"We started going door to door and kind of collecting as many volunteers as we could, especially who seemed like maybe they maybe had a little know-how with construction or something that would make them feel a little more at home and not completely a fish out of water in a disaster zone, and started talking to homeowners about what they needed to do to clean up and why for health reasons and for the integrity of their building and things like that."
Posts from the ‘Interviews’ Category
"When [canvasers] identified medical needs or homebound folks, they would give us a call and we would provide our own care to go climb the stairs and make house calls to folks. Checking on someone or going around making prescriptions. We evacuated some people to the hospital if people needed to go. The main concern when we got here was 'were people dying on the up on the 20th floor because there’s no one checking on them and they can’t get down?'"
"If you were someone who rented, or someone didn't have, who didn't work, or didn't have much, you were actually cared for, but if you actually did work, and you did, you know, have insurance, it seemed like things were, didn't necessarily work in your favor. So it's almost like, it really, it almost didn't pay to be a hard working person....because we were working, we actually lost assistance because we had flood insurance, we had homeowner's insurance, we worked, and it was because of all that, it seemed like we were limited to any assistance we could get."
"A lot of the homes were really like disaster zones and there was no one doing any kind of site safety checks and so the first thing we tried to do was go into homes before random volunteers went into them so that we could just make sure there were no oil spills, there was no natural gas fumes, there were no serious hazards beyond what you would normally see with water damage and just kind of build a relationship with the homeowner so that they weren’t in a situation where somebody came in and did half the job but then the volunteers weren’t coming back the next day and so leaving them hanging – like there was a system and we very quickly started keeping track of who we were working for, what they needed, what the sites were like, if there were any hazards, if the stairs were broken, you know. And then we noticed that nobody knew what to do about mold. We knew that mold was going to grow. We knew that we couldn’t use bleach to get rid of it. We knew people who had done that kind of work after Katrina and we knew what needed to happen. And so, that became our focus right away just because that’s actually a really serious public health issue and, you know, can really degrade the structural integrity of a home."
"It took two weeks for full earnest visibility from the government. The trailers started showing up and you saw FEMA in a larger way. They trickled in for sure but their ambitions and their plug into the community was not where I expected them to be. And their nimbleness is clearly not at all possible. So I would say in two weeks we finally saw some support where the first two weeks we were really battling it out as a team of volunteers. And some of the liaisons through the government were really real major government institutional support. What you also saw were people coming out of the woodwork with things that were very important. Like somebody in the community owned a warehouse near the neighborhood, instantly everyone got that information and sent everything that was coming in to that warehouse. So that became a warehouse station, the distribution spots, the churches started coming online as distribution sites happily. And so those things were all in place with volunteers and private help which is a great feeling but it wasn’t a great feeling when two weeks later the ambulances finally show up to the public housing. And we had already created a popup medical clinic in one of our locations that were servicing 200 plus home bound senior citizens and non senior citizens but mostly senior citizens. And we were doing this all within our own means."
"So the storm happened because what God is saying to us he’s making 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 nowhere 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 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."
"Just walking and seeing everybody in the same situation. Everybody had backpacks on like big, big backpacks, big jackets, everyone was doing what they could but, I mean, the sad part it's -- I think it was six hours walking, the sad part was just how exhausted everyone was. And it wasn't like a desperate exhaustion, it was just like, uh, so much shit to do. But the positive -- everyone came together, man. Rockaway is a resilient old place... It was like all right, let's go do so and so's basement and then everyone go there, get that basement done. And the next day, all right, what are we doing tomorrow? All right, we'll do so and so's basement. It was everyone trying to do what they can for everyone."
"We want to work with the same homeowners through the whole process as far as we can go. And right now, it takes us as far as pumping a basement, mucking it out, which is removal of furniture and soggy personal items, gutting demolition, which is removal of building components, and then mold removal, which is scrubbing out mold. And we are rebuilding in some cases. But we really don't have the funds or the capacity to do that right now. And going over our numbers, we have worked with the same homeowners through a lot of these jobs. We formed pretty good relationships with these homeowners. One thing I've noticed is people get kind of sick of all these different people coming through and, you know, taking data, then they never hear anything back from them. We all just wanted to avoid that because it's annoying."
"Volunteers would say, 'oh, she doesn't need that much stuff. People are lying to get more stuff and hoard it,' which is upsetting to see, especially because in the beginning, there were more donations than we could have ever given away. But pretty quickly sort of all these internal politics and--- maybe what I would think of as fear of people who are poor or fear of people who need stuff, you know? That was all coming out and being expressed in ways that weren't great by volunteers. So it's hard to talk to people in their apartments and feel like we didn't have the capacity to bring them things, but also knowing that they were going to come and have to wait in a line that you would not want anybody to have to wait in."
