Posts tagged "ground game"

I’d have been suspicious of me.

Here I  was, a stranger with no identifying jacket, or armband, or hat, or badge, walking around, alone, knocking on doors asking questions with an iPhone in-hand and logging answers and addresses into my shiny device. 

"Good morning, I’m a volunteer with the United Way of New York conducting a survey of residents’ evolving needs after the storm. The information is to be used by State, Federal and Non-profit agencies. Can I take ten minutes of your time and ask you a few questions?"

That’s how I explained my presence on their doorstep. I was assigned a two-block area, Beach 91st and Beach 92nd streets, between Beach Channel Drive and Rockaway Beach Blvd, near the Thai Rock restaurant. 

But to my surprise, the vast majority of the residents there opened their doors and answered the intrusive questions. They were friendly, kind, gracious people, eager to respond. Many here are firemen. They’re strong, resilient folks. 

 ”Do you have food?” 


"Do you have water?" 


"Do you have electricity?"


The blocks are mostly composed of detached single- and multi-family homes. Beach 92nd street was particularly striking because of how clean and ordered it was. No debris was visible on it. I was almost tempted to say that things were fine here. 

The survey questions made me feel silly. They seemed outdated, out of tune. But upon a closer inspection, things were not as fine as they seemed - not by a long-shot. While residents here had food, water and electricity, some were still without heat.

A retired fireman told me he’d recently switched to natural gas after the storm. “I have heat but my brother-in-law still doesn’t. I called a contractor. He’s still waiting on Rapid Response,” he said.  

After the survey we sat a bit, chatting about how his family weathered the tempest. His bushy mustache framed a determined smile. It was a smile, I thought, chiseled into his face from years of work as a rescuer. I imagined it would have been especially reassuring to see it if I’d been trapped in a burning building. 

As the ocean flooded his basement, he recounted, his oil tank had leaked all over. That’s when I finally pinpointed the smell that permeated his home. 

In this section of Far Rockaway, things were coming along, but lots of people still didn’t have heat. Those that did, had it because of their own effort and expense. 

Those relying on the city were still waiting for heat.

One family - a mom, dad and two-year-old - like many of their neighbors, were using space-heaters for warmth as they waited for “rapid response.” The father was a 41-year-old filmmaker who made a documentary about Far Rockaway’s surfer culture. The family had only recently bought their home. 

They weren’t worried about the heat, it was on the way. They were OK, they said. Once again, a block away, amid the grim recovery, there were smiles. But the optimism was tempered by the long legal, financial and emotional journey they now faced.

As I left the home I noticed two guys in a brand-new Mercedes going door-to-door giving away space-heaters. 

Recovery on Far Rockaway has been uneven. 

Many have it a lot worse than the area I visited on Saturday. One of the volunteers in charge of organizing the collected survey data told me that many of the poorest folks still don’t have access to food, or water, or electricity. “It’s disgusting.”  

But regardless of socio-economic status, all residents of Far Rockaway face a daunting bureaucratic nightmare. 

They are juggling FEMA applications, insurance claims, and disaster unemployment assistance, just to name a few issues. Landlord/tenant problems are becoming more pervasive as slumlords drag their feet to make repairs to damaged homes, many of which still lack electricity, heat, and hot water. For the poorest, food is still not easily accessible. Even in the middle-class area I was in, the supermarket had only been open for a day or so. Folks that don’t have cars or money to shop or friends to give them rides are still dependent on the food pantries and hot food tables offered by volunteers. 

A new phase of volunteering is gaining momentum: legal guidance.

There is free legal help available for residents to navigate the bureaucracy, but I worry that they don’t know about it. So I want to try and get the word out and I’m starting here, by listing a few resources I’ve found:

1) The definitive disaster legal assistance manual from Legal Services NYC (PDF):

2) A calendar of upcoming law clinics, New York Free Disaster Assistance Legal Clinics:

3) For law help including general information about disaster relief - Disaster relief for small businesses and not-for-profit organizations - Disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) and other work problems related to Hurricane Sandy - FEMA disaster assistance - Food stamp replacement - Homeowners: insurance and foreclosures - Immigrants affected by Hurricane Sandy - Tenants affected by Hurricane Sandy:

4) Follow the NY Bar’s blog - City Bar Justice Center news:

5) For lawyers and non-lawyer volunteer opportunities - Hurricane Sandy Legal Relief Efforts:


Something symbolic to me is this picture. It is of my baby book, my sisters baby book, and the photo album from my moms baby shower. These were in the basement. I know for a fact that my mom would NEVER put these things in the basement. These are memories that we can never relive. I have never seen my baby book before that day, and now it’s ruined. It makes me sad, because these meant to much to my mom and it took her so long to put the information in them. She only got up to about when I was 3 or 4 years old, after that, the books went missing. My aunt put them in the basement, along with other valuable memories. Now, they are all destroyed, never to be seen again. Sandy took away precious memories, things that we can never get back. 

