Interview with a Pastor from the Rockaways
Interview with: Resident of Arverne (the Rockaways), volunteer relief worker
Interviewer: Thomas Cochran
Q: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m going to ask you several questions about your experience with the storm to get a sense of what happened and what’s continuing to happen. You don’t have to answer any of my questions if you don’t want to. If anything’s unclear just let me know or if for any other reason you prefer not to answer we can just skip the question, okay?
Q: So I have a few more focus questions of your experience of the storm and then I have a second set of questions that are focused more on some more general things. Such as the storm’s causes.
Q: So begin by telling me briefly about your experience of Sandy.
A: My experience of Sandy was not only a mind and time altering and time changing event, it was also a time for pressing a reset in many areas. So Sandy is considered and on my behalf a blessing in many ways. Because it’s helping to change a lot of rules and regulations. Take for instance we had a major problem with housing on the ports out here in the Rockaways. And people that come to the Rockaways suddenly come up with this great idea they shouldn’t pay rent. And Sandy was able to wipe that slate clean despite of the situation. So a lot of landlords who had been fighting in courts for eight months to a year just think–. So it’s a blessing in one sense but then the loss that most landlords suffered it is tremendous because there are some areas because it was a rental they were not helped by FEMA. And those that did not have flood insurance were not helped at all. So it is a loss all around but it brings about change. So we believe that due to what Sandy has done we will get a new influx of people but we understand everything is ruled by dominions and the spirit that has dominion in this area we will try our best to make sure that it not so much does subside but we get a handle on things this way. As residents of the Rockaway. So Sandy was, it’s a blessing in general despite of the loss. The loss is great, the loss is not, we are not really lowballing or degrading the loss. But the loss, it comes with a serious sense of urgency. When I say sense of urgency, it’s urgency of taking priority. And are we going to take priority in stuff or in people. And Sandy makes us really begin to see is it stuff that is important or is people important? That’s the impact that it left on me.
Q: What’s the area or actually let me back up a second. Where were you when the storm occurred?
A: I was here in the Rockaways in, not in this home that we are doing the interview in because we are here at the Barbados Drive but not here. I was closer to the church. So because we know that that area never flooded before so we went to high ground that never floods. But the surge showed us totally a different perspective.
Q: And in this section of Rockaways where you live and where the church is located, what’s the name of that area?
A: This area is known as the Arverne area. It is one of the areas that had been heavily impacted but due to our history what we have noticed it wasn’t focused on because the front end of it was, it is newly developed by Mayor Bloomberg and his people. And they developed it and put it approximately between six to eight feet higher than every other part of the Arverne area. So because they were not affected the only thing that we see they did, especially the first month or so, anyone that put out garbage on the main road it was removed instantly because of the people that lived on the other side of the line. They didn’t want them to be effected by that. So the garbage was removed instantly. They put it out by day and by the night it was gone. We look and when we just in the same area, same Arverne area when you get down to the streets behind the main road you’d put out the garbage and it stayed for three or four weeks before it’d get picked up. Finally sanitation come down to pick it up, you know? So we see how they view things here in the Arverne that if you live on the what we will say the right side or the east side of the line, the A Train line or the sea side of the train line you’re treated different. If you’re positioned on the bay side we saw the difference how things get done on the bay side from how things get done on the sea side. So it’s notable.
Q: You are on–?
A: The bay side.
Q: The bay side. Okay. So tell me a little bit about, we have spoken a little bit about some of the problems but tell me about some of the problems that arose during or right after the storm.
A: Most of the problems that arose was communication and lack of steps when it comes down to information. Take for instance the electric. The electric they took so long to tell us exactly what was needed before we can get electric turned on. When we got what was needed and we got it in place then we had to go through [unintelligible—7:27] different process with that. So to me the lack of information especially being a homeowner was one of the major decisive points that they should have made and make it clear. We see that there are other things, but for me personally I was not, I did not benefit from rapid repair in any way, shape, or form. So that didn’t affect me one way or the other. But everything else, we saw that that’s how it worked.
Q: So do you think that there are some edges or boundaries to some of those problems as far as where the problem begins and ends or where it appears or where it disappears?
A: Well, Sandy made the playing field level. But you’ll find that the focus point is still the same even after four or five months –it’s either we’re talking about Breezy Point where all the millionaires live or we’re talking about [unintelligible—8:54]. But when we look Arverne by the Bay it’s really affected just like anywhere else. We did not have the fire damage like Breezy Point, but we had the flood damage just as severe as everyone else. So we saw the difference in everything. Even in distribution of stuff. For us here in the Arverne area when we go down to FEMA we go through there are a whole different drawn out plan. And having friends in Breezy Point and having acquaintances in Breezy Point heard they didn’t have to do half of the things to be assisted by FEMA. So you can see even from the federal perspective they made the choice. So it’s not a local or it’s not an individual thing you can see it was they had made the decision well we are do such-and-such for the rich and keep the rich rich, and then whoever pick up on the bottom that where they’re left.
Q: So it’s like there’s some type of levels or hierarchies that are in action or as far as the way the neighborhoods are divided in the Rockaways and who has access to certain—
A: Right. From a Biblical perspective when Paul warned us, he says “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities.” That means yes there are principalities and then there are powers and then there’s rules of darkness and then there’s spiritual weakness in high places. Then if you look at it and you really break it down there are tiers, principalities, so the prince, when the rich deal with the ones who are the princes of the Rockaways and then you will find that they literally made the decision from the get-go how they’re going to literally do things. So now you’ll find that all these groups is coming and meeting together and putting all these great ideas but yet at the same time there is no money although from a federal perspective the money has already been released. But you’ll find when you get to the state and the city nothing is moving because the principalities still governing everything. And what they refuse to let go they are coming up with the ideas and ideologies that says well for you you have to have what is called the block grant, that means that you have to get together with all these different people and decide what you’re going to do and even when they go through that process they are still taken into the Third Degree. But then when you go to these other neighbors, you see these people literally [unintelligible—12:08] back not only because they have insurance money but they’ve been billing back because the infrastructure is not done by insurance money, the infrastructure is done by the city or by federal money. So we can see already what is happening already. But if you go in the Arverne our boardwalk and so on it’s not yet up and running. But—
Q: It’s not up and running?