"Well I’m not particularly close to anyone in my building even though I’ve been here 12 years there’s one woman who lives across from me who I consider like a mother. I look out for her but when the storm happened we started looking out for each other. We were like what do you need, you need water, you need this, whatever we had somebody could have. I was giving people money, I saw people who lived on the first floor, if I had an extra $5 or $10 I’d give it to them, they needed something to eat I would give it to them because I had money so I didn’t mind."
"You know, to be subjected to silly questions, how high was the water, you know, has do you have flood insurance, knowing full well that's it a not flood area. No one has flood insurance. To me those things are ridiculous and it makes you feel helpless because A, this is the government that you're paying money into, and it's not free, you know. I'm a happy payer. I'm paying into this. I paid, you know, federal taxes, state taxes, city taxes, yada yada yada, and when it's time for me to actually get aid, well, the government I have to answer 20 million questions, you know, I've done something as if the storm is my fault."
" It felt really kind of there was this huge potential for change that I hadn’t felt since Occupy Wall Street so it was exciting as much as it was overwhelming and really sad and difficult. It was just like this could be our moment to really change the dialogue in New York around issues of climate justice and affordable housing and public housing and all of these different things that I’ve been thinking about and my friends have been thinking about for years but now it’s like on everyone’s mind how inadequate NYCHA is, how inadequate our utilities are, all these things. So it was a big moment in that way also."
"Responding to people in need was exactly the calling of Occupy Wall Street-- to be the first people on the ground in our communities to stand up and say we’re not waiting for FEMA, we’re not waiting for the mayor’s office, we’re not waiting for the Red Cross or for Wall Street or for anybody to come and save us. The cavalry isn’t coming, the cavalry is us. And so we immediately put out the call and there wasn’t an infrastructure formally in place to receive that volunteerism, to receive that support so we built it on the spot. I mean literally three days I spent trapped in my room, I didn’t leave, I didn’t sleep much at all I just sat by my computer and frantically built websites and Google voice accounts and communicated with disaster relief experts and countless phone calls to organizers on the ground who were driving around in trucks and the Rockaways, we pay accounts and just a flurry of infrastructure, online infrastructure and offline too that we were setting up. And it happened organically because we didn’t descend on communities, we emerged from within them and these are our neighbors, these are our friends, these are our family members."
"Here, there were people bringing food every day, I can’t complain. Here there is everything for those that are poor. I don’t usually take anything. Here in America everything is good and the consideration is extraordinary. In America this is always the case. This would never have been the case in Ukraine. The degree of humanitarian care and consideration towards people is incomparable. There was no regard or respect towards elder people in Ukraine. Here I have an apartment. Here there are opportunities and resources available to those who work and put in the effort."
"The data was not looking good— a lot of it hadn’t been digitized.A lot of the way data was collected, various formats, various granularities, it wasn’t standardized, so even in common boxes you could have somebody putting somebody’s phone number. And, you know, that type of information is sensitive. Maybe it’s not necessarily a security issue, but you know it can certainly be sensitive. We’re actually meeting on Monday to look at some of the data. I think we’re just going to make sure every single record has nothing personally identifiable and then we’ll post it and make it public."
"And then you take a look at something like the South Ferry Subway Station, which was built for $540 million and opened in 2009 or 2010 and it flooded floor to ceiling like a fish tank. So, how do we prevent against that in the future and how do we make it more resilient?"
" I can’t see any problems. I mean, you have to find people who lives on the first floor. Because that’s what they have really problems, you know because my gentleman he lives on the 6th floor and the lady lives on the-- I don’t, she lives on the second floor. They didn’t suffer a lot. But her friend, she’s 91 or 92 she lives on the first floor, she was flooded, I don’t know how she didn’t have powder dust, you know."
"As a result of the hurricane we had cracks in the walls. FEMA didn’t pay too much attention to that, they said it’s personal, but it’s Projects here so they (management of building) need to take care of it and FEMA isn’t responsible. And we were registered and my daughter signed us up."
"And then I was asked what can I do and they had orientation so I went -- there’s this one guy that was there that told us if you’re going to go out into the field this is the way you should behave because these people where they live has been destroyed and be considerate and think about them and don’t take pictures, be considerate this is their space, you’re coming there to help them not -- it’s what do they need you know? Not like what you want to do. Yeah it was pretty cool. One guy from comms came down and said to my group of people that I was going through the orientation with and he said "does anybody here have a cell phone or a laptop" and I said "I have a cell phone" and he’s like "can you come with me we need someone to answer the hotline.""