Walk A Mile in Our Shoes: 17 Months After Sandy

On March 29th, 2014, 17 months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the East Coast, many New York City residents have not received the help they need, despite the government promising assistance through various programs. Sandy survivors in Staten Island marched to demand the help needed to get them back into their homes.

Spectra Pipeline Construction in Staten Island Wetlands

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Yesterday, I visited the site where crews have already begun working on the Spectra Pipeline in Staten Island, NY. Richard Lynch, a Staten Island resident and environmental activist, gave me a bit of insight as to why the pipeline will be so destructive for this area:

“The site we visited yesterday is called the Old Place Creek wetlands and is owned by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC, NASCAR). It is about 700 acres (the size of Central Park) and contains many rare and endangered species of animals and birds. White-tail Deer, Coyotes, Red Fox, River Otters, Mute Swan, Bitterns, Moor hens, and any other species live on the site. A newly-discoverd species of frog has been found there and is critically-endangered. The maritime Oak Forest that grows there has found no other place and the clay bluffs they grow on were used by native Lenape people for thousands of years. The Spectra pipeline is being installed during the breeding season for migrating birds and likely is destroying many of their nests. Once buried, the pipeline right of way will be maintained as a mowed strip, permanently destroying the wetlands that are there now.”

Click here for more info on the Spectra Pipeline.

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Staten Island – 1/26/13

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Photos from Hurricane Sandy aftermath in Staten Island yesterday. Almost three months have passed since the hurricane, yet many people are will not getting the help they need, and some are still without heat, running water, and/or electricity.

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Click here to find out how you can help with Hurricane Sandy relief.

A Look Back on Hurricane Sandy

November 5th, 2012: My friend Giles taking a photo of a home that was destroyed in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

I have spent the last three months photographing Hurricane Sandy aftermath as much as I can. Below I posted one photo from each day I went out to cover it:

October 28th, 2012: A deserted subway station in Harlem after the subway system was shutdown.

October 28th, 2012: A deserted subway station in Harlem after the subway system was shutdown.

October 29th, 2012: Water rushing over my feet in Batter Park during the hurricane.

October 29th, 2012: Water rushing over my feet in Battery Park during the hurricane.

October 30th, 2012: Looking through the window of a store on Avenue C in Manhattan that had flooded during the hurricane.

October 30th, 2012: Looking through the window of a store on Avenue C in Manhattan that had flooded during the hurricane.

October 31st, 2012: Water coming out of a fire hydrant in Chinatown. Residents in the area who were without running water had been using it to fill up buckets of water.

October 31st, 2012: Water coming out of a fire hydrant in Chinatown. Residents in the area who were without running water had been using it to fill up buckets of water.

November 1st, 2012: A lone street vendor on a dark block in lower Manhattan.

November 1st, 2012: A lone street vendor on a dark block in lower Manhattan.

November 2nd, 2012: The National Guard stationed in Chinatown, NYC, where they were giving out food and water to residents in the area.

November 2nd, 2012: The National Guard stationed in Chinatown, NYC, where they were giving out food and water to residents in the area.

November 3rd, 2012: A rose and a note left on a car in Staten Island that belonged to a woman who abandoned the car after it was overtaken by flood water during Hurricane Sandy. She had her two sons with her - 2 and 4 years old - and they were ripped from her arms by the rising water and drowned. The note says: "As a mother of two babies, my heart goes out to you and your family. Your angle babies are watching over you. - Christina and the SI Urban Park Rangers"

November 3rd, 2012: A rose and a note left on a car in Staten Island that belonged to a woman who abandoned the car after it was overtaken by flood water during Hurricane Sandy. She had her two sons with her – 2 and 4 years old – and they were ripped from her arms by the rising water and drowned. The note says: “As a mother of two babies, my heart goes out to you and your family. Your angle babies are watching over you. – Christina and the SI Urban Park Rangers”

November 4th, 2012: Some Occupy Wall Street medics knocked on this lady's door in a little neighborhood of bungalows in the Rockaways that had been hit hard by the flooding. They were seeing if she was alright, and she told them that she tried to get into a shelter, but was turned away after they told her they couldn't take her, her husband, and their two young children. As we were about to leave, a man from Mayor Bloomberg's office also stopped by the neighborhood, and actually mentioned he had seen many occupy folks out helping. My friend Adrian told him about this lady who was trying to get into a shelter, brought him to her home, and when we left he was making phone calls to try to get her and her family into a shelter. She gave both Adrian and I a huge hug before we left.