A: No. And it can be because they—it’s not like we don’t comprehend among the [unintelligible—12:46] and devastation of the damage throughout. But when we see where it’s starting, the rebuilding process starting that means that once it started in the rich then what happens they literally streamlined your friends and so on to literally do the work and come into the poor neighborhoods, do the work, take all the money out, and keep it in the rich side. So it’s all a big plan. But if all is done together that means not only the rich is able to have some money but the poor that lives in that neighborhood even to find work to sustain it but if you start in the rich neighborhood first once that job is done and they keep moving coming down to the [unintelligible—13:34] they’re not moving and spending their money in the poor neighborhood, they’re coming and doing the work but keeping the money in the rich neighborhood.
Q: Okay. So are you saying that the types of, the groups that are coming, are you referring to companies? Because I imagine you’re referring to clean up work, construction work?
A: Construction work, not clean up because if you have take note for the cleanup, the cleanup was done by basically volunteers or neighbor helping neighbor, or as the need arises people somehow come together and get the cleanup process up and running. So it’s not cleanup. It’s about redeveloping where the money is, not the cleanup. So where the money is there’s where you’re finding that the chokehold has been made.
Q: So how does something like, you know, mold has been a very big issue, mold to clean up. How has the cleanup of mold been dealt with by homeowners?
A: Well, you will find that it’s dealt with by either private or volunteer. You’ll find that the city, the state, everyone who takes a backhand of that even now after five months you’ll find that they haven’t yet implemented full program to make sure that every house has been demolded. They focus on how many people they are getting out of hotels or back into their homes but then when you’re talking about if you really look at the situation you’re talking about the long term crisis when as my rate is going to double within the next three years because some folks because they just can’t afford to pay for the mold because they have a rental place and they cannot afford to pay for the mold so what they are doing is just ripping down and throwing the things up like that and the mold is right behind there and all it needs is a little moisture and it starts growing again behind. So the families that are going to move in because they haven’t done their job, you know, and we understand that from the federal perspective they are trying to spare and govern the shot or what we would say throw bricks at a glass house and then put their hands behind their back. They tried it with 911 and after all these people volunteer they find that they are sued to maintain these people’s help. So now they are not structuring it and they are not in the forefront. But at the same time the longer it takes to really clean up the mold the worser it’s going to get.
Q: You did speak a lot about your experiences. Did you see comparisons as far as your experience based upon that to others. But how was your experience maybe similar or different to others, or other New Yorkers?
A: In what sense?
Q: In the sense that how some volunteers or some people that were affected by the storm, how they were affected in one way and others were maybe affected in different ways. We could speak on—
A: You really can’t compare it. The reason why you really can’t compare it I’m understanding personalities is that the way that people take things, it’s according to their personality. Some folks understand the whole principle about real estate. It’s two words, but the first word they don’t really focus on. Some people focus on the first word some people focus on the last. Some folks will focus on “real” what is “real?” And to me my reality is different from yours. And the other person will focus on “estate.” And what estate I have and what estate you have it all depends on my value package. So that is why you really can’t compare because when you have two homeowners and one abandoned theirs and another one just it’s both real estate, it’s both things. But what is real to that individual and what’s an estate to the other individual is different. So you really, it’s hard to compare one person’s value package with another due to the storm. Sometimes you might want to criticize the seller, he didn’t do this or, oh, you’re looking at another person saying well they’re putting too much into it it’s going to happen again. But as I say back to value, you know, it’s a whole different value package. It’s individually based.
Q: You wouldn’t really see any differences throughout the neighborhoods, then? In other words you could say that a person in another part of the Rockaways as opposed to Arverne they may have experienced it in just the same way that a person in Arverne had experienced it although this area or Arverne may have not received the same type of aid or the same type of response after the storm?
A: Yes. But in a sense you still can’t compare it because in the first phase which was quite understandable, the focus and the drawing point which was the key elements, the focus and drawing point. And it’s just like anything, whether you are looking at a statue or a picture whatever the pointer or the leader focus on that becomes the drawing point. So if you’re focused from the very concept of not Rockaways but Breezy Point then everyone is going to be down on Breezy Point even though if you really check the history the first month almost six to eight weeks people were coming from all over the country and getting stuck in Breezy Point because they come ready to volunteer but there is no houses to really help because they’re all [restored] and didn’t know where to go. Didn’t know all the people down in the Arverne area had needed assistance. So it was a little different than from our leadership perspective they were the ones who were highlighting certain things. When certain stars or so come to distribute things, whatever they are doing, it’s the last minute you’re knowing, you understand that they are coming. So what was happening we find that some fraudulent activity was taking place such as people were coming across from Brooklyn and understand that the greatest things that was distributed was distributed in Breezy Point. So they were joining the lines and they were just having, you know, making a bad situation worse. But eventually when people get the wind of it it was, you know, after the facts.
Q: What about some of the problems that you think could arise in the future? What type of problems?