It’s crass to see people selling things to profit off of other peoples misery. Some people have lost everything and they don’t want to see t-shirts that remind them of what happened. Who wants to be reminded of the day when you lost your home and members of your family? I know I wouldn’t. Whenever there is a tragedy, there are always the few people who will try to make a buck off of the suffering of others. I think that is just wrong and rude.  

-Ashley Zeyer

This is where we sunbathed… 


Jacob Riis National Park. 

10 foot containers in the foreground. A 30 foot high, half mile long mountain of Rockaway homes lie behind. 

EaterNY took a tour of Brighton Beach to see what was up post-Sandy. Definitely click on the story for photos and details. The short version: By the water, not so good. A few blocks inland, much better. 

The big problem, it seems, is lack of customers. If you have an uncontrollable, or even just strong-ish, desire for some vareniki, get on the Q train and head to Café Glechik. 


yana community center. rockaway beach blvd. on Flickr.

YANA stands for You Are Not Alone, and they have both a community center and a medical clinic right now on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 113 Street. The Community Center is providing hot food to those in need and the clinic has a team of doctors and nurses.

(via ashmaraum)


Where the water came.

The Rockaway peninsula is 11.5 miles long and no wider than 3/4 of a mile. On one side is the North Atlantic, on the other, Jamaica Bay. Between the two bodies of water, they buried the peninsula during Hurricane Sandy. The land disappeared. In some cases the water filled houses to their ceilings more than 12 feet high. 


Three weeks after the hurricane, there is finally some power, cell phone service, food distribution and fuel for cars. The most urgent needs for relief in these affected areas are finally being met. However, with the most dire situations being concentrated on, the underlying secondary issues are starting to become apparent. 

Roberto is a young resident in one of the poorest areas of Rockaway. He has been helping at local food & clothing distribution station daily. In the chaos of other residents trying to push their way in line to get food and supplies, he asked a man and his girlfriend to wait their turn. After a heated exchange, the man hit Roberto in the face with his flashlight. Looting, violence and greed are a serious problems that have arisen post disaster. Roberto now has hospital bills that he cannot pay for. 

It is so absurd that we as a society are still learning how to treat the most vulnerable in our communities.
Bebe on the hurricane recovery effort


November 23, 2012 - Derek Prince sorts through his remaining belongings in his flooded apartment in Coney Island. 


Here is a short video from Anthony in Midland Beach, Staten Island. I met him on the street and he helped us find homes/people that really needed the equipment. After a while I asked to see his home only to find it was one of the worst hit. He text me this morning and said he wanted to give thanks to donors whom he had never met but have kept him warm and dry. And to volunteers who handed him things when he needed them most.

We can and will do more - but for now, Happy Thanksgiving.


Only 300 feet from the shore line, Max did not evacuate either. Thankfully he has a second story in his house on B96th st where he could escape from the rising water. 

He stands here at his front fence, with only a portion of his home that he has cleaned out. He has lost his entire basement and first floor. Mould is setting in and poses an increasing health danger on the residents of Rockaway, Coney Island, Red Hook, Staten Island and New Jersey. 

Max tells me that his neighbours on either side of his house refuse to come back. They’ve given up on Rockaway.  


“The mayor should be embarassed,” said Goldenberg bundled up in three layers of clothes, sitting in her pitch black home. “In two weeks, Russia could restore a city. In New York City, they can’t even repair a house.”

Brighton Beach resident Mya Zabilotskaya, 78, choked back tears when asked why…


November 15, 2012 - “Crazy J” Jose Gonzalez, 36, a member of the Guardian Angels, a volunteer organization of unarmed crime patrollers, is seen inside a darkened public housing project building in Coney Island.

People don’t understand what it’s like in these projects. Forward to minute 2 for a look at why it’s so important to knock on every door, and why it’s so hard to get to every person. There are projects and high rises like this all over in places where the power is still out. This is truly the invisible underclass.

Catherine O’Leary, a registered nurse from Mamaroneck, and Matt Richter, a photographer from NYC, spent Sunday in Coney Island, which has been relatively forgotten when compared with the Rockaways and Staten Island (which, despite the press and the widespread volunteer efforts and the celebrities, are still utter disaster area shit shows).

If you’ve gone into the projects in the Rockaways or Coney Island, then you get what they heard and smelled and saw. Richter’s stunning photos (from Coney and other places) are here. O’Leary’s entire account is here (and it’s a very good read). Below is an excerpt.

Let me explain, this was not your typical day of providing home health aid. The project buildings are still without electricity! The hallways are completely dark and there is stagnant sea water still in the buildings. It is COLD! The elevators don’t work and you must climb cold, dark stairwells with only a small flashlight. The smell of gas is overpowering as remaining residents use stove top flames to try to get warm. The wonderful people I met had simple requests for hot food and more water. They asked over and over “when would help be coming, why had they been forgotten”. I monitored blood pressures and assessed blood sugars – but felt helpless when I couldn’t offer refills of medications or insulin. Most of residents were elderly or disabled – some immobile or wheelchair bound. There were infant babies wrapped in blankets with coughs and no way to get warm. I spent most of the day lugging buckets and cases of water up numerous dark stairwells. I gave hugs and listened to stories from lonely, disenfranchised individuals who just want to be heard.