Tag Archive: Staten Island

Dec 16 2015

It Rained Debris: Remembering 55 Years Ago

I wrote this article five years ago. Today is the 55th anniversary of this plane crash. Time has not dulled the memory of that day I was on my way to class at my high school, shortly after 10 AM. It was a cold, nasty NYC day and was snowing lightly. I was at Clawson …

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Dec 03 2012

Rescuing the Volunteers of Hurricane Sandy

Aimen Youseff's Community Aid, Midland BeachOver a month, New York City is still reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many people are still without power, heat and far too many without a place to live. Volunteers are still needed in the hardest hit areas of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The last thing that the residents of these neighborhoods need is the heavy handed control tactics of Mayor Michael Bloomberg who likes to maintain the illusion that everything is going well and no more help is needed. Now all he needs is $32 billion in federal aid to repair Manhattan’s damaged infrastructure and expand the subway system, not protect it.

After reading the reports that the mayor was threatening to stop volunteers from distributing supplies and serving hot meals that were posted here, Docudharma and Daily Kos by ek hornbeck, I went to Midland Beach to spend a couple of hours talking to the people and walking around the area. Despite the destruction, the dwindling interest of the city to help clean up and frusrations, the attitude is perseverance and determination to rebuild and stay in their home community.

The one person I really wanted to meet was Aiman Youssef, whose home was destroyed, but instead of seeking refuge elsewhere he remained to set up a distribution hub on his property on Midland Ave. With the help of friends, neighbors and community volunteers they are offering cleaning supplies and equipment (mobs, buckets, crowbars, bleach), clothing, medical supplies and non-perishable food. I spoke with Mr. Youseff and his merry band of volunteers who call themselves the “Yellow Team” and say they are here for the duration. This is their home. They have set up a facebook page and aligned with Occupy Sandy, the offshoot of Occupy Wall St that is coordinating Sandy relief efforts through out the city.

There is an outdoor kitchen under a canopy that serves free hot food and coffee that’s located in a driveway. All of the tables are neatly stacked with the free for the taking supplies, extending along the curb side from in front of Mr. Youseff’s home for half a block in front of LaRocca’s Family Restaurant. The street and the side walk are cleaned up by the volunteers. One of the volunteers told me that they are being very careful since the city’s threat to shut the Hub, as it’s called, down for safety reasons. There is still a large police presence in the neighborhood and most likely will be for sometime to come.

The local NBC News interviewed Mr. Youseff about the lack of information and growing frustration with the city

View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.

It’s amazing that the city would be so concerned about the safety of the Hub when the streets in the area are still littered with piles of debris in front of homes that not only block the sidewalk but spill into the street. Driving and walking down narrow one way streets is hard enough with the vehicles of volunteer workers and pick up trucks but add broken glass, boards with rusting nails sticking out, household appliances, and moldy, rotting furnishing and there is the real safety hazard.

This house is next to another food kitchen across from the Yellow Team Hub.

Uncollected Debris next to Food Kitchen, Midland Beach

This building under renovation is on the corner opposite the food kitchen.

Debris next to Food Kitchen, Midland Beach

This house has been condemned and is just around the corner for the Hub.

Debris in front of condemned home, Midland Beach

This is the other side of that street.

Side Street & uncollected debris, Midland Beach

Residents were telling me that this has been like this for weeks and the piles grow daily. Where is the city? I was there nearly 2 hours talking to some very frustrated people who had no kind words for the mayor. During all that time, I didn’t see one sanitation truck. Yes, it’s Sunday but this is a disaster area and clean up here should be a 24/7 job. There is no excuse. The dime is on FEMA.

These are not wealthy people. They are blue collar workers. Some own and operate businesses out of their homes; some work for the city. They own; they rent. Many have lived here all their lives, while others moved here because Staten Island is unique. We have deer and zebras.

All is not gloom, there is laughter and smiles and dreams of a better future for Midland Beach. The Yellow Team is even looking forward to the holidays and put up a Christmas Tree. My picture didn’t come out, so here;s one from the team’s facebook page.

Dreaming of Yellow Christmas

Those wishing to volunteer or donate non-perishable food, diapers, personal care items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap), cleaning supplies (especially bleach) or even (ahem) money, you can contact Mr Youseff or Hannah, the Yellow team coordinator here

Demand the Mayor’s office end community hub eviction and instead support hubs with space and equipment  by writing, calling, faxing or e-mailing:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

City Hall

New York, NY 10007

PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)

E-MAIL:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html

Or contact the Public Advocate’s office:

   (212) 669-7250, 9am-5pm

   GetHelp@pubadvocate.nyc.gov

Nov 07 2012

Insult to Injury: Nor’easter hits NY, NJ & CT

11/7/12 NortheasterWith thousands still without electricity or even homes, the east coast from  is being hammered with a northeaster that is bring rain, sleet, snow, plummeting temperatures, high winds and warnings of coastal flooding.

