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After the Storm

It’s been three weeks since Sandy battered the East Coast, but relief is still badly needed. Here’s how to lend a hand in some of the hardest-hit areas.

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Sorting donations at St. Gertrude’s church in Rockaway Beach.  

Six Zones Urgently in Need

Red Hook:
Members of the loosely formed Occupy Wall Street movement have mobilized into a volunteer ­collective—one of the most effective to date. The group has set up distribution hubs at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew (520 Clinton Ave., nr. Fulton St., Clinton Hill) and at St. Jacobi Lutheran Church (5406 Fourth Ave., nr. 54th St., Sunset Park), where volunteers organize donations and cook hot meals. To get involved, just show up and sign up. Rebuilding stricken communities is the group’s primary long-term goal, so immediate needs include drywall, nail guns, extension cords, and crowbars; nonperishables for its recently established kitchen at 110 Wolcott Street (e-mail redhookrecovers@gmail.com for more information); and, of course, financial donations (interoccupy.net/occupysandy). Occupy Sandy’s Red Hook arm specifically has partnered with the Red Hook Initiative (rhicenter.org) on the outreach front; it’s requesting mops, buckets, face masks, shovels, goggles, and all-natural detergents for cleanup, as well as volunteers to canvas residences and housing ­projects—many of them still without heat or hot water.

Gerritsen Beach:
Rebooting household electrical systems is a main priority in this flooded Southeast Brooklyn neighborhood. BX electrical cables and 100-amp panels—available at Lowe’s or Home Depot—are key, but the greatest need here is for electric heaters. If you have anything else to donate (industrial-strength garbage bags, bleach, tarps, and mops are desired) or can volunteer prized electrical or plumbing skills, call Gerritsen Beach Volunteer Fire Department assistant chief Doreen Garson at 718-332-9292.

Coney Island:
Though there is a federal-aid trailer stationed near the amusement park, Kaiser Park (Neptune Ave. at 29th St.) is the area’s relief hub, overseeing distribution centers at the Surfside, O’Dwyer Gardens, and Coney Island housing projects. Unlike other Zone A neighborhoods, which are knee-deep in cleaning and demolition mode, Coney Island is still in the thick of its recovery effort. Power is inconsistent, and the majority of NYCHA buildings lack heat and hot water. Flooding and looting crippled most of the area’s bodegas, so canned goods, cleaning supplies, baby formula, and diapers are scarce. The most crucial hands-on need is for volunteers who can climb stairs and go door to door, delivering supplies (some elderly and handicapped people have been housebound for weeks). The newly formed People’s Relief (peoplesrelief.org) is telling the able-bodied to gather every day at 11 a.m. at Kaiser Park; ask to speak with a coordinator, and he or she will put you to work.

The Rockaways:
The Rockaway Relief page (facebook.com/rockawayrelief) is monitored by two sisters who catalogue various needs throughout the roughly twelve-mile area. On-the-ground volunteer efforts are being directed by another pair of sisters at a vacant lot on Beach 124th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard: Rockaway Help (@RockawayHelp) has partnered with veteran disaster-relief group Team Rubicon to allocate resources from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the week. Residents from Beach 100th to 149th Streets—the area in which the partnership operates—fill out online work-request forms, then volunteers, who sign liability waivers at the lot, are split into teams to complete the orders. As expected, electricians, carpenters, contractors, and plumbers are in high demand; general volunteers should expect to empty basements, shovel sand out of houses, and clear debris from demolished homes. Donations of cleaning supplies, work gloves, face masks, batteries, generators, gasoline, dehumidifiers, lumber, and more can be dropped off at St. Francis de Sales Church (219 Beach 129th St., nr. Newport Ave.) and Veggie Island (95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd., nr. Beach 96th St.).

Staten Island:
Based in St. Margaret Mary church (1128 Olympia Blvd., nr. Lincoln Ave.; sandy1128olympia@gmail.com) in hard-hit Midland Beach, another Occupy Sandy operation is transitioning from cleanup to demolition. Immediate priorities are electric and extension cords, bleach, propane (for outdoor heaters), gasoline, water pumps, crowbars, and wheelbarrows; just buy the stuff and take it straight to the church or to Occupy’s Clinton Hill or Sunset Park outposts. Specialized volunteers are also needed for legal and debt counseling.

Lower East Side:
Food insecurity, which was a problem in parts of the neighborhood before Sandy, continues to be a pressing issue. ­Resources at the Nazareth Housing pantry and shelter (206 E. 4th St., nr. Ave. A; 212-477-7017) have been stretched, so organizers are asking for canned greens and fruit, beans, pasta, peanut butter, and jelly. Volunteers—especially those who speak Chinese or Spanish—are needed to organize and sort donations. Recovers.org has also established a disaster-preparedness site for the Lower East Side (lowereastside.recovers.org), where community residents post their immediate needs and additional volunteer opportunities.


Three More Ways to Help

Offer Up Your Sofa:
Airbnb (airbnb.com), the site that connects travelers with locals in possession of an extra room or bed, has taken up the Sandy cause, offering a platform to those who’ll provide free shelter to displaced New Yorkers. Almost 600 residences have already been listed.

Go Shopping on Amazon:
Occupy Sandy has set up a gift registry through Amazon, with donation requests tailored to specific neighborhood needs. Instead of picking through your pantry for an old can of lima beans, log in to purchase items people actually need, like batteries, nail guns, and mini-tablets to download and complete FEMA forms. Roughly 26,000 products have been processed to date, and Occupy’s Clinton Hill outpost is handling delivery and distribution (@SandyRegistry).

Get Some Exercise:
The Pedal Brooklyn bike club posts relief rides a few times a week on its Facebook page (facebook.com/pedalbrooklyn), most of them concentrated on the Rockaway Peninsula. Groups of three comb the streets on bicycle, then report community needs (such as D batteries, toilet paper, and canned tuna) to organizers stationed at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. A bag for hauling is mandatory for volunteers, as bikers are encouraged to bring their own donations or ferry them down from Pedal partner Affinity Cycles (616 Grand St., nr. Leonard St., Williamsburg; 718-384-5181).

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