The majority of those people you see in the photo above, are waiting on line to get food, water and necessities at The Red Hook Initiative. The rest are people who came out to bring necessities and volunteer their assistance to help out those in need. The photo only tells a fraction of the story since you can’t see how many people were truly in that massive line or how poverty stricken much of this area is.
On Saturday, I joined up with two friends to pedal supplies out to people in Red Hook, one of the hard hit areas of NYC. We portaged whatever we had that we thought could help out with relief efforts- water, warm clothes, batteries, candles, etc. After dropping off supplies, the volunteer coordinator directed us to a family who needed help cleaning debris out of their basement that had been flooded. We had to wear work gloves, as raw sewage had seeped into their home. The mother kept apologizing to us saying she was so sorry that we had to do this for them. I told her, stop apologizing, we’re sorry this happened to you. Grateful to be able to help you.
The devastation in Red Hook was bad. Really bad. ( I know that situation is even worse in Coney Island, the Rockaways and Staten Island.) The family we were able to help out with clearing out their basement, appeared to be working to middle class longtime Brooklynites. The people in the line pictured at top, are in a rough economic situation to begin with, even before this once in a lifetime (hopefully) natural disaster. A large portion of Red Hook is economically disadvantaged, and still without power. Many of these people are facing even more economic uncertainty due to immediate job losses.
Those bikes chained to the fence don’t belong to the people who live in those projects, those are bikes that belong to volunteers who came out to help. And that’s just a fraction of the bikes I saw coming, going or chained up.
On Sunday, knowing the devastation facing so many areas of NYC I was torn about where to go and offer my help. Red Hook? Coney Island? The Rockaways? Staten Island? Lower Manhattan?
I purchased some supplies to donate to Bicycle Habitat’s Rockaway Sandy Relief bike train scheduled to ride tomorrow, Tuesday Novemeber 6 (at this point, they have more supplies than riders. Please RSVP to the FB page linked above or email aaron at otaku-house dot com if you can ride. I can’t join, but if you can you should) and portaged them down to their Soho location. Talking with a few of the Bicycle Habitat employees, I realized that even though the Rockaways was most in need of volunteers, it wasn’t realistic for me to get out there. So I pedaled over to GOLES volunteer coordination site at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.
Though power has been restored to most of Manhattan, in the lower tip the impact of Sandy is still bad there too. There are many buildings without heat, some without power. And yes, there was destruction due to flooding in lower Manhattan too. It’s just not as visible.
The people who we delivered meals, water and an attempt at blankets (there were many requests, but the E 6th St Community center had none donated, so we brought coats, sweaters, scarves, sheets instead) live in public housing projects. Everyone we reached out to were happy to see us.
This is a really personal post. It’s not meant to be about me, it’s meant to show you what each and everyone of you are capable of doing. I know of at least two bike trains that brought supplies and people power to Red Hook and the Rockaways yesterday. I met a neighbor in my building early Sunday morning who was heading out to Staten Island on his racing bicycle to help out with recovery. One woman I met while volunteering for GOLES had taken the subway all the way from Inwood to the East Village to volunteer her time and effort. I also know that many of the runners who came to compete in the NYC Marathon donated their time and efforts this weekend to help in the relief efforts. Aside from the months, days and hours they spent training, many of them flew here from places outside NYC to run. I applaud each and every one of them who turned this amazing athletic competition into a race to get help to those who needed it most.
Many of those runners are returning home today and most New Yorkers have to go back to work as well. But this cleanup/recovery isn’t over tomorrow, it’s going to go on for weeks and in some places months. If you have the time, give of yourself to help out. If you don’t have the time, talk to others who do. Inspire them to give of themselves to others. Yes, there are a lot of THINGS still needed, but equally as important, people are needed to spread the love.
If you have the time to volunteer, or are looking to donate here are two links that I’ve found really helpful in the last two days for up to date donation and volunteer needs, both brought to you by the Occupy Wall Street movement. I’m not personally involved, but I support their effort. They’ve been out there the last couple of days doing a lot of good for a lot of people.
And if bike racing is your thing and you want to help out, Erik Van Loon of the Netherlands is organizing The Battle of the Giants scheduled to take place on November 16th at 630pm. Erik was here to run the Marathon and organized the first iteration of this ride in 2010. This year’s ride is being used to raise money to help out the victims of Sandy. RSVP & sponsor information can be found on their website.
Thank you, for whatever you can do, no matter how big or small.