The Greenpoint Reformed Church‘s volunteers prepared more than 1,000 bag lunches over the weekend, on top of thousands of meals prepared by the Church’s volunteers throughout the week as a relief effort for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
The volunteers of the weekly Wednesday hot meal at the Church’s Soup Kitchen led the organizing of up to 60 simultaneous volunteers preparing lunches and hot meals. Bag lunches included peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, juice, chips, cookie or granola bar, and fruit. The lunches were provided to Greenpoint’s Church of the Ascension on Java Street, where Councilmember Steve Levin has been coordinating drop-off donations and deliveries to Red Hook, Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach.
Many of Brooklyn’s neighborhoods are reeling in the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy. The city itself, without having done door-to-door inquiries, admits 40,000 – 50,000 people will need shelter. (In addition to the already 30,000 people homeless in the city on any given night.) Reuters quoted Mayor Mike Bloomberg as stating that, “We don’t have a lot of empty housing in this city. It’s a problem to find housing.” This despite homeless advocacy group Picture the Homeless’ findings that there are enough vacant properties in the city to easily house over 200,000 people, and then some.
I, along with thousands of other North Brooklyn residents, treked into Queens today to grab the 7 train into Manhattan. Why? Because the city has decided, by opening the schools and demanding that city workers return to work, that all workers can return to work – putting pressure on all of us to commute any way we can, or risk losing our situation. If the city actually cared about the communities that have been devastated, they would encourage us all to volunteer and help out, instead of working our usual dayjobs as though nothing happened.
Elsewhere in the city, ad-hoc volunteerism leads the response, not the city government. One volunteer from West Harlem, Ely, reported of volunteering in Staten Island: “We got there and per the Occupy Sandy site, ended up in New Dorp High School to drop off all goods. Later we walked to New Dorp Beach where the damaged houses were. We helped (loading our carts with garbage) move garbage bags from small alleys to a larger street where garbage trucks were picking up garbage. They still need a lot of cleaning.”
As the Red Cross continues to draw criticism for its lax response to the crisis in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and the city continues its tepid response, it is only community groups, churches, Occupy Wall Street and thousands of individual volunteers that are responding to the needs of victims of Hurricane Sandy. While mainstream news continues to cover the Mayor’s carefully staged storm updates and delight in power returning to lower Manhattan, activists and volunteers are beginning to write and post about their experiences online, revealing a deeply disorganized city unable or unwilling to respond to a population in dire need.
Governor Cuomo tweeted Sunday night, “#sandy #safety: Shivering, confusion, memory loss & drowsiness may be symptoms of Hypothermia, #staysafe” with a link to a CDC info page on Hypothermia. As though anyone suffering these things would be on Twitter, checking tips from the Governor. The disconnect is astounding.
If people left homeless by Sandy held up an Occupy sign, would they get Bloomberg’s attention?
As tens-of-thousands of New Yorkers remain without shelter, food, warmth, water, or any sign that help is on the way, this becomes Bloomberg’s well-earned legacy: those he couldn’t stop and frisk, he let eat cake in the wake of Sandy.