A: Well, one of the problems that is noted that will arrive is that one, the asthma. Two, the next problem that will arrive is because of lack of futuristic planning we will have a major problem again with our sewer system. We don’t have a system to really take off the water for the next storm. This [unintelligible—22:47] that they’re putting in especially in the Arverne area now, it’s already below sea level so it’s already [unintelligible—22:56] from the first storm. So it’s like not only it will be obsolete with the next storm. I’m here 28 years and the first ten years I experienced a flood once. Here every high tide the water’s coming in so that means that the sea level has risen.
Q: Okay. So now when the water comes in, it comes in from—
A: From the bay.
Q: From the beach?
A: From the bay.
Q: From the bay.
A: From the beach.
Q: From the bay, okay.
A: Not from the beach.
Q: Okay. But is there over flooding from the sewers as well? Is—
A: Well, it’s coming from the bay. And any time you’re driving through the Rockaways and you manage to see a puddle in the water at the corners and you know there was no rainfall, that water derived from the sewer.
Q: From the sewer.
A: And that water is salt.
Q: Okay. And now when you were flooded in your house, you were flooded from the bay or you were flooded from–?
A: From the surge. It came from the ocean.
Q: From the surge.
A: The proof that it came from the ocean, the woman’s patio that was on Burchell, ended up in my yard which is a block away and down from. So if that come from the bay my boat would have ended up in her front yard. But instead of that it happened from the ocean so you can see that the washing or the surge came from the ocean side, not from the bay, didn’t come from the bay.
Q: Didn’t come from the bay. Because how close are you to the bay? And how far are you from the ocean?
A: I’m approximately 50 to 60 feet from the bay and I’m approximately a little bit more than 3,000 feet from the ocean. About 2,000 feet from the ocean. Yeah.
Q: Okay. All right. So now I’m going to shift some gears a little bit. I have some more general questions regarding the storm. So how has the storm caused you to see, think of, or experience New York City in a different way?
A: Well, for me it has not made me change my opinion of New York City. I find that New York City is still the financial capital of the world. So it has not changed that. It has not changed my inspiration. It has not changed my, the way that I view people. I still view people as they are, as we all are. We are all savages from birth. And once you view everyone from the top coming down to two-year-old savages, and because of that it all depends on where you are. It’s either you’re the prey or you are the, what’s it, the prize or the preyer. Or someone when you think you’re the preyer or you think you’re the prize someone is about to make you the peryer. So it’s a savage city whether you like it or not. Folks sits around and think how are they going to just take everything that you have. So it’s a concept that’s been formed over the years, that’s how it is.
Q: How about the way the storm has changed your relationships to other New Yorkers?
A: For me it has broadened my horizon with other New Yorkers because it takes me out of my comfort zone. It made me understand that they are—people does not only view things black and white. Sometimes people view things as individuals. So it took me out of my comfort zone and it has given me a more broader base. So I begin to pull back in one way and expand in the other. The ways that I pull back is in my what is called clannish ways. And I begin to expand when I begin to give more open door to view another person’s perspective a little bit more. So in that way really that makes me see things different which I’m forced to change.
Q: So not only with the people who have come to volunteer in the area, but with people that have already been in the area has the storm kind of changed your relationship on both ends? People that are from the area and people that aren’t from the area but have come in to help out?
A: Well, the people from the area that we had what is called a relationship going we find that that hasn’t changed. But the folks that you didn’t have the relationship with them, they came back and some of them come back and returned to the same old mannerism. The only change that I find that is different is the folks from the outside. But the folks on the inside there are several things that I understand. Not only that they are having situations or problems that they are having to deal with personally, but because of where Rockaways are time is a very important element.
Q: Yes. Some people have been making connections with the aftermath of the storm and inequality. So what do you think about that?
A: Well, as I said, I look at the life and I look at the situation like the Savannah in Africa. That despite of who you are, despite of your size. Whether you be an elephant, there’s someone always thinking I will bring you down. Whether you want to hunt like a bunch of hyenas, there’s always someone who is a little stronger, the lions are a little bit stronger so I look at life from that perspective. And once you look at life from that perspective the only thing that you can do as an individual is give of yourself. Once you can give of yourself then the rest of the things becomes absolute so you don’t feel the pain like if you really take it on personally. So the more you give of yourself it begins to relax or lessen the pain or the shock. So that is some of my take on it.
Q: Okay. What about in terms of class and race?
A: Well, Sandy has made it hidden in some sense. A little bit more hidden. And when it comes down to race, for me personally I experienced two things that I’m not proud about. I find that I was assisted and helped and advised in the beginning part of the storm by Caucasian more than black folks. It’s the later end of the equation then I find out then the black folks begin to assist volunteering and also helping, you know, just words of encouragement. So when you deal with it from a race perspective then you have to look back and see from whence we come. The black folks didn’t have in the beginning so the ones who did have and lost that means it was a double whammy because they were not only supporting themselves, some of them were supporting their daughters and son who was living elsewhere, so now they have to go to their daughters and sons so it made it hard for them who were a giver to be still giving. So from a white perspective we understand that most of them had so it was easy for them to give of themselves even if they didn’t have financial ways of contributing they were able to give time. So we see the difference there. You understand, but with the black folks you understand that they first had to get their families together because of how wealth is distributed in America and then before they can say if you go to different places now you’re seeing a more black responded to the situation especially when it comes down to volunteer. And it takes almost five months for us to get onboard.
Q: And now you would say that the volunteer group is very much racially—
A: Mixed now.
Q: Mixed now.
Q: But not at the beginning?
