Gramercy Park Block Association  - Neighborhood News #459
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hurricane Sandy: Gramercy Park President Remembers
GPBA Pres. Arlene Harrison joins Calvary-St. George's Rev. Jacob Smith and Mark Tenniswood in the church parish hall, where Hurricane Sandy supplies were collected.
 
By Arlene Harrison, 
President of the Gramercy Park Block Association
AKA Mayor of Gramercy Park 

One year later, it is still hard to imagine the tragic loss of life and enormous devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy.
 
For many months thousands were with no electricity, no heat, no gas, no hot water, no plumbing, raw sewage, health and hygiene issues, no stores for food, no drugstores for medication, no schools, no internet, no phones, vehicles destroyed, no public transportation, and no banks.  For thousands more, there was no home to return to.  
 
Thousands of families were displaced, or camping out in flood ravaged homes. Some slept in mold contaminated homes filled with demolition dust and exposure to asbestos, as walls and floors were ripped apart.  Many families lost all their furniture, appliances, clothing, documents, photographs, and personal papers.  To make matters worse, many had little or no money for repairs, and for many months were forced to deal with insurance and disaster relief bureaucracies. 
 
It was the mission of The Gramercy Park Block Association's ongoing Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiative, that as long as our neighbors were suffering, we would be there to help. Thanks to the compassion and generosity of our friends and neighbors, here's what we did then and continue to do today.  
 
Working directly with Manhattan South Homicide Detectives and partnering with Calvary-St. George's Church which served as a depot for donated supplies, we sent 22 vans packed with critical supplies directly to Midland Staten Island, Long Beach, Red Hook and Coney Island Brooklyn, Breezy Point Queens and other areas devastated by the storm.  Thanks to the generosity of our neighbors and friends, we were able to provide substantial individual donations to our local responders to help them rebuild their homes.
 
We sent 4 pickup trucks with critical supplies to the Cecil Hotel (118th St) and Kenmore Hall (23rd St) supportive housing residences. When the Kenmore lost power and evacuated its elderly/chronically ill residents who were dependent on medical equipment to the Cecil (low-income residence for elderly, disabled, chronically ill), the Cecil sent supplies and food to the Kenmore and exhausted their own resources. We replenished supplies in both residences.  Throughout this year, we have continued to send supplies to Kenmore Hall and its parent organization Housing & Services, whose mission is to solve homelessness.
 
Just weeks after the storm, we provided Thanksgiving dinner to our local first responders, many who were in the storm rescuing others and recovering bodies while their own families and homes were directly in the path of the storm.  Thanks to the ongoing generosity of our friends and neighbors, we will continue to send Thanksgiving dinner to our first responders this year.
 
When we learned that our neighbors in the Lower East Side housing projects were suffering from the effects of the storm, we contacted our City Council Member Rosie Mendez to learn what Neighbors Helping Neighbors could do.  As a result, we sent supplies to the East 6th St. Community Center for our neighbors living in the low-income housing projects on the Lower East Side, and in the East Village.
 
With Mendez we visited and then sent supplies to the Lower East Side daycare center Escuela Hispana Montessori Head Start, which included 133 children (2-5 years old) from the storm ravaged housing projects who were displaced due to flooding.  We delivered children's winter clothing, heaters, air purifiers, rugs, bedding, books, and educational supplies. We then sent the toys from our GPBA Annual Holiday Toy Drive with Paddy Maguire's Ale House to them. The staff were so grateful and moved, because "we thought nobody knew how much we are struggling here."   This year, once again we will send toys from our toy drive to families in need on the Lower East Side, and to five agencies in East Harlem.   

 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors continues to send support to our neighbors in need.  Last week, GPBA board member Harry Harrison facilitated a donation of 21 boxes of new children's clothing samples from several children's clothing executives.  Again, we reached out to Council Member Mendez to learn where the greatest need was, and we have now sent the clothing to the LES Nazareth House, which provides housing, emergency shelter and homelessness prevention for low-income families.

 

As long as our neighbors continue to be generous, we will continue our many Neighbors Helping Neighbors initiatives.  To support our ongoing work, tax-deductible donations can be made online by clicking here, or checks payable to The Gramercy Park Block Association, with Neighbors Helping Neighbors in the memo, mailed to: Arlene Harrison, The Gramercy Park Block Association, 34 Gramercy Park East, New York, NY 10003.  
 
Council Member Rosie Mendez and Harrison deliver supplies to LES Escuela Hispana daycare.
 
Escuela Hispana staff pick up toys donated by Gramercy Park neighbors.

GPBA Board Member Harry Harrison delivers 21 boxes of donated children's clothing, while board member Tom Pike and Harrison look on. 


LES Nazareth House staff pick up children's clothing donation from Harrison.

Kenmore Hall staff picks up supplies donated by Gramercy Park neighbors.