the side of the storm you may not see on TV

November 4, 2012 |  Category:   life nyc

With the kitchen still without power and Mark at home, we’ve been taking turns trying to find volunteering opportunities around the city. We’ve helped cook meals and gathered donations to distribution centers. On Saturday, I finally left our neighborhood. I wanted to head down to one of the areas that were hit the worst here in Brooklyn but wasn’t getting much media attention, so my neighbors and I drove down to the Sheepshead Bay/Coney Island area. We walked along Neptune Ave on our way to a complex of tall co-op development buildings which still did not have power and saw firsthand the devastation of the storm as residents and business owners continued to clean out their flooded houses. Up and down the avenue for blocks and blocks were curbs lined with damaged belongings and piles of garbage bags filled with debris. We saw roofs ripped from homes and evidence of how high the waters flooded the area as parked cars pushed from their parking spots zig zagged down the street. It was a heartbreaking and sobering scene.


As many areas of lower Manhattan regained power Friday night and people set about getting their life back on track the next day, the inconvenience of 5 days of lost power to some was life threatening to others. There are many areas that are still utterly devastated by the storm that has not gotten much attention from the media or the government. Many of these areas are working class and immigrant neighborhoods like the Rockaways in Queens, Staten Island, Gerritsen Beach, Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay/Coney Island in Brooklyn. We arrived at the makeshift disaster relief center on the ground floor of one of the co-op developments where hundreds of senior citizens were trapped in upper floors without power. The majority of the elderly were Russian speaking and many of them needed to be evacuated as they were running out of food and water and the apartments were getting very cold at night as the temperatures started to drop. We were told to go door to door and knock on the doors to see who needed help. We were instructed that a woman should make the initial contact as many of them were fearful of opening their door to looters. The relief efforts are wholly organized by members of the community because there have been no other services. We did not see a single presence of the Red Cross, FEMA or the National Guard in the area. We were told that Red Cross was on its way, but this is 6 days after the storm. I know for many people the Red Cross is the easiest and most accessible organization to donate, but I won’t donate to the Red Cross, who is so rich with donations, for this reason alone. If you want to help, there are local organizations who are getting food and aid on the ground immediately who need donations.
This is the scene in many communities around the city. The countless grassroot efforts by ordinary citizens that have sprung up to mobilize volunteers is overwhelming. Via Facebook and twitter, convoys are being organized in swift time to mobilize people with aid and transportation to areas that have been hit the hardest. We’re finding people who have supplies and aid and people who need the supplies and connecting them on twitter so they can find each other. To see this happen in real time is amazing. [Update: Read articles here, here and here about the immediate relief efforts led by volunteers and Occupy Sandy]
Driving around parts of Brooklyn yesterday to drop off donations, the disparity between the neighborhoods that had power and those that did not was unsettling. While one neighborhood could look like a ravaged war zone with people cold and hungry, another could look completely normal with people going about their business like any other Saturday. The disparity in some areas could be a matter of a few blocks. But this is a storm that we will not know the full effects of for some time to come. They are still finding bodies and people are dying trying to heat their homes with unsafe methods. The financial loss from small and big businesses alike is still unknown.
I’ve been particularly frustrated the last few days about the lack of coverage out in Long Island where my parents live. Faced with 10 more days of no power, my mom finally evacuated because of sickness and cold. My dad is staying at the house because they are being advised by local security to have one person stay because of looters, but it is getting cold. He has told me that he has not seen anyone – the power company, county officials, nobody – who can give updates on restoring power. Multiple houses around them were badly damaged from fallen trees. Without any gas to be found anywhere or power to pump the gas, it’s been hard to even connect with them in person. I am slowly starting to see coverage in the newspapers about Long Island in the last day and the story is the same – neighborhoods decimated, half the population, but down from the initial 90% of the island still without power, people cold and hungry, and dangerous looting after sundown. As of Sunday, Nassau County LI has the greatest number of people still without power.
In my search for any news of the area, I found this photo online last night on the governor’s flickr stream. The beach that I used to go to as a kid, that we take out kids to every summer, is no longer there.
Update: Here’s a Voice of America news video about the situation in South Brooklyn and hey, there’s a snippet of me in my blue hat…


