Three shelters from the storm

Three shelters from the storm

Over the past week, we wrapped up operations at one hurricane evacuation shelter (John Jay High School campus), continued to provide an incredible level of compassion and support to evacuated high-needs residents in another (Park Slope Armory), and welcomed evacuated homeless veterans into a third (on West 9th Street in south Carroll Gardens).  And we continued to do all we could to help our neighbors down in Red Hook, more than 3,000 of whom are still – unacceptably – without power or heat twelve days later.

Many parts of this community escaped Hurricane Sandy with only minor damage, but rather than take that blessing and move on, you have opened your neighborhoods to New Yorkers escaping the storm and provided some security for people who have lost everything.

This blog post tells just a few of those stories … and includes opportunities to keep helping out this weekend.


Broadway, and so much more, comes to the Park Slope Armory shelter

Just a week ago, we were scrambling to get hot food and other supplies as wet and weary evacuees moved into the Armory (and grateful to Masbia for their rapid response, which has grown into a large-scale program feeding people hit by Sandy throughout the city). In that short time, the shelter has become one of the more inspiring hurricane stories, bustling with community energy, creativity, and kindness (not to say there isn’t still a big need for volunteers, but more on that below). 

An incredible team of volunteers have put together an impressive schedule of wellness activities each day, everything from knitting, to standup comedy, to string quartets, to jazz dancing. On Wednesday, a troupe of Broadway actors even dropped in for an impromptu musical performance. Thanks so much to Caron Atlas and her team that have filled the Armory with so much cultural energy over the last week.

And I know I will never forget the valiant Election Day efforts of Livia Beasley, the Armory volunteer who went cot to cot through the Armory on Monday, signing evacuees up for absentee ballots. She delivered their applications, brought them their ballots, and ensured their vote made it to the ballot box. That evening, Rooftop Films set up an election watching party for the group (I hear the applause that spread through the Armory when the President won was something to behold). 

The Armory has been a truly extraordinary collaboration between City employees, Federal disaster medical assistance (DMAT) and national service teams (AmeriCorps) from states all over the country, religious congregations, and hundreds of volunteers.  Thanks so much to the literally hundreds of you who have volunteered, far more than we could possibly name.  I have never been more proud of our neighborhood.  Special thanks to Erin, Shannon, Devin, Todd, Ben, Ben, Ben, Roy, Kenny, Gabe, Erica, Kim, David, Dr. Mellish, Kings Bay Y, Two Boots Restaurant, Greenpoint Reformed Church, Food Bank NYC, City Harvest, and so many more.  And big thanks also to the Park Slope Armory YMCA and their dynamite staff, who have worked 24/7 since the storm, and Congregation Beth Elohim, who have coordinated so much of the volunteering, and so much other work around the city.

We need to keep the volunteer effort going!  It’s a big operation, and it takes a lot of people to make it work.  Please sign up here to keep volunteering.


Saying good bye to evacuees at John Jay High School

During and after the storm, our community turned the John Jay High School campus into a warm, welcoming home for evacuees from Coney Island and Red Hook. The shelter closed on Wednesday, so that the four schools there could reopen (and the evacuees were transferred to other shelters in the city, better suited to people staying for the longer term).

I witnessed so many acts of kindness at John Jay. Many City employees and volunteers put in long hours, taking every step to ensure that evacuees were as comfortable as possible given the stressful circumstances. They provided rooms for evacuees’ dogs, cats, and even two turtles. If you are a pet owner, or know one, you can imagine how much better residents felt knowing that their pets were safe and close by.

They organized movie nights to keep people entertained. Susan Fox of Park Slope Parents and Kim Maier from Old Stone House even brought Halloween to the shelter, complete with costumes and face paint for the kids.

I want to thank everyone who volunteered or donated.  There really were too many to count, but I especially want to mention Florence, Betty, Tori, Peter, and Kristen. It’s only been a week, but I think the friendships they’ve formed, with me and each other, will last a lot longer than that.


Welcoming displaced veterans to Carroll Gardens

When Hurricane Sandy hit, it badly damaged the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence, a homeless shelter for veterans in Long Island City. The veterans evacuated to an armory drill floor in Bed-Stuy for most of the week.