A: In the beginning it was not so. In the beginning it was Caucasian that came from just about every avenue or part. We had folks come from California, Texas, as far drove down as far from Massachusetts. From just about everywhere. Delaware, all the way up. You name it, they came. Kentucky, I talked to some folks come all the way from Kentucky. So you find in the beginning they’re coming from just about everywhere.
Q: Now Arverne is an area, or is a neighborhood. How would you characterize the neighborhood in terms of race and class? Give us an idea.
A: It’s considered middle class. It has a large, the population is pretty much diverse. It has been coming more and more diverse every year. It’s transforming because of it’s considered one of the last spots in New York that is undeveloped. So with the millions of dollars that was spent over the last ten years in housing we’ve seen some change in the class. So it’s not considered only middle class financially, it’s considered middle class in many areas you can there are changes even with our police force. There are certain things that is not like it used to be when I came here in the 80s. I used to hear a lot about shootings and rape and everything. It’s not so much the crime in this area has changed. You know? So we understand that once there was a certain class of folks coming to your area then they from the state and the federal government they put more resource to keep crime down because if they don’t keep crime down then the people move on with their money.
Q: So you say there’s been more focus?
Q: So there’s been some sort of change in class of the people that have come in and then maybe along with the class there’s been more Caucasians or more whites that have come into the area then when you first—
A: I wouldn’t say more Caucasians in a sense. I would say it’s diverse because I see Chinese, Koreans, just about everyone. And the class of people, well, I say class of people it varies. It’s not so much of just whites are transforming from New York City here. You can see rich black folks purchasing these houses for $700,000 and $800,000.
Q: These are the townhomes.
A: Right, the houses on the ocean. So you see Chinese, you see Russians, you see everyone purchasing so it’s not like it’s just white folks that’s moving in back, it’s diverse.
Q: Okay. As you’ve been working in the community doing volunteer work, doing work with your church as well, have you seen any differences as far as how people have experienced the storm based upon their gender with any of the people that you’ve worked with?
A: Not, I haven’t seen it openly and it’s almost like the death of an individual, the death of an individual we especially as pastors summarize it as this I understand your pain. But really and truly we don’t. Because everyone takes it differently. And we can summarize that some folks by assumption look like they have got over it. They get a few dollars, they did what they had to do, they got over it and we deal with assumption. But there are some folks are still suffering because their artifacts, the things that they had from birth they lost it and we don’t know what tie they had to certain things. So we will deal with assumption with that. So I would go ahead and assume that everyone that I meet and how they cope and handle things is quite different from me or so I wouldn’t presume that one at all. I just say I really don’t know.
Q: In your opinion why do you think the storm happened?
A: I my opinion the reason why the storm happened is because according to the book which is the Holy Bible, it speaks of truth. We are living in a day in a society where truth is not easily defined. Truth is not honestly sought after. So the storm happened because what God is saying to us all he’s making this place a level playing field. And when I pour out my justice upon the good I’m going to pour it on the bad. And when I pour out my judgment upon the good I’m going to pour it out onto the bad. So this is how it stands. So as we begin to decay in our law making such as even what is facing the Supreme Court in same sex marriage and all these different things, we can expect more judgment and more rapid and more harsh judgment because we are living in a society where we determine not to have absolutes. There is no right and no wrong. Anything that I assume and presume that is right is right in my sight. And there is no where you can look and say, well this is right and this is wrong. So since no one is standing up for right and righteousness, and we as preachers look at things and by passing it an even saying what is evil we are calling it good so what God is saying don’t worry when I sweep I’m going to sweep and my hands of justice move slow but when I grind it is perfect in the end. And so what he’s doing he is taking us as a nation through a grinding process. And as we see as the days go by the storms not so much Sandy but a storm throughout this land is going to be so severe that even FEMA cannot balance with her big checkbook what is about to happen.
Q: So you see more storms happening in the future?
A: More because we are going down a road that there’s no absolutes.
Q: Okay. And you attribute it to this higher being?
A: I attribute it to us. Us, not to Him. His desire for us is not evil. But because we made the choice of take for instance, we made the choice of going after to wealth instead of going after helping each other. So because we chose to go after wealth, and we mess with everything. We mess with the environment, we mess with the air, we mess with everything just because of wealth. We are living in a land that is not, we don’t succeed because of need. We succeed because of greed. The big corporations do not, they base everything—everything is based upon meeting and fulfilling the shareholders and assignment. The insurance for years been taking your money but all that they’re thinking about is the profit for the shareholders. So now they pay out all this big set of money within the next ten years they don’t plan, they’re sitting back planning how to recuperate and the only way they’re going to recuperate is by higher premium. So guess what? We’re all suckered by the system.
Q: So what about this storm being caused by climate change? What would you say about that then?
A: I wouldn’t blame climate change, let’s blame who it’s really caused by. It’s caused by man. We are the one who is polluting the environment. We are the one that is sending up all this smokestack stuff in the air. We are the one who has taken more things out of the earth than we need. We are the ones who are doing all these things so am I going to blame God for the things that we are doing? We’ll change it. Okay? So now in a land where there’s approximately 400 million people and the amount of food we waste in this land can stop starvation on planet earth and we think that there shall be no price for that? Guess what? We are waking up to a new dawning a brand new day. Within the next five years we will really face a time here in America where food stuff is going to get—the rich have it and the poor is going to fight with the rich to get it. It will be there. This is the land that will always have it in the abundance. But you will not always have the money to purchase it.
Q: So what could we do—if these storms are, as you said, in some way they’re attributed to being man made seem to be what your response was, in what direction-in what direction?
A: No, not man made, but the results of our actions. These are the consequences of our actions.
Q: Yes, the consequences of our actions. So because they are consequences of our actions what can we do in the future to ensure that these storms don’t happen any more?