November 4th, 2012: Some Occupy Wall Street medics knocked on this lady’s door in a little neighborhood of bungalows in the Rockaways that had been hit hard by the flooding. They were seeing if she was alright, and she told them that she tried to get into a shelter, but was turned away after they told her they couldn’t take her, her husband, and their two young children. As we were about to leave, a man from Mayor Bloomberg’s office also stopped by the neighborhood, and actually mentioned he had seen many occupy folks out helping. My friend Adrian told him about this lady who was trying to get into a shelter, brought him to her home, and when we left he was making phone calls to try to get her and her family into a shelter. She gave both Adrian and I a huge hug before we left.

November 5th, 2012: My friend Giles taking a photo of a home that was destroyed in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

November 5th, 2012: My friend Giles taking a photo of a home that was destroyed in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

November 6th, 2012: The Hallowed Songs motorcycle club from Brooklyn responded in New Dorp Beach, and provided food, clothing, shelter, and supplies for the residents there.

November 6th, 2012: The Hallowed Sons motorcycle club from Brooklyn responded in New Dorp Beach, and provided food, clothing, shelter, and supplies for the residents there.

November 8th, 2012: "Hi, I'm Pastor Joseph, and this used to be my house." Pictured in the background is the top level of what used to be his house on Kissam Ave in Staten Island. The foundation of his house was behind me as I was taking this photo.

November 8th, 2012: “Hi, I’m Pastor Joseph, and this used to be my house.” Pictured in the background is the top level of what used to be his house on Kissam Ave in Staten Island. The foundation of his house was behind me as I was taking this photo.

November 9th, 2012: Homes damaged along the beach in Sea Gate, Coney Island.

November 9th, 2012: Homes damaged along the beach in Sea Gate, Coney Island.

November 10th, 2012: Volunteers working hard at the Occupy Sandy distribution hub at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn.

November 10th, 2012: Volunteers working hard at the Occupy Sandy distribution hub at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn.

November 11th, 2012: A young boy looks on as a skid loader clears debris off of the road in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

November 11th, 2012: A young boy looks on as a skid loader clears debris off of the road in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

November 12th, 2012: Destroyed homes on Bay Shore Drive in Toms River, NJ.

November 12th, 2012: Destroyed homes on Bay Shore Drive in Toms River, NJ.

November 13th, 2012: Breezy Point, Queens, where over 100 homes burned down during the hurricane due to downed power lines and gas leaks.

November 13th, 2012: Breezy Point, Queens, where over 100 homes burned down during the hurricane due to downed power lines and gas leaks.

November 15th, 2012: This New Dorp Beach resident told me he put his Christmas tree out in his yard in hopes of cheering up the kids in this neighborhood that was hard-hit by hurricane Sandy.

November 15th, 2012: This New Dorp Beach resident told me he put his Christmas tree out in his yard in hopes of cheering up the kids in this neighborhood that was hard-hit by hurricane Sandy.

November 17th, 2012: Banners at an Occupy Sandy distribution hub at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn.

November 17th, 2012: At the Occupy Sandy distribution hub at the Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Brooklyn.

November 18th, 2012: Piles of sand and debris in Long Beach, NY.

November 18th, 2012: Piles of sand and debris in Long Beach, NY.

November 19th, 2012: Along the beach in the Rockaways, NY.

November 19th, 2012: Along the beach in the Rockaways, NY.

November 21st, 2012: The Occupy Sandy hub at St. Jacobi Church in Brooklyn.

