"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."
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"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."
"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."
"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."
" 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."
"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 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.""
"When I first started, I thought it was going to be a couple of weeks. Now it's more feeling it's going to be over a year at least. I'd like to see people getting back into their houses feeling more comfortable coming and getting the services that we're offering. But the numbers are increasing, not decreasing. And that's kind of eye opening...we are not back to normal and everyone thinks we are. They think that the storm is past and the damage should be over. And there's houses in this community that haven't even been touched yet. And there's, you know, people just starting the cleaning process. And it's six months later, so now they're tackling mold and mildew and a lot of other issues that we didn't think existed prior."
"Spaces where it was free reign, where the community could organize what it needed, as it needed, seem to create the opportunity for resiliency and health. Here with the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew, there with churches -- mostly churches and like a couple of businesses. I've never thought so well of churches. ... The thing that the churches gave to us was space to organize and assess our needs and then deliver upon them. And there are no other spaces like that, no other spaces like that."
"One of the things we've been starting to explore is helping to develop worker cooperatives because there are so many unemployed people with skills ... I'm really excited about the opportunity to give- to create jobs for people, to create a livelihood that doesn't involve the existing system and doesn't involve people being exploited by people, people making opportunities for themselves."
"And it was pretty frightening, because a disaster takes place and an inevitable outcome is that a lot of organizations that don’t normally communicate with each other are going to communicate with each other, which is abide by the nature of a disaster."
"So they went in, they opened the doors, people immediately came in to start charging their phones and figure out what was going on, and both people who were living in the neighborhood and in the houses came in, and then volunteers, who were I think literally biking around the neighborhood looking for a place to help, found our doors being open, and so pretty quickly people started cooking, dropping off supplies, different kinds of providers showed up, and because we had this physical space, and because we had a staff that was local, and because we had a social media presence, we were pretty quickly at the—at the center of a lot of different supply and demand."
"My job specifically was to deal with the email address that everyone emailed for questions. So I was working, like, from seven in the morning--I'm not kidding--seven in the morning to, like, two in the morning every night for two weeks. Like I didn't leave my house. …So the emails that were coming in were like anywhere from “how can I help” to “you guys aren't doing enough,” to [laughter]…to “I have a truck load of shit from Ohio; how can I get it to you?” But also we would get these frantic emails from people, like “my uncle's in a wheelchair on the twenty-fifth floor in Chinatown, and I'm worried about him, and I can't get down there because I have kids.'"