A: Well, according to what we have seen how we are heading, where we are heading. And because not—take for instance natural gas. We have enough wells and enough stuff to supply America over 100% over. But we still decided that we’re fracking every layer. We don’t care about the pollution of the natural water any longer. All what we care for is these rich shareholders to make money. So we are fighting every law to frack all over this United States. According to my bible all who destroy this land shall be destroyed by the same land. So guess what? Let us keep fracking and see what’s going to happen to our water supply. We think Sandy was bad with the ocean water? Let our drinking water get contaminated in New York City and see what’s going to be, how many trillions of dollars are they going to try to push in there to solve that?
Q: All right. That’s pretty much for that section. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: No, no.
Q: Nothing in particular? No?
Q: Nothing else?
Q: Okay. Now we did talk a little bit about the background, your experience and where you were. But just briefly tell me a little bit about I guess yourself as far as the organization that you’re affiliated with and the church that you’re affiliated with. Because you’re affiliated with a religious institution, correct?
A: Right. Well, some things about myself is that everything about me I can attribute it to the grace and the mercies of God. I can attribute my coming here to this land by the grace and the mercies of God because I was one of the fortunate ones that run across the border at Tijuana. And come here and this land is blessed. So in turn the land turned around and blessed me. Yes, I broke the law to get here. But after getting here I tried to stick within the framework of the law. And because of that the land turned around and blessed me for being a blessing to the land. For the two years that I’m here I find that it was really that way. From a religious perspective I’m finding that I’m more and more we as a people have strayed away from truth. Truth is not encased in any man for according to my book it says let every man be a liar. That means from the Pope all the way down is a liar. The president all the way down is a liar. The preacher all the way down is a liar. The proof of it you do not have to teach a child to lie. From the time that a baby is born you can put a candy by the table and say to Tommy, don’t touch it. And then just turn your back and then Tommy will have the candy in his mouth. And you go to Tommy and say, “Tommy, where is the candy?” And he will say, “Mmm, um, I don’t know,” he’s shaking his head saying he don’t know. So you can see that even Tommy, you don’t have to teach him to lie although the evidence is in his mouth he’s ready to lie. So when you say let every man be a liar according to the Word of God, every man is a liar. But if we really want truth we need to go back to the truth. Not to opinions, not to folks that can articulate and harmonize the word to make it sound good, or to the people who have studied what is called emotions and intellectual involvement and try to tickle your intellect or tickle your emotion to make you feel good but don’t deal with truth.
Q: So you’re involved in this church, you’re the pastor of the church, right?
A: Uh-huh (yes.).
Q: And the church is based here in Arverne?
Q: Has your organization been significantly impacted by the storm?
A: Yes, in a sense. Spiritually it is an awakening to take focus on the truth for He says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” So maybe our focus was too much worldly instead of focusing on the souls of individuals to enhance, to bring to light, to use what was given or the thing that was given, the rules that was given that we from the pulpit we should be pulling people out of the pit. Instead of that, we try to over the years we’ve tried to accommodate. So in looking at it, yes, it affects the way that we see things and the way that we think. So hopefully we don’t return as we normally are creatures of habits so our old habits as the things begin to look like it’s getting back to normal.
Q: What did your organization or your church do to prepare for the storm?
A: We did not prepare for that magnitude. What we prepared for was not what we got. So it was just like anyone else we were caught napping just like the word of God says when the bridegroom appeared we were caught sleeping. We did not really get all our oil and our lamps weren’t trimmed, and we were not in the chambers looking for the bridegroom. We were caught napping in men sense. So preparedness, it’s out of the equation for just about everyone. Because what we prepared for was obsolete. I went the day before, two days before I went, I moved two friends they moved all their stuff out of their basements into their garage because we said in case [unintelligible—52:11] and even the garage [unintelligible] all what we did was in vain. It was obsolete. The folks that I know I literally and physically went and assist, it was obsolete, all the stuff all his paperwork out of his—because he had his office in his basement, all that stuff we moved out, obsolete.
Q: How has the church been responding to the needs of those who’ve been affected?
A: Well, the church is a small church and the need of those who were affected we knew that we didn’t have that capacity, what is called the manpower and couldn’t spread our hands like an octopus. But what we had we utilized it well. We had space available and that is what we tried to give out for folks that came in to help. But manpower, we did not have manpower to put to work or to assist from a church perspective. But a place we had the room for that.
Q: Okay. So you’d been working with some other organizations?
A: Yes. We’ve been working with a wonderful organization called Respond and Rebuild. And they have proven so far for the last five months that they are men of their word, men and women of their word and doing some great and wonderful things. Looking at it for me in biblical perspective you can see that they are more active than the Christian when it comes down to operating by faith. Because we see that are doing things. They started from the beginning doing so many things without finances. And they started with a mold mediation before finances. They started all these things before finances. Even now at this stage where they are I think promised a grant to do the mold, but all the things have not yet come into place and everything has not yet fit like a glove. So some of the money has not been released for them to really continue with what they are doing. So when you look at it from that perspective you’re seeing that they are operated primarily by faith and by faith, you know, some people are coming up and donating a few dollars that’s keeping them afloat right now. But that’s about it. But they are not stopping. They’re still having, especially on the weekends sometimes a 100, 150 volunteers during the weekend and they’re going different places during the week. And the volunteers is pretty much done but in the weekends they get a core of volunteers between 50 to 100 people just about every weekend.
Q: So you think they operate just on this concept of faith?
