Here we are in December a month since Hurricane Sandy and there is still so much to do to repair the profound damage caused by its surging tides, fires, and winds.
Food prep kitchens, collection sites, and benefits are now a fact of daily life for Brooklynites. All in the name of those affected by Sandy.
Sandy truly was a life changing event for our city: for those who experienced losses first hand and for those who didn’t. Here in Park Slope the very fact that there was little damage created an altruistic (maybe even guilt induced) reaction of amazing proportions.
But guilt is good if it brings results.
The Old Stone House and Park Slope Parents raised $40,000 and collected supplies and clothing in record time. Congregation Beth Elohim raised $100,000 and continues to run a food kitchen. Old First Church and Two Boots have partnered to form the Hurricane Relief Kitchen. Occupy Sandy runs a distribution center now at The Church of St. Luke an St. Matthew in Clinton Hill to distribute goods like bottled water, non-perishable food, contractor garbage bags, cleaning supplies, worksuits, rubber work gloves, respirator masks, diapers, and toilet paper to those in need.
If and when the Sandy recovery urgency passes, these groups and others must reflect on what they’ve learned and what they’ve seen. In the process of reaching out to the Rockaways, Coney Island, Red Hook and Gowanus, volunteers have seen first hand the economic obstacles that face many in this borough. Help is needed even in the best of times with jobs, housing, education, healthcare and more. Coney Island, which was devastated by the storm, has the lowest median income in all of New York City. There are people there who survive on public assistance of $800 per month.
So what happens when this crisis passes? Will these community groups disappear? Will the energy dissipate? I hope that this enlightened sense of generosity continues into 2013 and beyond. Sandy or no Sandy, there are many who struggle. We must continue to develop community kitchens, supply chains, volunteer lists and other altruistic innovations developed during Sandy so that as we move forward, we’re ready to do what needs to be done about new and old difficulties.