On Tuesday night, 120 of these evacuated homeless veterans moved into a building on West 9th Street in Carroll Gardens. It will be several weeks before their home will be repaired and ready for them to move back. It has been great to see the Carroll Gardens community welcome their temporary neighbors, including starting a donation drive for socks and toiletries on day one.

These Hurricane Sandy victims are staying at a building that is proposed for a permanent shelter.  Along with other elected officials, I have very serious and ongoing concerns about that proposal (more on that here).  But that hasn’t stopped us from welcoming these veterans to our community.

  • On this Veterans Day Weekend, can you join the donation drive to make these veterans’ stay as comfortable as possible?  Please drop off donations of men’s coats, socks, and pre-assembled hygiene kits (which should include a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body gel, and lotions) labeled “Veterans Evacuation Shelter” and directed to:

    Cobble Hill Think Tank at 274 Court Street (near Douglass Street)
    Donations accepted on weekdays from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm and on weekends from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm

  • The displaced veterans are already giving back – please join us Saturday at noon:  On Saturday (tomorrow) at noon, I am meeting with the veterans and neighbors on West 9th Street, between Court Street and Hamilton Avenue, to walk over to Red Hook and help out with relief, distribution, and recovery efforts.  It would be wonderful opportunity not only to help out our neighbors in Red Hook, but to meet a few of our new neighbors on West 9th Street as well. 


Meanwhile, down in Red Hook

Can you believe that ten days after Hurricane Sandy (and one Nor’easter come and gone) there are still more than 3,000 people in Red Hook Houses without electricity or heat?  We are finally seeing some progress, and the restoration of heat, hot water, and power should be coming over the next few days.  But it is far, far, far too late.

Many of you have joined volunteer efforts organized by Red Hook Initiative, the Red Hook Community Justice Center, Red Hook Recovers, and more to distribute much-needed food and blankets, get debris cleared to make way for electrician crews, and clean businesses and homes that were flooded during the storm.

There are many opportunities to keep doing so this weekend including joining with some of the veterans evacuated from the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence who are currently staying in Carroll Gardens.  


Volunteer this weekend, at the shelters and beyond

Red Hook

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, volunteers should report to 480 Van Brunt Street (Fairway building), 2nd floor, in Red Hook.


The Park Slope Armory

The Armory has a big and ongoing need for volunteers; dozens during the day, evening, and overnight have made the shelter such a warm place. You need to be comfortable working with this high-needs population of elderly and disabled evacuees and cannot bring children. Sign up here for Friday and Saturday and here for Sunday and Monday.


Coney Island

On Saturday and Monday, head down to Coney Island to help that hard-hit community recover. Meet other volunteers at Tom's Restaurant on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue and from there you will be dispatched to the most needed areas of the neighborhood. You could take on debris removal, staffing a donation site, delivering supplies, or cleaning up the beach and aquarium. Sign up here to volunteer or visit for more information.



Evacuations continue from the Rockaways as winter weather sets in and many residents are still without heat, power, or tap water. The peninsula is not expected to get subway service back for several months. But you can help the Rockaways toward recovery.  Councilmember James Sanders, Jr. is coordinating volunteers for debris removal (bring a shovel if you can) and supply distribution from 10 AM – 4 PM, on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at 15-26 Central Ave, in Far Rockaway. While the subway is down, you can drive or take the LIRR from Atlantic Terminal to the Far Rockaway stop.


Brooklyn Neighbors in Need Hurricane Drive

Park Slope Parents and Old Stone House have teamed up to do some amazing work, from collecting donations to buy 2,500 pairs of underwear for shelter residents to delivering donations to impacted areas around the city. Please donate to help sustain their efforts, or volunteer this weekend.


Congregation Beth Elohim

Whether providing lunch to evacuees at the Park Slope Armory or shuttling donations to far away neighborhoods, Congregation Beth Elohim has been abuzz with service and neighborly energy since the storm hit. Donate or volunteer for weekend shifts here, which including cooking and other much needed tasks.