Here are a list of local organizations that are providing direct assistance to those effected by the hurricane:
Occupy Sandy
Occupy Sandy Amazon Wishlist – send what is needed most directly to those who need it

The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance

The Rockaway Relief Fund
Red Hook Initiative

Hurricane Sandy Relief Supply Amazon Wishlist c/o SI Assemblyman Titone
Hurricane Sandy Long Island Disaster Relief
Kitchensurfing, Support Chefs For Sandy
NYC Food Truck Association
Coney Island Shorefront Y
Staten Island Project Hospitality
Masbia Food Kitchen

CAAAV Chinatown, Organizing Asian Communities

The Brooklyn Recovery Fund
New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Food Bank for NYC

New York Cares
The Ali Forney Drop In Center for Homeless LGBT Youth
Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund

Hurricane Sandy Nonprofit Resources Page

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  • Melissa@Julia's Bookbag November 4, 2012 at 2:39 am

    Thank you Jenna for this post. I wanted to donate something and wasn’t sure which organization to choose.

  • Katie November 4, 2012 at 6:45 am

    It may be too early, but is there somewhere to donate toys/christmas gifts?

  • Faith @ Ordinary Mommy Design November 4, 2012 at 7:15 am

    This still seems incredible to me. We’re about 1.5 hours south of you, and we were so blessed not to sustain any damage to our property; only a couple of days without power. Utility workers are pulling 16 hour shifts, most away from home for weeks at a time, to get power back on. My dad is among those, and will come home for the first time in a week to vote, before he heads straight back. Glad to hear that you and Mark and the girls are safe.

  • Faith @ Ordinary Mommy Design November 4, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Also, it’s scary to see the long lines at the gas stations in our city in Pennsylvania, and to hear that there is gas rationing in the city where my husband works in New Jersey.

  • ahuvah November 4, 2012 at 8:38 am

    It has been quite difficult to watch the news from abroad and not hear any news from Long Island. My parents live in Oceanside and their neighborhood was hit quite hard. I have been scouring the news to hear more about LI and except for Long Beach, there is no news.

    and to think… 3 weeks ago my family was all together in Oceanside celebrating my little sister’s wedding. At least we were all there together again before the hurricane struck.

  • Colleen November 4, 2012 at 8:48 am

    In times of trouble that’s what America has always been about, it’s people, individuals, reaching out to help each other! Thank you for what you are doing to help others when you have so many personal concerns.

  • angela king November 4, 2012 at 9:59 am

    thanks for posting this. it’s easy to forget how bad it still is when it’s not being shared.

  • Elizabeth November 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Thanks for this post. As the days go on and the damage and need become more clear, I have been shocked at the lack of help for people in devastated neighborhoods and regions. The mobilization of community volunteers has been amazing, but I can’t believe how little local and federal help there’s been so far. Just hoping a lot will get done today for those facing another freezing night without power.

  • Kathleen November 4, 2012 at 10:43 am

    My brother spent a good 5+ years living in Sheepshead Bay while he worked at the Sideshow by the Seashore in Coney Island. He recently moved up to Prospect Park after leaving the sideshow to tour full time.

    So a couple days ago he went down to the Sideshow to help clean up / volunteer. It had flooded up to the second floor where they have a museum with lots of Coney / Sideshow memorabilia and priceless antiques. What hadn’t been destroyed by water was looted. It was sad enough to see modern development wipe out Coney Island history – and now this.

    Anyway, I’m glad your family is doing well and I’m glad you’re sharing the stuff that isn’t been shared much otherwise.

  • twiggs November 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

    this is indeed heartbreaking! we hear the news but somehow we figure out that as it’s new york, things will go back to normal really fast and some things don’t happen there. and now i see that it’s something like a terror movie where everyone is trying to survive… it’s really scary! so good that you and mark are helping, that is also quite a message to your daughters, to help those in need whenever you can.

  • Jess November 4, 2012 at 11:38 am

    thank you for giving some authentic coverage. Hope prayers for your family and others who are still without power.

  • Leatitia @ The Sweetest Year November 4, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you for these images. I can’t imagine having to trash all my belongings and having to clean this mess with no power.

    I donated to the Red Cross yesterday, but thanks to you, I also donated to New York Cares.

