red Cross is bummed…

Maybe all those people should have spent the last week and a half with no light, food, blankets or aid because, you know, don’t want to step on the Red Cross’ toes.


On getting things done in a disaster:

A few days ago I saw a blog post showing a local Brooklyn startup company named BioLite which recently launched a product that’s basically a small portable camp stove with an ultra-efficient burn rate and an attached thermal-electric USB charging station. In the power outage caused by hurricane Sandy the guys at BioLite had come out of their offices in DUMBO and were offering hot coffee and phone charging using their handy little stoves.

I had been out to the Far Rockaways and seen the devastation out there, very reminiscent of Katrina, and I saw the hard work being done on the ground by Occupy Sandy, and I knew immediately I needed to connect these two amazing, yet disparate groups.

So I did. I tweeted at BioLite and asked if they were interested in donating some units for the effort in the Far Rockaways. And then I got in touch with Occupy Sandy to coordinate getting these delivered to where they’d make a difference.

We all set a time and a place to meet up, and today we loaded up a loaned van full of these stoves and took them out to the Rockaways. Two representatives from BioLite demo’d the safe use of the stoves to ten representatives of Occupy Sandy, who’ll in turn share the 20 or so stoves with whomever needs them, to heat up donated soup, and charge cell phones, or just to keep their hands warm.

FEMA didn’t coordinate this. The Red Cross didn’t organize this. This is just one cool company and a bunch of concerned citizens pooling their resources and skills to take care of neighbors in a disaster zone. 

And that’s how I’d recommend helping, if you’re looking to help. Don’t text Red Cross $10. Instead, check out the Occupy Sandy website. They’ve even hacked Amazon’s Wedding Registry service to facilitate shipments and donations. If you’re local to the disaster area, even though your lights might be back on, know that it might be weeks or longer for areas like the Rockaways, Staten Island, and Jersey Shore, and it’s going to be a brutal winter.

This is not to say that FEMA or the Red Cross don’t do good things. But in a time like this, what’s really needed is smart motivated individuals like you and me to just say, “What’s needed? I’ll make it happen.” 

Special thanks again to BioLite for the innovative stoves, and Occupy Sandy for the sweat and boots on the ground. Amazing people!

(via thekateblack)

The New Yorker basically nails why the grassroots effort has played an essential role in keeping residents safe and warm and fed in Sandy’s wake. More than a week has passed and there’s still no power, heat, or running water in most of the Rockaways, swathes of Staten Island, and in some of Manhattan’s projects. Speed has been the most important response. From the article on Michael Premo and Occupy Sandy:

Premo worked in New Orleans after Katrina, and he had a sense that right after a disaster, a city’s efforts were focussed on search and rescue, rather than on providing supplies. He thought this was a gap that Occupy could fill. He knew some people at Red Hook Initiative, a community center on Hicks Street, so he and his friends drove over there and asked what was needed—food, light, blankets. Food most of all. He and some other people got back in the car and drove to the Rockaways. He isn’t sure when they got there—probably Tuesday evening. Houses were still on fire. They walked around and asked people what they needed most.

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Send Supplies to Sandy Relief Effort

The Red Cross and FAMA are NOT bringing aid to areas that need it most. Many middle to lower income areas were destroyed by hurricane Sandy. Although mainstream media would lead one the believe areas are recovering, this is not so….

Hello Friends & Family,

I don’t normally send out emails like this, but please take some time to read this email…Many of you are local and the others are watching what has happened to the East Coast as a result of Hurricane Sandy from afar.  I was away for work during the storm and made it home safely on Wednesday afternoon.  My neighborhood in the Upper West Side was basically unaffected.  Riverside Park was closed as were the subways and a few stores, but besides that it was business as usual. By Friday it felt like nothing ever happened.

From the media everyone has heard about the lower half of Manhattan which went days without power or steam. The news outlets are covering the devastation to the Jersey Shore, the fires in Breezy Point, Queens, and many other stories. What wasn’t shown in detail on the national news are the many neighborhoods in NYC in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island that were destroyed. 

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Friday: Red Cross training for five hours. Red Cross phone call saying they’re all full up for volunteers for five seconds. 

Saturday: Bike to Red Hook where Sidra and I could wait for hours just to get a work assignment. Instead we help Audrey scrub down her house. We watch volunteers hand wash her record collection because there are that many people there. Receive steady stream of news about how the beach front areas need people, food and supplies. Bike home and wonder, how can we be where we can actually help? 

10pm: Read the saddest note I’ve read in so long from Joe Bachana, a man who coached my friend Jenny’s marathon team. He describes his trip to the Rockaways. Sidra, my friend Sue, and I are all speechless. Sidra tries to find room in a van headed for the Rockaways. They’re all full. 

11pm: Rent the last zipcar in Manhattan. Figure out where the Home Depots are and when they open. Sue figures out when the grocery stores will open. Make a list of supplies to buy. Make a list of things to bring. I do some budget calculations and figure out how much I can spend and still make rent. 

12:45am: We send out emails to friends saying, this is why we’re going. Can anyone donate food or blankets for us to take. On a whim I add my paypal account saying that we’ll take even small donations to cover supplies like water, flashlights, and blankets. I include an excerpt from Joe’s note because I’m still thinking about it. 

1:12am: We receive a $100 donation from a dear friend who I just know is so busy and has a family and real responsibilities that keep him up at night. I cry because I’m exhausted and because, also, it’s really effing amazing.

1:17am: Annaliese writes to say that she’s working with a crew that is making sandwiches in Brooklyn and transporting them to the Rockaways. Unsurprising. I’ve known her since we were 9 years old and getting shit done has been her m.o. since the fourth grade. She directs me to Occupy Sandy’s site and we decide to start pooling our efforts together. She suspects my OCD organizational skills could come in handy. She is right!

1:35am: Sidra’s friend Jeff says he wants to come with us and help. Awesome.

1:48am: My friend Steve writes that he has sleeping bags, warm clothes, and a car with a half tank of gas. He’s joining us. We can bring more people. I would cry but it’s almost 2 in the morning and I’m wiped. I choose emotionally unhinged laughter instead. 

2am: Sidra’s business partner Peter says he’s in. Great. We hope that this means he’ll be understanding if she skips work later in the week to haul down more supplies…

Between 2am and 9am: Donations begin to roll in. I’m shocked and so grateful to all the people I know. We buy toe warmers, socks, blankets, flashlights (so many flashlights), batteries, water, shovels, gas masks, contractor bags, and work gloves. Sue gets back from the grocery store and starts making a box full of sandwiches and putting together non perishable food like powdered milk for babies. Babies are just like this driving force in times of crisis. Must. Help. Babies.

9am: Sidra and I pick up the car, gather Peter, Sue, Steve, and Jeff. Sidra’s friend Jill, who is a super amazing woman, joins us, too. 

10am: Pack the car, call Operation Sandy. We’re given several places to stop that probably need our help. We exchange numbers and info, make a group plan about when we’ll leave and how we’ll stay in touch throughout the day. Hit the road. 

That’s it. In 12 hours we mobilized a crew of 7 people with two cars full of supplies who wanted to do a day’s worth of work in the Rockaways. We found a mini-grassroots group of friends and family who care about whether strangers are safe. We put their money and faith to use and we decided to keep going. Our group is growing and we’ve hooked up with other small groups who want to fill the gap between when people lost everything and when the officials like Red Cross and FEMA can come in and help.

Thank you for your support!!

Katie, Sidra, Sue, Annaliese, Jeff, Steve, Peter, and Jill!!!!