Stories from the Storm
Brooklyn Community Foundation grantee partners report from across the borough on how their communities have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy
(Adapted from email conversations and calls)
at the Brooklyn Bureau
Coney Island and Southern Brooklyn
JCC of Greater Coney Island, which provides a wide-spectrum of social services to the low-income residents of southern Brooklyn (regardless of race and religion) and fosters neighborhood stabilization. Rabbi Wiener, director: Of our senior centers, two are severely affected, one opened Thursday, and one stayed open throughout. JCCGCI’s home aide program is functioning, serving seniors boroughwide—yet they have no way of getting in touch with home aides in Zone A. Without power and available records, staff are relying on memory to provide services. JCCGCI's office and all its content were totally destroyed. Within the coming days, our computer system will be restored from our backup and all staff with home computers and internet connections will be able to access their email, applications and files as if they were in the office. If the structural integrity of the building is confirmed, our current office will be demolished and reconstructed, but that might require several months.
Coney Island USA, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to future and past Coney Island. Aaron Beebe, Museum Director/Associate Director: Our two buildings were completely flooded on the ground floor. The museum's fine - in fact, because there was very little rain, there were no leaks up there. But the 1st floor is totaled. The water was very violent evidently - the stage is ripped from the floor, the diner booths smashed into walls. It seems safe to assume that we're going to have to replace our entire inventory, POS equipment, theater lighting and sound systems, bathrooms, and the actual bar itself, at minimum. As far as immediate needs: Everyone needs dumpsters, hoses, and electricity. We need to get this cleaned up before it gets moldy. The residential community isn't even allowed back in yet, and there's no power, so that's the biggest concern. During the cleanup, we have to be very thorough about tracking what's thrown out, how many people are helping, and what's being done so the insurance companies can get their documentation.
Coney Island Lighthouse Mission, which provides emergency food to all community members in need through our food pantry and soup kitchen. Rev. Vincent Fusco, director: None of our local people have even been able to leave their homes to access the food pantry, which is on Neptune and W 20th. We’re expecting the worst.
NY Aquarium: The aquarium was hit very hard, with 6 ft of salt water killing most systems, including life support systems for specimens. We’ve had employees there around the clock hand-rotating water to keep it aerated. It’s unclear yet if specimens can stay onsite or be loaned out to sister institutions. At this point, we don’t think the aquarium will open to the public until spring.
JCC Canarsie, which provides a range of services that include responding to the needs of the poor and near poor, the elderly, newcomers, and special groups in the Brooklyn community.Rabbi Hecht, Executive Director: Lots of people in Canarsie have no power. Most homes had 4-5 feet of basement flooding. Our office, located in Starrett City, is physically fine. We tried rescuing food from Met Council’s central food distribution location that lost power. Many of our staff live in Sheepshead Bay, which was severely impacted by the storm.
Central Brooklyn –
Emergency Food Providers
Bedford Stuyvesant Campaign Against Hunger: We were open for a couple of hours Tuesday with a skeleton crew, and saw 30 new families, which is a huge number for us. By mid-Wednesday, we’d seen 20 new people.
St. John’s Bread and Life: We served all throughout Sandy. On Wednesday, our food pantry had double the usual numbers and distributed over 3,000 meals.
Neighbors Together: Our industrial fridge and freezer lost power Tuesday night, and we subsequently lost all of our meat, dairy, fresh and frozen produce. We reopened Thursday for lunch, at half-capacity.
Parks and Open Space
Prospect Park: This is the worst damage we’ve seen, more wind damage than Irene, and a much broader swatch than the tornado. Lots of older, bigger trees down—latest count is over 100 trees felled and 50 more severely damaged and leaning. Many playgrounds will need extensive repairs. Any resources they are spending now are coming out of their general maintenance fund.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden: Dozens of trees throughout BBG were affected by the storm, at this count nearly 50. Damage to our buildings and facilities was fortunately minimal (including a major tree that missed the new Visitor Center Lillian and Amy Goldman Atrium glass by inches). Examples include a line of 80-year old little-leaf lindens felled along the western perimeter of the Osborne Garden, and other historically significant major trees such as a Chinese parasol tree, pin oaks and others. Horticulture and Operations staff have been working nonstop since the storm quieted to clear major debris and make the Garden safe for visitors. Storm cleanup is expected to continue over the course of the next months, with protected areas gradually reopening to the public. Our first priority is safety of visitors, staff and volunteers. Replacing this kind of loss of mature trees sustained by the BBG landscape will take growth over generations for new trees added but the good news at least is that, however distressing that loss, we can plan for that future and start again.
Greenwood Cemetery: May have lost upwards of 100 trees, and damage is extensive throughout to monuments as well.
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