Over 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.
This building under renovation is on the corner opposite the food kitchen.
This house has been condemned and is just around the corner for the Hub.
This is the other side of that street.
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.
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
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
Or contact the Public Advocate’s office:
(212) 669-7250, 9am-5pm