Since Hurricane Sandy ripped through New York, North Brooklyn residents and community leaders have come together to help those affected by the superstorm. Victims in Far Rockaway, Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn have received clothing, food and cleaning supplies and there is no sign of that goodwill diminishing.
Councilman Stephen Levin has been providing Sandy relief efforts to his Brooklyn constituents and to those still suffering in the Rockaways and Staten Island. He partnered with Rev. John Merz of the Church of the Ascension on Kent Avenue to store the many donations that overwhelmed his office space in Atlantic Avenue and to establish a drop off/distribution center at the site. With the assistance of Levin’s Legislative Director, Rami Metal, the relief effort at the Church has worked with over 500 volunteers from Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
“Right now this whole city is still in crisis mode and it is wonderful to see so many people help out their neighbors,” said Levin. Even with New York’s gas shortage, volunteers have been driving back-and-forth with their own vehicles to different relief centers to provide fresh food, water and clothing to those areas hit hardest. “We have volunteers making sandwiches, organizing the clothes and donating cleaning supplies to help out so many people in need,” said Metal. Chris Henderson, Program Manager at St. Nicks Alliance was one of the volunteers taking food and cleaning supplies to devastated areas in New York. “Some of these communities needed help before the storm and now it’s worse for them,” said Henderson.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol did not stop his relief effort with his financial contribution. He also joined several relief efforts and advised business owners how to recover from the devastation. He is working with other community leaders and the East Williamsburg Village Industrial Development Corporation (EWVIDCO) to assist business owners with FEMA Relief and Emergency Loans at a workshop to be held on Friday, November 9th.
“It was not just homeowners that were hit hard by this horrible storm. It was also the small businesses in our communities and we have to do something to help,” he said.
In addition, he has partnered with the World Care Center to coach and prepare volunteers for the clean-up effort in disastrous areas. The activity, “Operation Muck Out”, will be at the Brooklyn Brewery, Thursday, November 8th and Tuesday, November 13th, 7-8pm. And, on Sunday, November 11th, Lentol and District Dog will merge a relief event that encourages donations of non-perishable foods and blankets with a dog masquerade party that was cancelled because of Sandy. “This is what community is about. People and organizations coming together to help each other out,” he said.
Before President Obama said, “I’ve seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm,” Greenpoint and Williamsburg leaders had already rolled up their sleeves to help the people of Brooklyn, Staten Island and the Rockaways.
Councilmember Diana Reyna’s constituents were mostly unaffected by the hurricane, but she and her team have been working close with FEMA and the Red Cross to assist families and help clean houses in Staten Island. Reyna’s Media Manager, Malcolm Sanborn-Hum, said “she was out in Staten Island with her sleeves rolled up cleaning somebody’s flooded basement with Red Cross staffers.”
On Friday, November 2nd, Steve Cohn’s annual pre-election power-networking breakfast at Junior’s was dedicated to the Brooklyn Recovery Fund, which was formed by the Brooklyn Community Foundation (BCF) to address the needs of coastal Brooklyn. Starting the day after Sandy hit New York, the only community foundation dedicated exclusively to Brooklyn began collecting information about which communities had been affected and how much damage had been done. They reached out to the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and other leaders of the Brooklyn community. Three days later, at Cohn’s breakfast, they announced the fund to the public.
Less than a week later, the Brooklyn Recovery Fund has raised nearly $1 million, courtesy of large donations from businesses like the Barclay’s Center, the Brooklyn Nets and Forest City Ratner. Each organization pledged $100,000 as did the BCF, for a total of $400,000. Much of the remaining money was facilitated by people like Cohn, who, according to BCF Director of Communications, Liane Stegmaier, helped the Foundation connect to guests at the breakfast, and Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Carlo Scissura, who has helped to introduce donors to the BCF. Both Cohn and the Chamber also made contributions to the fund, as did Junior’s, which gave $5 for each pumpkin cheesecake sold.
“Brooklynites are very generous and have also come through for each other in times of need,” said Scissura, a native of South Brooklyn, one of the areas hardest hit by Sandy. “This is one of those times. Brooklyn will get back on its feet, and this is one way of helping us achieve that.” The Chamber leader also commended the BCF team led by President Marilyn Gelber and Chairman Alan Fishman “for once again being at the forefront of all that concerns Brooklyn.”
