Hurricane Relief Report – Part 1 of 3

Here is a story by The Rosenblum Companies’ Associate Dylan Medlock-Turek about his experience helping the Hurricane Sandy victims in Coney Island as part of an effort we organized which brought together our tenants, vendors and others in the community. Part one of the story is here. Please follow this link to part two

All week, my colleagues and I had been soliciting, gathering, boxing and palletizing hordes of donated items. Yesterday, we finished loading a trailer (generously donated and transported by Logistics One) with 23 palettes of supplies to send to the people I had met last week in Coney Island.

Palettes waiting to be loaded
Palettes waiting to be loaded


Loading the trailer at the Port of Albany

It was Friday morning, November 15, 2012, and I was getting ready to follow the tractor trailer downstate in our company pickup truck. I had just stopped at the house of Joe Giannetto of The Stakeholders to pick up “a few” last donations he had collected over the prior three days. Even after seeing palettes and palettes worth of supplies loaded onto the trailer, I was shocked at the sheer volume of toothpaste, canned food, diapers and water he had arranged in organized piles on his front porch. After an hour of loading up at Joe’s house, our truck was full, I had plenty of gas and I felt overly optimistic that things were lining up perfectly.

As I entered the Thruway to head down to NYC, the plan seemed simple. Tammy, the property manager/volunteer coordinator I met last week in Sea Gate had promised a forklift to help unload the truck. From there I would meet Paul Hackett from Hill and Markes, who was coming to help me to distribute supplies, many of which were donated by his company.

I arrived at Sea Gate just before noon and drove through the entrance gate that had been torn down to make way for larger emergency vehicles. I parked in front of a small, Cape Cod-styled chapel that had been converted to a mission control center for the community. Immediately, I found Tammy, wearing her “Sea Gate Manager” jacket, directing volunteers to task.

Entrance to Sea Gate
Entrance to Sea Gate

People say that disasters can bring out the best and worst in people. Tammy is the perfect example of someone who flips a switch and is at her best when the situation calls for it. She constantly smiles when she speaks with everyone, always maintains a steady demeanor and doesn’t waiver in her commitment to do what’s best for her community.

Most impressively: she’s a property manager who has taken on the extremely large responsibility of organizing the relief effort for an entire 20+ block neighborhood. Before I could even tell her who I was and what I was doing there, she greeted me with a hug and had three volunteers unloading our truck.

The destruction from the Superstorm and the terrible toll it’s taken on the residents living along the coast became immediately apparent. Even after having been there the previous weekend with my friend, the sight of parking lots full of flooded cars, houses missing exterior walls, and streets littered with the contents of people’s homes still seemed surreal and nightmarish. The never ending thumping of army helicopters overhead made the whole weekend feel like a scene out of a war movie. But unfortunately it’s daily existence for those who live there.

The smell is the other thing that instantly hits you. One of the biggest issues victims of the storm have to deal with is the raw sewage that came back up the pipes during the storm surge. We met a family who told us their basement had barely flooded during the surge and how they were extremely optimistic they’d be okay until the moment they realized their toilets, sinks and showers were overflowing with sewage. We may have brought cases of bleach donated by Hill & Markes, Environmental Service Systems and others, but when your home is flooded eight feet high with raw sewage, it takes a lot more than bleach to clean things up.

Part two of this story continues here.