A: I think they are looking at a bigger picture that one of these days there will be a Pay Day. But to look and see how they’re operating and have not so much of knowledge, so I can’t say I know exactly how their budget runs. But the little insight that I get about them most of it it’s done. Take for instance when they get the first set of money from Occupy Sandy, they came and they were excited to tell me that Sandy gave them X amount of dollars to do this, that, and the other. And they said, you know what, because you’ve been so generous with us we will share X amount of dollars with you because you have opened a door that was vital and that’s what they did.
Q: So how is this coalition I guess is what you’d call it, you know, the church is working together with this group Respond and Rebuild. How did it identify the communities in need for the assistance after the storm?
A: Well, they had been forced to go out and tackle the problem from all aspects. As I said before the church were only able at that this time to facilitate room or space. They were not able to identify all the problems because having the problem individualized for the church itself they could not go out and focus on all the people’s problems. But with the group that came in that went and looked and saw the need for several things. It’s not only mold they are focusing on now they are focusing on recovery, rebuilding, mental, physical. They are focusing on a lot of areas now they’re beginning to see the need is greater than they had anticipated when they first arrived. So they’re trying to collaborate with many more groups. They have brought in this woman, I forgot her name, and really a professor in leadership and showing us some leadership skills, how to really articulate and really bring all these things and make things work without a problem. So you see they are trying to what is called have a balanced approach to every aspect. And for us as a church we are trying to see them as much as we can to facilitate them being there and hopefully within the next few weeks we try to publicize more of the things that they are doing so that the community that they are functioning out of can be really a part and get the knowledge of what is going on.
Q: So you see maybe the organizations, the church is mission maybe in a new light after the storm?
A: No, the church should not turn in a new light. It should just, I think the storm was designed to bring us back to our original state. We had fallen off the block. We have gone astray. We have become—some of us have become an entertainment facility, an entertainment joint. Some of us have become a social website, webpage. Hey, ready to go.
A: One minute. Social webpage, some of us have begun to move into what is called more of a dogma way of doing things. We have go one part of the truth and we begin to blow it up into such a way that we become dogma. So I believe Sandy was designed to bring us back to truth and bring us back to reality so hopefully we see it there.
Q: Okay. As a religious leader how do you think your faith affected you in response to Sandy?
A: I think my faith has not grown to where it ought to be. Because of being a creature of habit you’ll find that there are some things that we keep procrastinating. But otherwise to that we are pretty much—I am pretty much—I have the knowledge what needs to be corrected. One of the things that I’ve learned not in Sandy or after Sandy or before Sandy, most of the things that a person needs and will become there have been embedded with it from God. The only thing that happens is that whatever incident or what we might call accident or people that comes along in our lives they either do one or a few things. Some of them as the Bible says “iron sharpens iron,” some of them are able to sharpen, some of them able to highlight, some of them able to literally pull us out of our shells. And what Sandy has done for me from a religious perspective, it’s not so much of pulling me out as showing me where I was going and hiding. So now that it has made the field level and I have no hiding place because sometimes you can hide yourself within your self. You know what to do but you’re refusing to do it. So you’re hiding in yourself within yourself. So now when you find that you’re exposed to all things such as exposed to interviews like this that would have never occurred if it wasn’t for Sandy. Viewpoints that is given today would never be heard if it wasn’t for Sandy.
Q: Okay. Do you think your experience as a religious leader may be the same or different than some of the members of the congregation?
A: I think ours are the same. The way that Sandy operated, remember when I said she really made it level? It just is a matter of your material lost. Loss was lost. And my equation, I might summarize mine as greater than the next individual. But when you really understand loss is lost there is no size of the value of loss. So when I look at it and equate it was equally, you know, devastating on both sides.
Q: We talked a little bit earlier about race and class and gender. Again, as a community leader do you explicitly talk about these issues with your congregation?
A: Yes, I am—I am one of the men that is not afraid to highlight some areas in the word of God that have been neglected and negated over the years. I highlight that I am a Cushite. And the things of Cush and the things of what especially after the Cushite finally hit the White House. I highlight some of the things about a Cushite. I highlight some of the things about every other race when I see that Cornelius was from the Italian band, especially studying, I highlighted, I don’t just deal with assumption and try and the things that I’m knowledgeable about when you talk about David and David went to bed. Yes, we just said David went to bed with Bathsheba. But I highlight that David went to bed with a black woman because when you look from on top of your balcony and you look all the way down you can see even if you don’t see who is it as long as the woman is naked you can tell a black woman from a long distance. She is well shaped. So you know without a shadow of a doubt that David didn’t—Bathsheba was not a white woman, she was a black woman. Uriah, his race was not white. He was black. So I highlight those things. And then when Solomon described himself he described himself as [unintelligible—1:04:55] and was black as the night.
A: So he described himself as a black man, not as a white man. So some of the things for me a pastoral perspective I try to highlight it because over the years, over the centuries some of the information that we’ve been taught is totally wrong. We’ve been taught that the reason why a black person must be a slave is because we’ve been cursed by our grandfather Noah when he came out of the ark. But according to our Bibles when you read it it didn’t say curse the Cush, it says cursed the Canaan, and we did not derive from the Canaanites, we derived from the Cushites. The Cushites is the burned face people. We derived from Cush, we didn’t derive from Canaan. And when you can teach that stuff over the years and it almost fit in to society and people have accepted that, then it’s time for someone to begin to highlight it. Take for instance the great Catholic Church has taught everyone to lie in a prayer by declaring when they said the Hail Mary, that teaches everyone to lie. And prayer is supposed to be our sacred communication between man and God. And when you says Hail Mary, you are giving her deity, okay? And then you put another point in, you say, Mother of God. That means that God has a mother. So when you’re teaching folks to lie like that, okay, and men derive with all these thinkings that they have on planet earth now then you understand. If you really look at the things that we have been interjecting over the years, interjecting as far as God is concerned the Sabbath is still Saturday. We worship on Sunday. But we cannot claim that we worship on the Sabbath. Over the years man has interjected that Christ died on Friday. And he declares that he spent three days and three nights just as Jonah spend three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, he will spend three days and three nights in the grave. It’s impossible for you to get three days and three nights if he died Good Friday. So things that man has introduced and so seduced generations that now has become normal and has been accepted these are things me as a preacher must highlight.
