For many, Hurricane Sandy has receded into memory. For the most severely affected, the storm’s aftermath has created a difficult New Normal.
And for the local organizations that serve affected neighborhoods but were also in the path of the storm? They are exerting maximum energies to provide services for those who truly need them, while needing great amounts of help themselves.
In southern Brooklyn, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Coney Island (JCC-CGI) rallied within days to restore some of its regular services, to a caseload of as many as 2,500 people a day before the storm. Yet their offices were inundated and destroyed as well. What to do?
Storm Warnings Heeded
In the days prior to the storm, the JCC backed up computers and relocated critical files. Contingency plans were made for each senior center. Emergency measures were taken to ensure that home-delivered meals could still arrive where they were needed.
Still, it was shocking to discover the floors and walls of the office covered in mud and sewage. Heavy furniture had been tossed around and destroyed. And everything left in the office was waterlogged, filthy, and soon moldy.
But the resourceful staff was back in action within days — albeit in makeshift ways. “The dedication of our staff is really amazing,” says Rabbi Moshe Wiener, Executive Director of the JCCCGI. “They’re all doing the best that they can under untenable circumstances.”
Demolition got underway December 17, and is going to take weeks. The concrete slab on which the building was built heaved up and cracked under the water’s pressure. The front lobby of the building collapsed while the demolition people were working — water had washed out the sand underneath the building and created a cavity; after a few weeks, its weight caused a collapse. It appears that payment will be JCC-GCI’s responsibility. The total cost of demolition and rebuilding and replacement of equipment and furniture is in the $1 million range.
Thanks to the authorization of NYC Department for the Aging’s (DFTA) Commissioner, Haber House Senior Center has been cleaned and sanitized. Destroyed appliances and furniture were replaced, and the center has resumed cooking its own meals. Mold abatement in rooms and hallways is being scheduled and it is not yet clear how that demolition and rebuilding process may affect senior center operations.
Surf Solomon Senior Center has not been able to reopen yet. Catered meals are distributed to area seniors at local senior citizen housing developments. Case assistance is being offered.
In addition to the senior centers, JCC-CGI provides in-home care and help with government programs.
And at the other end of the age spectrum, the JCC-GCI provides excellent support for the children of the community through a wide variety of programs for students and parents.
However, the need for funding is great and to that end, the JCC has reached out to the community for support. A generous benefactor has promised to match all gifts from new donors; for past donors, he has committed to doubling the amount that exceeds the 2011 donation.