November 21st, 2012: The Occupy Sandy hub at St. Jacobi Church in Brooklyn.

December 2nd, 2012: Volunteers heading out from the Occupy Sandy hub in Staten Island to help with clean-up.

December 2nd, 2012: Volunteers heading out from the Occupy Sandy hub in Staten Island to help with clean-up.

December 4th, 2012:  Occupy Faith NYC and members of the community gathered outside of Mayor Bloomberg's residence to speak out about the lack of resources being used to address the housing issue after hurricane Sandy and the misinformation about the dangers of mold.

December 4th, 2012: Occupy Faith NYC and members of the community gathered outside of Mayor Bloomberg’s residence to speak out about the lack of resources being used to address the housing issue after hurricane Sandy and the misinformation about the dangers of mold.

December 30th, 2012: An Occupy Sandy volunteer working on a home in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

December 30th, 2012: An Occupy Sandy volunteer working on a home in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

January 7th, 2013: Volunteers hard at work at the Occupy Sandy communications hub in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

January 7th, 2013: Volunteers hard at work at the Occupy Sandy communications hub in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

January 8th, 2013: A home in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island, that has gone untouched since the first day I was there about a week after the hurricane.

January 8th, 2013: A home in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island, that has gone untouched since the first day I was there about a week after the hurricane.

January 12th, 2013: During the Walk A Mile In Our Shoes march in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

January 12th, 2013: During the Walk A Mile In Our Shoes march in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

January 23rd, 2013: At the community relief hub on Cedar Grove Avenue in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

January 23rd, 2013: At the community relief hub on Cedar Grove Avenue in New Dorp Beach, Staten Island.

Click here to find out how you can help with Hurricane Sandy relief.

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes March – Staten Island

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Photos I took during the Walk A Mile In Our Shoes march through New Dorp Beach, Staten Island today:

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Please visit www.OccupySandy.org to find out how you can help with Hurricane Sandy relief.

Staten Island – 34 Days After Sandy

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I have been following the cleanup of New Dorp Beach, Staten Island since about a week after Hurricane Sandy hit. I’ve seen this neighborhood transform since then. First there was piles of trash in the streets – people’s belongings that were ruined from the flooding – so much that you could barely walk down the street. The first piles of trash were cleaned up within a few days thanks to the hardworking department of sanitation workers and volunteers who came to help. Then people had time to sit back and assess the damage to their homes… after which many, if not most of them, began to gut their homes. Carpet, dry wall, insulation, everything is now being torn out of these homes due to flood damage and mold. Although power has been restored to the neighborhood and the street lights are back on, the homes now have to be inspected before power will be turned on to them, so many are still without power, heat, and hot water.

Many homes look like the one in this photo – just sitting there, missing portions of their walls, no furniture or personal belongings, and sections of dry wall torn out with other sections still in tact. What I’m getting at is that although there has been tons of cleanup done so far, this is just the beginning. New Dorp Beach, and many other neighborhoods hit hard by Sandy, will be cleaning up for months, if not years to come.

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Below is a photo of one of the first homes I went into after hurricane Sandy. It was on a chilly day, and as Giles Clarke and I walked by, these kind folks invited us in to warm up by their wood burning stove. We graciously accepted their offer. These people who had lost everything on their first floor worked to get their wood stove up-and-running again, and then shared the warmth with us. Today, I returned to visit them and, yet again, warmed up by their fire. The kindness of the residents of New Dorp Beach, many of whom have lost basically everything, continues to inspire me.

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And this is Eddie from New Dorp Beach. His home received major flood damage during hurricane Sandy when the water rose up 8 feet. Although FEMA reported that his neighbors received 8 feet of flooding, the inspector that came to his house reported that he only had 4 inches. The FEMA inspector also reported that he did not have any vehicles, even though there was a van and a motorcycle in his driveway, both of which no longer work because of the flood damage. He spoke out against this obvious discrimination, and now FEMA said they will be sending in another inspector to look at his home.

