One of the neighborhoods subjected to the most devastation by Hurricane Sandy is the Rockaways, in southern Queens. I rented a car and went to the Occupy Sandy Hub in Brooklyn to ferry supplies and volunteers. We loaded the car with food, diapers, cleaning supplies before heading out through the traffic and confusion. The Rockaways is a very long peninsula, spanning some 180 streets; many of the houses have been badly damaged by flooding; power remains out at most intersections; and the sand and detritus is everywhere. We drove slowly through the streets – slowed by emergency vehicles and construction equipment everywhere – and made our delivery at Inglesia Pentacostal Rehoboth.There was a gas station with no lines across the street, however I had rented a car with a license plate ending in zero (which counts as an even number in the current gas rationing system) and therefore was not supposed to have access to gas today. (The rule is odd number plates on odd number days). I thought about this and the fact there were not only no lines, but there were absolutely no cars either. It seemed like a good rule to break. I left my volunteers at the St. Gertrude Parish.
I returned to the Occupy Sandy hub for more supplies. I re-stocked with blankets, batteries and volunteers – three moderately hip 20-somethings from Brooklyn – and was directed out to Coney Island.
Coney Island, a geographical neighbor to the Rockaways and yet separated by many miles of roads and traffic, appears to be doing better than the Rockaways, but is still struggling with a lack of power and an excess of sand
and muck. We delivered food to a small apartment building, climbing the cold dark staircase, knocking on doors and doing our best to communicate with the mostly Russian inhabitants. I was brought into the apartment of an elderly Russian lady who showed me how she has cleaned up after the six inches of flood water. She didn’t need food or water. She had been provided with those. She needed her power to be turned back on. I couldn’t do that. We hugged instead.