“It’s crazy the amount of people who are pitching in,” she said. “We’re getting hot chicken from the guy across the street, and tons of hot food from caterers and restaurants and houses nearby.”
In the Miccio Center’s basketball court, dozens of volunteers manned tables heaped with donated clothing, toiletries, pet food, batteries, flashlights, and stuffed animals. The line outside stretched for two blocks, but the mood among those waiting was surprisingly upbeat.
Cheryl Watkins, 56, an employee for the Police Athletic League, said she lives on the 11th floor of a building without electricity. For days, she had been collecting water in her bathtub from the standpipe on the roof, and using it to flush the toilet.
“I mean, I hate to walk up those 11 flights of stairs in the dark,” she said, laughing. “But I’m loving the help we’re getting from Red Hook Initiative. They’re stepping up right now.”
Another resident, Kim Davis, 35, praised the amount of supplies that RHI and Miccio were giving out.
“My mother lives in Jamaica,” she said, “and right now she doesn’t have a place to go for food, for water. A lot of houses are gone. Compared to that, everything is good here.”
Some in line had come to Red Hook from worse-off areas seeing less service from volunteers and government agencies.
Desines Rodriguez, 26, drove from Coney Island to Red Hook with her husband and eight-year-old son on Tuesday. The roof of her apartment, on the seventh floor of the Gravesend Houses, had caved in the night of the storm. She was now staying with 10 others in a small house nearby, which happened to have light and hot water.
“We've been standing in line for a while,” she said, craning her neck for a view of the entrance. “But people are actually trying to help us here.”
In a wry aside, she took the city to task for not having a more comprehensive disaster plan.
“What if the whole city floods?” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “The highest point in the city is Prospect Park. So if I don’t wanna drown, I gotta stand in the park?”
Those around her laughed at the idea.
Others I met had returned shortly after evacuating.
“I went to Queens for a few days,” said Nathaniel Mack, 22, who has grown up in the Red Hook Houses. “But I came back because I was homesick.”
Near the front of the line Rodriguez had been entertaining, Ricardo Reed, 51, a resident of the Red Hook Houses, was filming the scene with his 12 megapixel Canon video-camera. The day after the storm, he said, he had walked the length Van Brunt Street, documenting the devastation.
“Red Hook has a stigma from the old days, when it was all gangsters and Mafia stuff,” he said. "But we’re a strong community. We’re like a bunch of worker ants: most days we go around, doing our own thing. But if there's a disaster in one location, we all swarm together and make sure everybody's okay.”
Top photo by Sunset Parkerpix via Flickr
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.