This was a storm with no name but another huge, impossible-to-miss footprint on the weather maps. Its white swirl was smaller than the hurricane’s but still looked ferocious, and it promised to be tenacious, with a chilly brew of rain and wet snow. Road crews feared it would bring annoying slush and, later on, treacherous ice to hard-luck places where debris from the hurricane was still being cleared away. [..]

Gov. Chris Christie warned that the northeaster could set back the recovery effort. He said that many people could lose electricity again.

“I can see us actually moving backwards,” Mr. Christie said at a news conference at a firehouse on Long Beach Island, the barrier island that suffered some of the heaviest damage in last week’s storm. Long Beach Island had been reopened to residents, but the governor said he was cutting off access again.

Mr. Christie said that 369,000 homes in the state were still without power, down from a peak of 2.76 million. Consolidated Edison said early Wednesday that about 79,000 customers were still in the dark, including 15,000 in Brooklyn, 13,000 in Queens and 41,000 in Westchester County.

Staten Island still has 3,205 “customers” without power and high winds are expected to take down more overhead lines. As with Sandy, coastal flooding is expected:

As happened with the Halloween hurricane, this nor’easter will begin doing its work here just as today’s afternoon tide comes in on Staten Island. High tide in The Narrows, measured at Fort Wadsworth, is at 1:24 p.m. That could mean wind-driven tidal surges 3 to 4 feet above normal high-tide levels in some areas – plenty to further damage already compromised low-lying coastal areas.

On Staten Island, those storm surges are expected to be around 2 feet above normal. [..]

According to (Brian) Edwards, (a meteorologist with AccuWeather), “A north to northeasterly wind means that the most significant coastal flooding will occur along the coast of Delaware, central to northern New Jersey, the western end of the north shore of Long Island, N.Y. and eastern Massachusetts.”

He said the worst of the coastal flooding and strongest winds are expected during two phases on Wednesday. The two times that are of utmost concern across the region are during high tide Wednesday afternoon and a second high tide late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning.

Evacuations have been ordered in New York and New Jersey:

After Sandy killed 40 people in New York City, Bloomberg ordered evacuations of low-lying, hard-hit areas such as the Rockaways section of Queens and the south shore of Staten Island. Residents of at least two coastal New Jersey towns were also told to leave.

While FEMA said it was working with state and local authorities and was “ready to deploy additional resources if needed to respond to the Nor’easter,” the [FEMA centers were closed today “due to the weather”]:

They fly into disaster areas, but flee from raindrops.

FEMA disaster recovery centers in Hurricane Sandy-ravaged sections of the city that were supposed to provide assistance to hurricane victims went MIA Wednesday morning, posting signs saying that they were closed due to the approaching Nor’easter.

The temporary shuttering of the facilities, which help victims register for disaster relief, as well as city food distribution centers come even as many of those still reeling from the monster storm were not told that they had to leave the battered areas.

Nov 03 2012

In the Middle of the Night

Relief Reaching Staten Island

We are still in disaster mode.  

Nov 02 2012

Staten Island, NYC’s Forgotten Borough

This is where I live and work. I have spent most of my life training for, and dealing with, disasters around the world. Little did I ever expect to be in the middle of one in my own backyard. I am here for my family, my neighbors, my community and my first home city. I am here to try to make order out of chaos, to heal, comfort and console, starting with one life at a time.

As most of New York City inches toward normality, it’s becoming clear the scale of devastation is particularly bad in one part of the city: Staten Island.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has confirmed that least 37 New Yorkers died as a result of Hurricane Sandy-19 on Staten Island alone. Days after the superstorm slammed through the region-leaving a trail of destruction, power outages and flooding its wake-residents of Staten Island accused government agencies of responding much slower to their plight than to that of wealthier parts of the city. Many Staten Islanders are currently without electricity.

Despite being bigger than some of America’s biggest cities, like Boston and San Francisco, Staten Island is often overshadowed by its sister boroughs Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell shined a light on this quieter part of New York City in Thursday’s Rewrite segment on The Last Word:

   To see Staten Island-all of it-would be to rewrite your understanding of New York City. It is the place in New York City where wild deer run across roadways. It is not the New York you know. It is a place apart from New York City, five miles over the water on the ferry from Manhattan-and, in many ways, it might as well be a world away. Staten Island has almost everything that the rest of New York City has except skyscrapers. But it has much more.

