I (Heart) NY concept sketch, Milton Glaser, 1976
I was grounded under clear Midwestern skies while Sandy was grinding her way like a flinty toothed saw through entire communities, slicing power lines, felling boardwalk traditions generations deep, and sloshing down streets and into living rooms. Having not witnessed the fury it was surreal to return to a subdued and stunned New York City.
Other than my sister’s car pinned beneath an uprooted Oak tree, we returned to a home and neighborhood otherwise intact. We had heat, power and a roof still firmly over our heads. But you didn’t need to travel far to find neighbors experiencing a completely different reality. A reality which nobody around them could deny. And they didn’t.
I returned to a New York where every person I knew was baking, cooking, pumping out homes and businesses, shoveling debris, providing warm clothes, carrying cases of water up flight after dark flight of stairs in powerless buildings, taking shifts at shelters full of evacuees and using their last gallons of precious gas to deliver supplies. What’s more amazing still is that many of these efforts were self organized as people connected over social media and sprung up with a force to rival the storm itself.
At the Park Slope Armory, a temporary shelter for 600 adults evacuated from three assisted living facilities in the Far Rockaways and lower Brooklyn, I bumped into many neighbors and friends (and made new friends among the residents too). But what really surprised me was meeting so many volunteers from outside of New York. Like the group of kids who drove for four days from Washington state to help round-the-clock and Rebecca from Philadelphia who was stuck here without gas so she decided to just pitch in. I asked Nicole, a young woman from Rio, why on her vacation she chose to volunteer. Her very matter of fact reply: “I love New Yorkers, they are my neighbors too.” Such a decent, kind and human perspective.
So neighbors, with Governor Cuomo estimating that anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 people have been displaced due to the storm, efforts will be ongoing to help our neighbors not just rebuild but to feel at home again too. Here are a few organizations helping to do just that, let me know of other effective, reliable ones you’ve found too.