He had originally gone to a shelter for one night after the hurricane, but was disgusted by the conditions there, and instead choose to put blankets on the floor and sleep in his mold-covered home. In order to stay warm, he was using a wood burning stove, which caused his home to catch fire just a few days ago. This is just one story from one resident in New Dorp Beach, where many, many people are still extremely devastated after hurricane Sandy.

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A family put a Christmas tree in a park on Cedar Grove Ave in New Dorp Beach. The sign next to is says, “Here stands our tree of hope. Our symbol of resolve and strength to breathe life back into our community once again. These ornaments represent each family member’s life line. Lets stand together as a community….. The Alvarez Family, Marc, Debbie, Jack, Dylan. Merry Christmas ♥”

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I also spent time in Midland Beach, Staten Island, and below are photos from there:

Mold growing in a home due to flooding.

Mold growing in a home due to flooding.

A home that is being gutted from flood damage.

A home that is being gutted from flood damage.

Two homes once stood here, but were recently demolished due to damage caused by hurricane Sandy.

Two homes once stood here, but were recently demolished due to damage caused by hurricane Sandy.

Trash on the curb.

Trash on the curb.

This is the community hub at 489 Midland Ave in Staten Island that the city is threatening to shut down. I spoke to someone working at the hub that said they had been told to shut down the past two days, but they refused to, so they’re still there. Please call in to ask that the Mayor’s office not evict much-needed community hubs – Public Advocate’s office: (212) 669-7250 9am-5pm.
Find more info here: http://occupywallst.org/article/mayors-office-threatens-imminent-eviction-247-comm/

Occupy Sandy volunteers being trained before heading out to help with cleanup.

Occupy Sandy volunteers being trained before heading out to help with cleanup.

Tools for cleanup at the Occupy Sandy Relief NYC hub on Olympia Blvd in Midland Beach.

Tools for cleanup at the Occupy Sandy Relief NYC hub on Olympia Blvd in Midland Beach.

Click here to find out how you can help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Cleaning up in New Dorp – 13 Days After Sandy

A young boy looks on as a skid loader clears debris off of the road.

Last Tuesday, two friends and I came across New Dorp, a neighborhood in Staten Island that was hit hard by hurricane Sandy. Several homes were completely destroyed and left in ruins, and many others received major flood damage. As I was walking through the streets, I couldn’t help but think that the area looked like a war zone. It was heartbreaking to see the residents starting to clean out their homes, as many of them lost basically everything they owned. Although, it was extremely heartwarming to learn that the Brooklyn-based Hallowed Sons motorcycle club had come in the day after the storm, and has been taking care of this neighborhood ever since. You can read more about that story here.

Since then, I have returned to New Dorp almost every day in order to follow the progress they’re making while cleaning up and salvaging what they can. The first couple of days I was there, garbage piled higher than me lined the streets, making them completely impassable. Now the sanitation workers have been picking up this garbage on a regular basis, although so many people are throwing their damaged belongings out that it’s impossible to keep up with it. I saw three Con Ed workers in the neighborhood this afternoon, and tonight I noticed that the street lamps on just one street are now lit up. Although the rest of the area is still without power, it’s nice to see that some progress is being made.

Below are some photos I took in New Dorp today:

A young boy looks on as a skid loader clears debris off of the road.

A camp set up by the Hallowed Sons motorcycle club.

A restaurant that was destroyed during hurricane Sandy. As I stuck my head in through one of the broken windows to get this shot, the building reeked of spoiled food.

“4 sale as is, slight water damage.”

A sign posted at a donation center in New Dorp. It says: “The measure of a man is not what he does when the sun is shining, but what he does during and after the storm…” – H.D. Thoreau

There was one street that has street lamps on tonight, so it looks as though there’s at least some progress being made as far as getting power turned back on.

It’s going to take a lot of work to get this neighborhood cleaned up after hurricane Sandy.

A couple of volunteers who came from out-of-state.

Where the garbage is being put at the end of Cedar Grove Ave.

A large tree that fell onto a home.

The Hallowed Sons motorcycle club.

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