Q: Okay. So you’re talking about these things in relation to the aftermath of the storm then?
A: Yes. That now this is the time and this is the hour because we are getting so close to some drastic change. Because we are creatures of habits. And there are certain things that from a Muslim perspective they’re on the march. They’re on their mission. They are –take for instance the Muslim would say they are coming to America. They love America, right?
A: But does America know the ideology about Muslim? Do they know that if we said we are a nation under God, which God they serve? Do we know what they, when they call the West, what they call the West? Do you know what they call the West?
A: What’s the word they use to describe the West? Infidels. Do you know why they call the West an infidel? Okay. So guess what? Before the next five years we’re gonna wake up and find out exactly what the Muslims is all about.
A: Okay? And all the other races that—all the other religions that we are saying that this is going to be a land of free religion, it was not founded on free religion. It was founded on the Christian or the Judicial principles. That’s what this land was founded on. We have gotten to the stage where we have a lost truth. And because we have lost truth we will pay a dear price.
Q: Okay. But earlier we spoke a little bit about climate change in regards to was the storm provoked by climate change? Why are the storms happening? What can we do to prevent these storms from continuing to happen? In 2007 in New York City they had what was called a PLA, New York’s NYC. So it talked a lot about climate change mainly in terms of curbing emissions. Do you think now that after Sandy there’s going to be a shift from mitigation to adaptation?
A: No. We are creatures of habits. Despite of the situation I look on the car lots and I’m seeing more 8-cylinders SUVs on the road today than ever. There’s no one in New York City where there’s no hill that needs an SUV. So if you look at statistics how we are training ourselves, we are not training ourselves to change. The only change that will happen is when change is forced upon us.
A: So storms and disasters will come.
Q: Okay. These are just the last few questions here. And these are in regards to you as a resident of Zone A, because you said you were a resident of Zone A. It’s some things we may have touched upon a little bit earlier. But we could just overlap a little bit. So who are you interacting with from the government?
A: No one at this present moment.
Q: Okay. Any agencies that you’ve interacted with aside from the organization group that you mentioned, Respond and Rebuild but any particular agencies?
A: No. Monday I’m supposed to meet with some other clergy members and see what I can begin to see. But right now none.
Q: Okay. FEMA you were never—
A: FEMA I applied and tried my best but the amount of paperwork and all the different stuff that they were asking for, if I produce all the paperwork still my credit is not good enough. They have their what is called hedged, they hedge themselves in from a certain segment. And there is nothing that you can do to get on or around them.
Q: Okay. And was it Rapid Response to get access to them you would have had to have gone through FEMA, is that—
Q: Okay. So because earlier you said you really didn’t get any help from them.
A: Right, no.
Q: Okay. In the days after the storm how long did you expect the recovery to take?
A: I know after seeing it from experiencing floods in my country, I know it was bigger than what they were talking about because of the height of where the water came. So I knew it would be years. But there were a few things that I was looking for for instant results. And I didn’t see it. Such as just electricity or the knowledge or electricity. And information. Just what I want to do and what is required. That was basic. But the other things, I’m looking for comfort of rebuilding instantly, that was not in the equation at all for me.
Q: Okay. How long were you without power?
A: I didn’t get power in my home for, until the two weeks before the year end.
Q: The neighbors, same situation?
A: Some of my neighbors got power back. But most of us, especially around here didn’t get power until—and I never get power here really until January.
Q: Okay. How long do you think till things will kind of get back to normal around here? What are your expectations?
A: There will never be normalcy because what Sandy did, Sandy wiped out the good, the bad, and the indifference so it will never get back to normal. All my neighbors that I had that was Section 8 rentals, they’re all gone. So if they are gone I wouldn’t hear. The next set of people might curse a little different because they might bring back in instead of a thing they might bring back a foreigner to curse, I might not understand what he’s saying. So I don’t expect normalcy.
Q: Okay. Some people sometimes when they’re a disaster event they say that it reminds them of something that they’ve experienced before. Have you ever seen anything that’s comparable to your experiences from Sandy?
A: No. Not physically but in my dreams it does.
Q: Okay. But the floods that you had seen in the past, you said you’ve seen flooding in your country?
A: Not of this magnitude.
Q: Okay, okay.
A: Of course it really wasn’t really a flood. This what came for us was just a surge. Because just as the water came in within three hours it was gone.
Q: Okay. How were your needs met after the storm?
A: The immediate needs was met by family. Who were not affected by the storm. And then afterwards friends kicked in.
Q: Okay. What type of things did you need?
A: Everything. Because I didn’t have—everything went under. So you needed from food to warm things, you know? Blankets, sheets, stuff like that because everything was lost.
A: Uh-huh (yes.). By friends and family.
Q: Okay. Do you have what you need now?
Q: No. How about the family or community around? What would you say?
A: I would say no also. We have what is—we have what is needed to survive at this moment. But what we really need we don’t all of us doesn’t have it. And for instance like I need transportation, I don’t have it. I’m borrowing a friend’s truck now. My wife needed to go down the road. She borrowed it. Now I got to borrow a Respond and Rebuild truck to come back here to do work.