  • Sandra November 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I just donated to New York Care too after reading this. And zoomed it out on twitter and FB. It’s so sad but it’s often the way – the ones who have the fewest advocating for them can end up being forgotten.

    I cannot imagine what it would be like to not speak English, be elderly, survived Sandy and THEN have to navigate somehow getting your life back in order.

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  • diamondkelt November 4, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for posting up the links to real grass roots places that I can donate. I linked this post to my FB wall for others to see and asked that they spread the words as well.

    I will never understand looting unless it’s for food and water. Taking TVs and electronics from people’s wrecked homes just baffles me. Reminds me of the dumbasses looting Wal-Mart after Katrina hit.n you have no power???

  • Susan November 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    So sobering. Thank you for sharing this Jenna, and I agree-the way social media has helped grassroot efforts is truly incredible. You are all in our thoughts.

  • Mrs. Jones November 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks for those links. I think it’s important to support those grass roots efforts. The organizations that are really on the street and making an immediate difference.

  • j November 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    sorry to hear about your parents. we’re still without power and we’re in westchester. no sign of con ed trucks anywhere. we’re being told another week before power is restored. but we’re fortunate compare to many others. kudos to you for the work you’re doing. i’ve been volunteering at the shelter and it’s sad the amount of people who have nothing. very sad. be safe.

  • angela miller November 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I’ve been praying for everyone up in that area. I live in Florida and have weathered many hurricanes, including 2004 when Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jean devastated central Florida. My parents and other relatives were without power for two weeks. My sister, who lives two miles from me had her roof torn off and was out of her home for six months. My house had minimal damage compared. Jenna, you are spot on about posting links to other charities. Red Cross and FEMA were not prepared as they should have been. This will be a long term recovery. Thank God for people like you who are willing to give of yourselves. We will continue to keep all you folks in the northeast in our prayers daily.

  • Pink Ronnie November 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Heartbreaking indeed…
    Ronnie xo

  • Ann November 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Thank you Jenna, my cousin and family live in the Gerritsen Beach area. Their home flooded, car was washed away and they are living with his brother. I have heard nothing about this area in the news. We live in Astoria and haven’t been able to get gas to head over there…it’s heartbreaking. There are trucks from our area heading out to the Rockaways,Howard Beach and other hard hit areas daily.Thankfully people in this city really pull together in a time of need.
    I hope helps gets to your parents soon.
    Thanks again for spreading the word.

  • laura November 5, 2012 at 12:55 am

    Thanks for this post Jenna. I wanted to donated too, but wasn’t sure which organisation.

  • Meg November 5, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Thank you for this post, Jenna. Right now Portland feels a million miles away from the NYC that I love so much. I always wonder if donating to Red Cross is the most effective way of helping or if smaller, local organizations are the way to go. I donated through one of your provided links. You are making a difference. Take care.

  • Anne-Marie November 5, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Very sobering. I hope your dad will be okay in the cold house. At least you can get in contact with him

  • Ez November 5, 2012 at 9:39 am

    How utterly heartbreaking and frustrating! Thank you for reporting on conditions in your area Jenna. As I mentioned on instagram it just doesn’t seem like the news is hardly even covering these stories anymore. I just don’t understand the disconnect…how can so little action be taking place to help our own, when we are so quick to rally and supply aid for other countries when crises hit.
    I will do my best to help get the word out in my little corner of the web. Sending hugs to you from afar. xo Ez

  • Allison @ All for the Boys November 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Thank you SO much for this post. It’s so hard being so far away and not knowing what to do or where to give. I shared your post on my site to hopefully drive some more traffic and help your way!

  • Gwen Hawkins November 5, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Thank you posting different places we can help New Yorkers. My Daughter, Son-in-law, a 3yr old Granddaughter and one on the way, that live in Brooklyn. I live in Montana. I, too, am praying for all effective by Sandy.

  • Linda November 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Thanks so much for this post and for getting out there, rolling up your sleeves and helping with the local relief efforts. I hope power is restored to your parents house soon and that Mark is able to resume baking soon. My family is in New Jersey and half of my family members are still without power and living in flooded homes. Recovery is going to be a long process, but help from people like you is going to make a difference in the short-term. We’ve been donating to the Red Cross, but more and more we hear about people who are gathering supplies and driving them East. Like Mayor Bloomberg, I personally hope that President Obama is re-elected tomorrow because I think he has the vision and ability to address the long-term issues on rebuilding that the region (and the country as a whole) faces on many levels.

