Tonight we are having a blizzard. A “Nor’easter,” they call it. It’s a cold wet storm, but I have everything I need: heat, hot water, electricity, food, and people to share it with. Not so for many of the people still flattened by last week’s Hurricane Sandy.
My New York City of 2012 is not Broadway and the Met: we live deep in Brooklyn, and it’s preschool and pizza and park and playdates. I spend most of my time being a mom, and we take a lot from the different communities around us out here, and many of them were hit very, very hard. Both the diversions I’m about to describe, but more importantly, the people (and animals) who live there.
When my son remembers his early childhood, I imagine that he may mention the dinosaur museum on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, but he will definitely mention the amusement parks of Coney Island, along with the aquarium there.
He’ll cite the big beach we go to — Jacob Riis Park — in the Rockaways, in Queens.
What will probably come first, though, is our favorite grocery store on earth: Fairway in Red Hook, where we can (could) shop for pretty much anything I want, but also stop at the outdoor cafe-mid shop for a snack and a chance to play outside, exploring an ancient cable car, watching police boats, barges, tug boats, the Statue of Liberty, birds, all while breathing in fresh air and a bunch of nature’s blue — sky, water — and having a pretty good ham & cheese croissant, or lobster roll, or pastrami sandwich on Fairway-baked rye, with a side of fruit, coffee, chocolate milk.
It might be weird to admit that you live in the cultural capital of the world and that your favorite part is the cafe at your grocery store, but interview me or my 3 year old, and there you have it.
But what do these areas have in common, other than our love and loyalty, other than being waterfront, other than being destroyed by a Hurricane last week?
Lots and lots of NYCHA housing. That’s New York City Housing Authority. Forty five percent of NYCHA housing, in fact, is in low-lying hurricane evacuation zones. And it is full, on the best of days, of people without a lot of money, or resources, or hope.
We watched from afar, in horror, as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and seemed to leave the poor behind. Now, it is happening here, too. Some people chose to live in those areas, and for the losses and hardship they will endure for their homes, I am terribly sorry. Many others have no choice but to live in those areas. And people without youth or money are less able and likely than say, I am, to be able to prepare for a storm, whether that means evacuation, or getting the sorts of things ready that are necessary for long-term indoor camping. (I had to quietly hide from my husband the quantity of shelf-stabilized milk I bought in anticipation of Sandy. It’s just that I can’t breathe when I think about not having enough for my children. Don’t worry, it’s been redistributed; lately, I can’t breathe when I think about other people not having enough for their children.)
Last night, 60,000 homes and businesses that had just had power restored lost it again, and thousands and thousands of others did not yet have it restored. Things are bad. Things are bad. Things are bad. It is cold, it is wet, there is no food or light, I don’t know what else to say. I am going to link to a first-hand account of trying to help in Coney Island by a friend and neighbor. Meanwhile, there are tons of charitable efforts happening across the region — and Long Island and New Jersey have been similarly affected. People need warm clothes, food, and materials to clean up.
This link has ways to help, if you can find it in your heart or wallet or busy day to do so. In particular, Occupy Sandy and the Red Hook Initiative are supposed to be doing wonderful things. I can attest that they have both been working tirelessly for more than a week.
Or you could help the animals at the New York City Aquarium.
Thank you for reading.