A: It’s tough.
Q: It’s inconvenient.
A: Yeah, it’s really tough.
Q: Okay. Which people or groups do you feel have been the most helpful?
A: For me personally Respond and Rebuild have been most helpful. I’m beginning to hear that one of the things that I’m learning about this storm as the knowledge and the information begin to get out that the people other than Breezy Point was affected. People are coming from just about everywhere now to our area. So things are beginning to move. There is no such thing as normalcy back again. But things are beginning to take shape in the Arverne area.
Q: Okay, okay. Which groups or people have been most unhelpful to you?
A: At this time I wouldn’t say this one or that one because I look at it from a different perspective. I look at it from as I tell you before I know I understand it from a black camp because why the black camp didn’t turn out first to volunteer because of their needs. And so I can’t say well the black folks because I’m seeing them now so it will really, it will be a lie. Or defacing. But if you live in a black camp then you will understand what was going on before the storm. They were barely getting by. And then when the storm hits they have to put all this burden on some other family that is somewhere else. So it makes it tough on the family to now volunteer to come out to help someone else and they have to help a family does there and then.
Q: Uh-huh (yes.).
A: Because if you know anything about the Rockaways and especially the Arverne area, we have a very large black population.
Q: Large black population. Okay. Has there been discussion of contamination in this area? We spoke a little bit earlier about flooding. You mentioned the asthma, molds, have there been any other talk about that?
A: I wouldn’t be able to say. I have not been in all the meetings because I was physically involved in rebuilding so I wouldn’t be able to say about that. If I say anything about that I will be only doing interjection and speculating, and I don’t want to speculate on that aspect because when you send the wrong vibes out it can feed into things that you don’t think. So I wouldn’t speculate on that one.
Q: Okay. All right. And the last question I have is Arverne seems to be an area that is when you come here you see some very distinct changes in the housing. There’s kind of some clear boundaries that divide certain housing areas from other areas. What do you see this area as or what do you predict, I guess, this area to be ten years down the road as far as it develops in the aftermath of the storm?
A: Ten years down the road if the proper planning and the proper things go into place, it will be the place to live in because if with the help of Mayer Bloomberg and his gang with the building of those houses that brought folks that make big income into the neighborhood. And if they finish up putting the ferry that is a little above the train trestle, and the people from all the way from Breezy Point can come down and the people all the way from the Rockaways can come up into the middle here, this would be a real striving community for money will be really beginning to circulate in this area. But as you note, there is no commerce in this neighborhood. And so everything that is happening here is almost it will if they don’t develop it right it will be like a tourist industry that the only way you can get money here is to bring it on.
Q: Is to bring it on.
A: Uh-huh (yes.).
Q: Do you think that the people that are here right now in this section of Arverne, do you think they’re in these plans?
A: What has happened over the years they had lied to everyone and the politicians find out and everyone finds out that they can lie. And the way that it’s done is they come in and they make these projections and these promises that we will get you involved. And once the wheel starts spinning they know exactly how to spin you out of the final process of what will be. And then they take it from there. So they come, take for instance when they were building the shopping area and so on that they all these things, even the YMCA that they’re building, they tell you all of it is for the neighborhood. But when you begin to do your history of what is projected and how much you need to pay to get into the YMCA you know that for a person who lives in the project or the person who is making $40,000 or less a year can’t get into the YMCA. So you know exactly who they’re building it for. They already done got their plans in place. So there are some things that they can lie and say we’re building it for the community. Yes, it is here, but it’s almost like when you see our Constitution, our Constitution states that all men is created equal. But here you’ll find the only time that black folks get equality now is all the way in the 21st Century before they started getting equal rights in some areas. But look how long that was on the books. The Constitution says that how many hundreds of years ago. So it’s almost the same principle. There are certain laws that they’re going to say and certain things they’re gonna do. But for you to see it manifest is going to be almost mission impossible.
Q: Okay. Do you see this coalition that you’ve kind of formed with Respond and Rebuild, do you see this as kind of a reaction to what’s going on in this area?
A: Not to what is going on in this area, but I see it’s a response of what is going on in the world. The younger generation is getting uneased with the inequality of what is going on. They are not satisfied with the rich getting richer, and the poor is getting poorer. They are not satisfied of being separated from their dreams. And no matter what they do now this generation they are seeing education and working 9:00 to 5:00 is not going to cut it. So with groups such as Sandy, not Occupy Wall Street, you will find that this according to whatever one thinks, they think that it’s a done deal and that they have gone to sleep and they are dead and gone. But the reason why things is happening now and the reason why it seems as though the country is going good is because there are still a few dollars in the air, in the atmosphere and you can still snatch it out. But within the next budget, next year’s federal budget, if they don’t solve those problems next year you will have a happy time moving forward. So you’re going to see this generation that is raising up they’re not going to be only politically correct, they’re not going to be intellectual correct, but they’re going to be a militant generation that see things the way things was shown to them. They were taught everything is right in my own sight as long as I’m rich. Or if I have the gold, or if I have the power and the money this is how it works. If I have the goal I make the rules and it becomes the golden rules. So now they are understanding how that principle operates. You have to have the goal, and then you can make the rules and then that becomes the principle rules. So they are about to change all of that. And folks are not—people are not creatures of change. No one likes change. Sandy came in and everyone would like to get back to normalcy. But things happen for change. And we don’t want to change. So that generation, that set of folks that is rich would—they’re not going to like this what is about to take place within the next three years. And onwards.
Q: That’s all I have. Thank you very much.
A: You’re welcome, sir.
Q: I appreciate it. Thank you.
[End of recording]
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