100 percent of the money raised for the Brooklyn Recovery Fund will be donated to the affected communities. Individuals who want to contribute can type 25383, and text message “Brooklyn,” to make a $10 donation.
Civic leaders have successfully created hurricane relief efforts with volunteers donating their time, energy and items to help many individuals in need. Pastor Ann Kansifield of the Greenpoint Reformed Church has partnered with organizations, business owners and political leaders to provide help to those affected by Sandy. The Reformed Church usually receives a few pallets of non-perishables for their food pantry, but, given the great needs many displaced families have, the church received 15. Immediately Pastor Kansfield and her staff requested volunteers to come out and help through their facebook page. Emily Kornblut, a Williamsburg resident, answered the call. “I needed to do something. I couldn’t just stay home and watch or hear that people were suffering,” said Kornblut. Some volunteers were from out-of-state. When Oeishik Chowdhury, who was visiting from Chicago heard that there was an opportunity to volunteer, she rushed over. Others, like Erich Chen and his friend Kevin were visiting from Los Angeles. “I couldn’t see a better way to spend a vacation,” said Kevin.
The City Harvest trucks that delivered the food to the Church had no lift gates to bring down the pallets as a result of storm damage. Fortunately, Levin was able to send them a forklift to unload the pallets. Broadway Stages, which provided the forklift, also sent one of their drivers to maneuver the vehicle. “I am really grateful for Tony Argento and the folks of Broadway Stages for sending a driver in the middle of this snowstorm,” said Kansfield, who was delighted by the community’s unity. “They are above and beyond amazing.”
At Our Lady of Snow Society in Williamsburg, Vice President Teresa Curcio and friend Giovanna Napolitano found their own way to help people affected by Sandy. “A lot of our friends and church members live in the Rockaways and Breezy Point and their homes were destroyed,” said Napolitano. The ladies auxiliary has been working on collecting winter clothing, canned goods, toiletries and even a baby stroller. “I’m overwhelmed with joy that so many people care and have donated,” said Teresa Curcio. Her daughter, Michaela, has friends and classmates from Bishop Kearny High School that live in Breezy Point and Far Rockaway and have lost almost everything. “It’s sad because all of their things that they’ve worked for is now gone,” she said. All collected items will go to different locations and distraught families in Far Rockaway, said President of the men’s auxiliary, Vinny Raymond.
Since Sandy, Waterside Children Studio School, P.S. 317 in Rockaway Park has been displaced indefinitely to August Martin High School. Parents and students of the Rockaway Park school have witnessed their homes and community damaged by one of New York’s worst hurricanes in history.
P.S. 84, along with P.S. 110 and P.S. 34, adopted the affected school. The Brooklyn schools are collecting coats (all sizes), flash lights, canned goods and other essentials that would help the needs of the students at P.S. 317. “We are working directly with their principle, Dana Gerendasi, and she tells us what she needs and the amazing parents of these schools are working to supply it,” said P.S. 84 Principal Sereida Rodriguez-Guerra. On the first day of their donation drive two mothers brought their children from the Grace Church School in Union Square with a generous donation of coats, blankets and toiletries. Ronik Berkman and friend BJ Blum spent $900 to be sent out to P.S. 317. “The kids picked the things that they thought kids and families would need,” said Berkman, mother of second grade twins, Nina and Nathaniel. “We also got school supplies like notebooks and pencils,” said fifth grader, Isabel and older sister of Alexandria Blum. P.S. 84 is also receiving a helping hand from the Greenpoint YMCA. Troy Calhoun of the Greenpoint Y said they have over one thousand members who are “excited to help out P.S. 317” and the Rockaway Park community.
Debbie Koenig, and many of the parents volunteered and donated baked goods for a school bake sale to help send money, canned foods and cleaning supplies to relief centers in negatively affected areas in New York. One of the fathers of a P.S. kindergartener brought homemade crownies (caramel brownies) for the bake sale. But he doesn’t get the credit for bringing the delicious crownies because it was his wife was who baked them.
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