Communities are pulling together -- with little else to sustain them -- and families in outlying neighborhoods of New York's borough of Queens and Long Island are struggling to survive after a nor'easter lashed the area.
After 24 hours of rainfall, the storm dumped at least an inch of water in Central Park and JFK Airport, just on the heels of record-breaking devastation wreaked last week by Hurricane Sandy. Winds with gusts of up to 65 miles per hour lashed the area, and the highest surge levels were forecast for the western Long Island Sound – the very same area smacked by Sandy.
Combined sewer overflows containing untreated waste water occurred in a number of New York City water bodies, with advisories in effect for numerous areas affecting all five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester. Trees already weakened by the hurricane were knocked over, with more windblown debris sent flying across roads.
Especially in the outlying areas of the borough of Queens and in Long Island, the struggle for survival has taken on a particularly ominous tone as the weather has turned wintry. But the challenge has likewise brought out the steel in the soul of the Jewish communities who are pulling together to help each other, and to ensure that no one is left behind.
The Achiezer Community Resource Center has taken a lead role in coordinating support services for those who have been affected by the storms. The organization's hotline can be reached at 516-791-4444.
Chai Lifeline's Crisis Intervention Department has set up a crisis hotline together with Achiezer to handle all questions and concerns related to trauma from the hurricane. The trauma hotline may be reached at 1-855-3CRISIS (1-855-327-4747) and through the Achiezer hotline. Emails may be sent to Crisis@ChaiLifeline.org .
The Achiezer Hurricane Relief Fund has thus far assisted more than 100 families who were financially strapped by Sandy. To apply for help, an application may be downloaded and printed from the website at www.achiezer.org, obtained from your synagogue liaison or by calling the Achiezer hotline.
Another fund to help with personal and family needs for those directly affected by Hurricane Sandy is the Far Rockaway / Five Towns Community Assistance Fund, created by generous donors in the community in conjunction with the Davis Memorial Fund and Achiezer. The contact person for this fund is Mr. Dovid Friedman, at 516-220-5531, who can also be reached by email at email@example.com.
Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island sent out an email on Wednesday to its parent body, notifying families that effective immediately, it would open its building to help shelter people from the harsh elements outside. "The yeshiva is available tonight as a shelter with heat, plumbing and electricity. We will have limited cots, blankets and food. "Important! We are not in any way recommending that you leave your home, however, should circumstances require you to do so, the yeshiva is available.”
The electric company that serves Long Island, LIPA, has not managed to restore power to even half of the area – in fact, the majority of the area remains in the dark, by all local accounts. A post-storm update from Mayor Martin Oliner of the Village of Lawrence this week included the following statement, with a scathing condemnation of LIPA and the federal government's ineptitude in the face of disaster:
"Regrettably, power has not been restored to Sutton Park, Lawrence Bay Park and Back of Lawrence. In addition, many pockets and clusters of homes within areas that otherwise have power, remain inexplicably dark. Our focus continues to be on ensuring complete restoration... we continue to work with LIPA, government officials and the media to focus attention on the intolerable hardships endured by our residents.
"In the absence of power and the inability of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to provide personnel to man intersections, the Village will use its own personnel or volunteers to help direct traffic to the extent possible.
OEM's attempt to establish a kosher shelter in West Hempstead has not been successful. Accordingly, given the weather forecast coupled with continued lack of power, we are attempting to ensure the safety of residents who do not have alternative housing. In that regard, we have asked the various synagogues and churches to reach out to their memberships so that we can identify those individuals and make appropriate arrangements.”
Several agencies have stepped in to make sure people do not starve, and have begun serving meals and distributing food in multiple locations, assistance desperately needed for families who have been left homeless, and in many cases with no money at all.
The Achiezer organization has been providing three meals a day, all week long, at four locations: The White Shul, Shor Yoshuv, Young Israel of Woodmere and the Young Israel of Bayswater. Serving times are 8:30 a.m., 12:30 pm and 4:30 p.m. CHABAD is also serving breakfast and lunch, and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Achiezer officials also noted that homeowners who did not have proper flood insurance will face “great difficulties” in restoring their homes following the storms. The organization has a special committee to help with the process, and has invited homeowners to call the hotline if they had no flood insurance and need help.
Local politicians led by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Congressman Gregory Meeks and Senator Charles Schumer are trying to secure FEMA mobile homes for those who were displaced by the storms. To access this service, families are asked to contact Achiezer.
Residents of New York City are able to find a list of available shelters, medical van locations, food and water distribution sites, bus pickups lists to find out where to meet shuttles for transport to shelters, and a list of daytime warming shelters, by clicking here.
City officials warned that although New York City tap water is considered safe for drinking, there is one location in which that does not hold true. "In Breezy Point, the water is NOT drinkable, even after boiling,” said a statement on the NYC government website. “The City is providing Breezy Point residents with safe drinking water from portable water stations and from bottled water distribution sites.”
A special note: With regard to the weather, and GENERATORS: Please use extreme caution at all times, and properly cover your equipment! It is essential to maintain 3 to 4 feet of open space above and to the sides of the generator at all times. Make sure all extension cords are taped, and not exposed to rain.