  • MCC November 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for this important post. My sister lives on the Jersey Shore where people are facing very similiar devastation. 8 days with no signs of power, very cold homes, no gas etc. They made out ok, all things considered, but as you say – the people who have been the hardest hit are the poor and voiceless. The woman that cleans her house, lost her home completely. Yet, remarkably has been calling to see if her clients have power yet so she can get back to work and start rebuilding.

    I was able to give directly to this woman. As you say, it’s so important that everyone does their part in whatever they can do to help. The Red Cross does a good job but the grassroots organizations are the ones with a better shot of getting supplies directly to the people that need them with less red tape and beaurocracy. This post is important because a lot of people want to help, yet don’t know how.

    The hardhit people of the tristate area will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you, Jenna, for using the popularity of this blog to send a really important message. I hope you never doubt the value of your work here. Stay well.

  • Clara November 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Thank you so much for the information. I’m from QUebec, Canada and we don’t have any news about what’s happening …. From here, it’s like just a another big storm like last year. I can’t not believe what i read and see in your blog. The good part is the solidarity and the generosity of people like you and many others. Thank again for sharing your experience and my best for you and your familily!!!!

  • QQ November 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for the info regarding donations in the local area. I trust the Red Cross as much as I trust a used car salesman.

  • Courtney November 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am so glad to have just made a donation to a local relief effort that might actually provide help to someone in need, in time. So glad I had not gotten around to donating to red cross yet, I feel much better about donating via the amazon wish list in brooklyn. Thank you an I will be thinking of your family and all of those affected.

  • Gower November 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing, Jenna. The devastation is sobering, but I find the way you and many other are joining together to serve the community, particularly the underserved, very encouraging.

  • Cori Magee November 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you so much for exposing what most of us on the West Coast would have no other way of knowing about. Several news outlets and/or journalists are specifically telling people to donate to Red Cross instead of sending clothes, blankets, etc.

    Keep blogging/tweeting about it and I’ll keep sharing!

  • ezrazoe November 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    This is incredibly helpful. Thank you for this. I’ve posted it on a parent list serve in Jackson Heights Queens so people can volunteer/go where they are really needed.

  • Emma November 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Thanks for this (eye opening) information which is needed I think, given that the news broadcasts always seem to wind down after a couple of days. Coming from Australia I’ve never trusted Red Cross and try to be thoughtful about how to help those directly affected rather than just donating money to a big corporation.

    I’m showing your list to some friends and family here who are interested in helping.

    My thoughts are with everyone affected and I hope your mum and dad hold up ok.

  • Sally November 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Jenna! Thinking of you and your fellow NYorkers!! xoxo

  • Truly Smitten November 6, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Thank you so much for this incredible and heart-breaking post! This was an eye opener and hope things will be restored as soon as possible.

  • Jenna November 6, 2012 at 1:24 am

    @Katie I think it is a bit too early. The most urgent things needed right now are medical supplies and cleaning supplies. I’ll update if I see anything though!

  • jen November 6, 2012 at 1:32 am

    it all seems so far and distant here on the west coast. media has already moved to the election. your photos really paint a clear picture of the local devastation. i hope more stories come out since it’s clear so many have lost everything.

  • nan November 6, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    This is on the white house blog — resources for small businesses affected by Sandy — I’m pasting it here on the off chance that it might be of some interest to you?

    If it isn’t of help, I wish you a good turn in fortune asap — hang in there!
    ( daily reader of your blog)

  • Alycia November 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you Jenna! I just donated to the Rockaway Beach fund in memory of Joey Ramone and to the NYC Food Truck Association. I just heard that a lot of people in Staten Island are desperate for underwear and now you have this great list of places to donate. Thanks again and I hope your parents are okay.

  • jenna c. November 8, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    it is amazing how much damage there is in NYC, LI, and NJ. My parents in NJ just got power on Monday and now they don’t have it again because of the snow. Friends of mine in Suffolk County don’t have heat, power, or gasoline to go to the grocery store. The kids are still out of school there, but the parents are somehow supposed to get to work. It is all crazy. Thanks for this comprehensive list of how to help.