   Wherever you live in America, Staten Island has a street that looks like a street in your town. Rich-looking, suburban streets with mansions, small town streets with handsome, humble homes that families hold onto for generations. If you got lost in the middle of the island, you could be in a spot that you might mistake for Vermont or West Virginia. It is America’s biggest small town.

I have sporadic internet connection and I’m connecting now through an satellite connection, as I was in Haiti and Gaza. I have taken to using Skype to connect with my family, friends and colleagues because cell service has been anywhere from nonexistent to barely useable it all depends on if you’re in an area where you have power and cell sites.

I’ve had a few flashbacks but I have a lot of good support in this boat. Just don’t anyone stand up and rock it, we would be hard pressed to deal with a capsize.

Thanks to Lawrence O’Donnell for telling the nation about our “little” island in the heart of New York City.

Dec 16 2010

It Rained Debris: Remembering 50 Years Ago

I was on my way to class at my high school, shortly after 10 AM. It was a cold, nasty NYC day and was snowing lightly.

I was at Clawson St. and New Dorp Lane waiting to cross and looking up at the gray sky. I saw a bright flash and a few minutes later the sky was raining debris and bodies. There was a loud screeching noise and a thunderous explosion. A lady from one of the houses saw me frozen by the tree on her front lawn and pulled me into her house. She was frantically calling for help. There were sirens everywhere.

For a about an hour I sat in this lady’s kitchen, drinking hot cocoa she had made me, listening to the radio and the sirens that went on forever. The debris had stopped falling and we went outside and there was an icy light rain. There was stuff everywhere, plane parts, clothing. I didn’t look too close.

The lady asked if she could call my parents to come and get me but I knew no one was home. I was going to go to class but since my teachers were already used to my absences, I decided to walk towards all the sirens. I headed towards Miller Field, which was a tiny air field then part of the active Army base at Ft. Wadsworth and were all the crash activity was. It was amazingly easy to get near. I suppose the police were really stretched thin. The Intersection of New Dorp Lane and Hylan Bl. was blocked off but it wasn’t hard to cut through side streets and yards to get close.

What I saw will stick in my mind forever, as it did last night, on the 50th anniversary of the terrible plane collision over Staten Island that took the lives of 134 people. The second plane crashed in a densely populated section of Park Slope, Brooklyn at 7th Ave, and Sterling St that killed 6 people on the ground, destroyed a church and 10 other buildings, heavily damaging several others. The church was the Pillar of Fire. The fires burned for three days.

There was one survivor at the Brooklyn site, an 11 year old boy, Stephen Lambert Baltz. He was coming from Chicago to visit his mother and sister for the holidays. He died the next day. He would be 60 now.

There are no markers or memorials at either crash site. The Park Slope neighborhood has been rebuilt. There is an apartment building where the church was. At Miller Field, which is now part of the Gateway National Recreation Park, most of thee original buildings and hangers, where the bodies and some of the plane parts were taken, are gone. There is a new high school at the end of the field that replaced the school where I was headed that day but no markers or reminders of that horrendous scene.

As I walked away and back towards home, I started noticing the debris, something I hadn’t done in my curiosity to get to the site. There were packages and boxes mixed in with unidentifiable plane parts. I don’t remember seeing any bodies other than the ones I had seen at Miller Field. It was dark when I got home and I remember how warm the house felt and how cold and hungry I was. My grandmother had dinner started but I grabbed a cookie and some milk anyway because my stomach was in a knot. It was easy to do because my grand mother was very hard of hearing and most of the time didn’t care much for what I did. Usually, no one ever asked me about my day, except that night my Aunt, who  worked in downtown Brooklyn, mentioned the chaos and how it made her miss her usual ferry. I said that I knew about it and that was when my Dad asked if I was OK. Not if I had seen anything, but just if I was OK. I said I was but that I was tired because I walked home, there was no bus and it was faster. Dad looked at me and said, “three miles”. I’m not sure if it was a statement or just rhetorical question, that was Dad’s way. I went up to my room and did some reading, listening to the radio, WABC, for awhile. I can’t remember if I slept. I know I was warm but still felt the cold.

On my way to school the next day, I passed a Catholic Church, Our Lady Queen of Peace. I was raised Jewish and by 13 I was pretty much agnostic, but my grandmother was Catholic. There were lots of people inside praying. I lit a candle, dropped a dime in the collection box and said the Sh’ma.  

It’s 50 years and I have seen far worse since then in my line of work but that day, today, was yesterday, forever. Blessed Be.