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Thursday we will be riding into Cedar Grove in Staten Island with supplies and the arriving military tents. The community at Cedar Grove is in high spirits given the circumstances, most of which I’m sure was influenced by the amazing bike club the “hollowed sons,” who have been there since the day of the hurricane. After getting to know many of them and talking to them, I came to realize heir intentions, which weren’t very different from our own. These are our brothers, our sisters, our family, and we can’t sit around and wait for government agencies like FEMA and the Red Cross to get their shit together, if we did everyone would be in an even worse position. Don’t be fooled America, while you may see FEMA and the Red Cross on the news, they are not doing a damn thing. For example, the VP of the bike club was telling me how on the 3rd day after, they showed up and went straight to where media was filming people helping move things. Two FEMA officials were quickly put in the spot light to make it look like they were doing something, the camera went off, and the two FEMA officials went back to their relief tent, which by the way was more than a mile away from where the help was needed. When asking locals about the Red Cross, all I kept hearing is how the only thing they were doing was walking around with a clipboard being extremely rude.
My own experience with the military out here… While most of us are helping unload and load supplies, doing clean up and many other things, they can be seen sitting on their asses about 50ft away doing nothing. So again please don’t be fooled by the media. I was also told about a collective of EMTs that were discussing how many people they had found dead, and how the numbers they had between them was about four times as many as what they are reporting to the public through the media. Absolutely disgusting, but not surprising. If anyone is looking to get out to Cedar Grove in New Dorp please contact me because no community should be forgotten. As for the Occupy presence in Cedar Grove specifically, there have been 5 of us. I understand that many of us are in Brooklyn and other places, but if there are 50 of us in the Rockaways and 5 in Cedar Grove that’s a problem considering the equal amount of loss among the heaviest hit of communities.
New Dorp Beach, NY–Went down to crossroads church in New Dorp Staten Island with cleaning supplies. There was a sign saying to just head down to the beach and help out directly. Since I don’t know the area at all, being from New Jersey, I just drove through the neighborhood and went door to door with supplies. Everyone was so grateful for everything and appreciated any help they were getting. Received many handshakes, a few hugs and a ton of “God Bless.” There is so much work to do and they still need lots more help. They want to know they’re not being forgotten and that the occupy teams are making a difference.
New York, NY–My friend and I desperately wanted to get out and help in the Rockaways or Staten Island, but no one we knew had a car with gas. We decided to rent a car in Manhattan, drive to the Occupy Sandy hub and pick up more volunteers, and continue on to help. We picked up 3 extra volunteers and headed to what we thought was the Rockaways. A bad input on GPS sent us over the Verrazzano, so we quickly searched for opportunities on Staten Island. An occupy posting led us to a distribution center, who gave us a new address on Cuba Avenue. Here, several savvy 20-somethings were working like crazy in someone’s front yard to organize dozens of volunteers that were arriving, looking to help. I don’t know how they organized, or where the volunteers were coming from. But they were working frantically to help the community and keep everyone busy: sign in, get gloves, have a muffin, get your address, and get to work. And we were briefed in true Staten Island fashion: “Some people may say no at first. But they need your fucking help. They’ve got to clean up their shit, and you’re here to help them. So don’t fucking take no for an answer. (pause) But say it nicely.”
From there, our team helped a few families clean out their basements–families that days later were still clearly in shock with what had happened. They took our help immediately and gratefully. People were heartbroken but strong.
At the end of the tasks, they realized how much work got done with 10 pairs of hands instead of their own, and they couldn’t believe it. “How do you all know each other?” “We don’t.” I think that was one of the most surprising things to those we helped–that 10 strangers with a common goal of just helping people could work seamlessly to get a job done.
By the early afternoon, there were so many people in Staten Island that there wasn’t much to be done. The team on Cuba Avenue had organized the cleaning of over 50 homes in their neighborhood that morning. It wasn’t a lot, but collectively, hundreds of people helped a neighborhood clean up. Kudos to the team on Cuba Avenue who brought everyone together to make it happen.
New York, NY–Today I went to Staten Island to photograph the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The devastation was completely unimaginable, yet the folks who were stepping up to help out were completely inspiring. Seeing these people suffer makes my heart hurt in ways I never thought possible. I wish there was a way I could help every single one of them, but I know that is not possible. Instead, I will share some of the photos I captured in order to get their story out there, and to help others at least begin to understand what they’re dealing with. Hopefully those of you who have the ability to help, will do so – whether that means putting on your boots and gloves and grabbing a shovel to help them clean up, or donating money for supplies. If you wish to help these folks in Staten Island, check out StatenIsland.recovers.org.