Architecture for humanity NY has been overwhelmed and excited by the large number of volunteers who want to help with our efforts to rebuild and renew our communities. On Wednesday we held our first field orientation and set up teams who went out to Breezy Point, Coney Island, Sea Gate, Tottenville, and Hoboken over weekend to start assessing need and collecting stories about each community.
The Breezy Point, Queens, team was able to visually survey 252 properties, but due to the overwhelming destruction, most residents were reluctant to take time to talk to the teams at this time. They were busy cleaning debris from their property and only has some much daylight and time on the weekends and are not open to stop and spend time doing a survey and speaking with non-immediate help. Everyone the team met said "Hi" and are interested in talking to us or filling out the surveys at a later time. The storm affected ever home in Breezy Point, either by flooding, fire or both and many home have not been inspected by government agencies yet.
The overall emotional and physical damage throughout the Coney Island and Sea Gate, Brooklyn communities from Hurricane Sandy was and remains severe.The team walked most of the blocks on Coney and Sea Gate and completed 24 assessments. It was apparent to the team that While most homes and businesses on Coney Island remain structurally intact, all the buildings visited by the team will have to have extensive repairs ranging from demolishing of all first floor and basement interior walls and floors, due to fast growing mold within the cavities, to repair and/or replacement of entire mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems that were destroyed by being flooded with sea water. Most of the homes in Sea Gate along the ocean side of the peninsula fared far worse, with exterior walls missing from many of them and debris, ranging from large blocks of dislodged concrete foundations to a single shoe, littering the shore. The team could really feel how raw and tender the situation still is with many people feeling anger, frustration and despair about their losses and the process of dealing with insurance companies and FEMA. People who came back to their homes after evacuating found that all of their belongings, some with tremendous sentimental value, had been destroyed by the rising water and the soot that came with it. After three weeks, some residents still do not have the basic amenities of electricity, heat, and gas. The streets are still dark in certain areas with dozens of police officers patrolling through the night and most of the businesses along the main streets are closed. However, most of the residents that the team spoke with are positive about the communities ability to band together to recover, the clean up, and emergency relief efforts of organizations such as The Red Cross.
In Tottenville, Staten Island the group focused its fieldwork on the residential southern area, bounded by Hylan Boulevard to the north, Sprague Avenue to the east, Surf Avenue to the south and Massachusetts Street to the west. Extensive parkland borders the community to the southwest and served as a buffer to the storm surge. The shorefront block of Yetman Avenue experienced the most extreme destruction, with only the foundations remaining from a few homes. Other homes there had multiple walls missing. North of Biltop Avenue, the homes saw less damage with basement flooding being the primary concern along with power restoration. Residents cited community support and cohesion along with an extensive volunteer response from across the city and nation as vital factors in their initial ability to clean up after the storm. That many homes uphill from the shoreline were largely spared the impact of the storm apparently allowed those unaffected neighbors to more easily help those with losses. Private contractors were also seen assisting some homeowners with rehabilitation work. In some cases, income disparity was cited as a reason that some homeowners had been able to mount a more robust renovation effort than their neighbors. Residents noted that certain city departments such as sanitation and fire have been effective in the storm’s aftermath. Extensive help from local elected officials was also mentioned. FEMA assistance in obtaining temporary shelter was cited positively. Residents were generally very amenable to the team’s outreach. 10 assessments were completed on-site with additional distribution of forms for possible future contact.
The Hoboken, New Jersey team was able to walk most of the community and visually survey the damage.. Most of which affected basements and some cases the first floors. Most of the flooding was located in a 10 x 4 block area from 7th North to 14th and Garden to Monroe. There was some damage to the waterfront docks but it was minimal. The Hoboken train station and path station underwent water damage. While New Jersey transit is still running from the station, many parts of the train station are not usable at this time. The PATH is not estimated to be running from Hoboken for another 2-3 months. One local resident and business owner suffered 6' of water. They had already begun reconstruction and estimated to reopen in early December. It was mentioned that insurance does not cover any contents basements of residences or business. Residents and business owner are discussing installing a generator to run pumps for the whole block since the power went out the pumps in there basements failed to move the water out during the storm. Lastly Verizon has been working around the clock to restore phone and Internet to Hoboken which can take a few days to a few weeks depending on the extent of the damage.
Over the coming weeks we will continue to provide orientations and set teams up to head into the field in other affected neighborhoods. Architecture for Humanity NY will be doing our second orientation and team building the week after Thanksgiving. The time and location information will be posted to the Chapter Network in the coming days and via email for those who have signed up. Volunteers who have a vehicle and can drive to some of the more remote areas are vital to our efforts. When you RSVP for an orientation, please let us know if you are willing to provide transportation for you team and your neighborhood of origin.
These are just the first steps to long term recovery and we will need all of your support and time to make this successful. The information collected through Architecture for Humanity NY will provide important information for the organization to rebuild restore and renew. As we move ahead we will continue to update you on the latest volunteers opportunities and progress of the project. If your office is willing to sponsor a day of volunteering or provide transportation for volunteers, please let us know.
Thank you again for your unending support and desire to help, volunteers are what makes Architecture for Humanity NY so successful. We hope to see you at our next field orientation!
The Architecture for Humanity NY Board of Directors
Jennifer Dunn, Managing Director
Laura Carter, Director of Communications
Mehonaz Kazi, Director of Projects
Franchesca Lugo, Director of Events
Mishelle Oun, Director of Development
John Pierce, Director of Membership
Xochitl Parada, Director of Records
Rachel Starobinsky, Director of Outreach & Advocacy