10 Lessons Greenpoint (and NYC) Can Learn From #Sandy
Good morning, Greenpoint! Over a year ago when I wrote my first post, I did not imagine how important this website would be in critical times – such as Hurricane Sandy proved to be for New York City.
As a local website, we received an unprecedented amount of online traffic from Greenpointers seeking information about conditions here. We are happy to have been there and grateful that much of the information reported and all the photographs came from you, the readers. Talk about hyper-local, on the ground, real time reporting!
While we wait for things to return to normal, it’s important to think about the lessons that such a huge natural disaster can teach us about life in Greenpoint and New York City.
10 Lessons Greenpoint (and NYC) Can Learn From #Sandy
1. Precautionary Actions Are Critical During Times Of Crisis (And Also Before)
How many of us were saying, “Really? They shut down the subways?”
Mayor Bloomberg would have been ridiculed if Hurricane Sandy had not turned into “a storm of historic intensity.” And if he had not taken such important precautionary actions when he did, like shut down the subways early on, there would have been more emergencies, deaths and damage.
Next time the city government plays it on the safe side, remember we would have been sorry if they had not done so this time around.
That being said, precautionary actions should have been taken before this crisis well, and perhaps we should look back to “the city’s former colonial overlords,” the Dutch, for ways to control flooding in the future.
2. Evacuate Means GTFO (Get The F$&K Out!) Greenpoint
Evacuation orders are not a minor inconvenience and should be taken seriously. No one wants to leave belongings, impose on family members or move into a shelters, but staying not only risks your own life, but the lives of rescuers when they have to come and save your sorry ass.
In Greenpoint Zone A, there was significant flooding from the East River and the Newtown Creek. The water was reported to have contained raw sewage released from the sewage treatment plant. In places that sustained unprecedented devastation due to flooding and fires, such as Breezy Point, we can see how important it is to take evacuations order seriously.
Two people were killed in Brooklyn during Hurricane Sandy. They were crushed by a tree. It is a terrible tragedy but one we can all learn from.
When winds are over 90mph, there is no reason to leave the safety of your home and unnecessarily risk your own life and the lives of rescuers.
It may seem fun to check out the East River or take photos of downed trees or flooding, but none of those photos are worth the risk of being crushed by a tree or electrocuted by live power lines.
And, I can’t stress this enough: the most dangerous place to go during and right after any storm is to your local Park!
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, I witnessed parents wheeling baby strollers through McGolrick and McCarren Parks. That is just stupid!
Entire trees can not only fall on top of you, but branches can kill or severely injure you.
4. Local Businesses Should Think Of Public Safety First
What a great article I could have written about what bars and restaurants were open during the hurricane and what great parties were going on, but I chose to encourage readers to stay inside and not patronize local businesses. I was torn because I did not want to hurt business in Greenpoint but in the end, public safety comes first.
I was so relieved when The Skint posted “Today Everything Is Closed.”
For business owners, it is irresponsible during times of great emergency to expect employees and encourage customers to risk their safety in order to patronize your business. While at first you may feel like you are doing a service to your customers, but you are actually unnecessarily putting them in harm’s way.
We can all go without drinking for one night. (Shake. Shake.)
5. Social Media Is A Great Tool During A Crisis (But Also A Great Liar)
While I found it extremely useful that the @NYCMayorsOffice was live tweeting updates from the Mayor’s regular press briefings, information which I could then pass on to Greenpointers, there was also a lot of noise and a lot of lies.
Just like it is important for drivers to avoid using roadways during times of crisis so emergency crews can move around more quickly, internet users should also think twice about keeping the social media airways clear, but more importantly not put out false information that alarms and frightens people just to get attention.
Aside from the ridiculous Statue of Liberty Armageddon photo going viral, there were valid concerns about the water supply and Greenpointers received a photo of brown water in a Greenpoint bathtub. Had I posted or retweeted the image, it would have caused unnecessary fear just for some attention.
Brown Water? “Don’t Drink it; Call 311.” And don’t freak everybody out!
6. Environmental Hazards In Greenpoint, Local Infrastructure and Emergency Planning
Now is a better time than any to take a good luck at the neighborhood we live in and think about the environmental issues here that pose a threat to public health.
The toxic state of our waterways, the sewage treatment facility that overflows into them, the under ground oil spill, the hazardous plumes that contain carcinogenic vapors, the garbage processing facilities – these are all facts of life in Greenpoint that potentially pose a significant threat to public health, especially during near catastrophic weather events that challenge local infrastructure.
What kind of affects do such weather events have on public health in Greenpoint? How should Greenpointers safeguard themselves? Is there a specific plan in place to deal with emergency situations that could negatively impact residents with respect to environmental hazards? These are important questions for our local government.
On a global level let us take seriously the state of the planet, how global warming results in such extreme weather, the most extreme I have seen in my entire life living in New York City. At the same time, think about each and every action you take and how that affects the world.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost, Eat Locally, Walk, Bike (Drive Less) and Stop Buying So Much Shit!
7. It Takes A Neighborhood To Run A Blog
Without contributions from locals this blog would not have been such a crucial information source for people living in Greenpoint, especially those who were evacuated from their homes and wanted to see photographs of their blocks and find out hyper local information.
Information from the Mayor was very broad, which made it so important that on a local level we could communicate and share information that immediately affected the neighborhood.
Thanks to everyone who contributed!
8. “We Can Judge The Heart of A [City] By [Its] Treatment Of Animals (& Homeless)” – Gandhi, sort of
I found it surprising, relieving and inspiring that hurricane shelters accepted evacuees with their pets. Greenpointers are animal lovers and would find it hard to leave pets behind.
Let’s hope the next Mayor takes into account this great city’s love of animals and realizes that sheltering pets can encourage people to evacuate.
Let’s also really look at the local homeless population we have living in Greenpoint. Many people live in our local parks, the worst place to be during a storm. Outreach to the homeless is very important. The homeless are not problems, they are people, our neighbors who we need to think about everyday, not just during times of crisis.
9. Thank The Mayor And City Employees
You may not like the Mayor, but he did a good job. Think about how f’ing crazy it must be to run this town, especially during times of extreme crisis. He kept calm and took care of business with a team of tireless city employees who worked around the clock and risked their own lives to take care of all of us. And they still have a lot of work to do.
Lesson learned here is that it’s important to have one information source and a strong chain of command. There is a reason why the Mayor is an elected official who is in charge of keeping us safe. Ultimately what he says during these times goes. So listen up and stay out of the way to let his team do their job safely. With Sandy this meant staying inside and keeping roadways clear. The less people out, the safer everyone is.
10. Greenpoint (and NYC) Is the Greatest Place In the World!
‘Nuff said. Stay awesome Greenpoint!