Floods Make Good Neighbors

November 8th, 2012

Credit: iandavid/flickr

By Melissa Mahony


Before the National Guard arrived this weekend in Red Hook, New York, residents had to rely on themselves and neighbors for nourishment, warmth, and elbow grease. Sitting more or less at sea level on Brooklyn’s western waterfront, the place is a mess. But while much of the waterlogged ‘hood remains light on power, the close-knit community is heavy on friends — that type of friend that helps pump raw sewage from your basement. (My boyfriend spent much of Wednesday at his favorite bar, handwashing salvageable beer cans, bottles, and glassware, while his buddies in the cellar spent three hours removing just 6 inches of storm surge.)

The New York Marathon doesn’t typically tour through this part of town, which has become isolated by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and very limited mass transit options (i.e. a single bus line). But after Mayor Bloombergcanceled the race on Friday, a group of local runners organized a 10K to raise funds for the youth center that has been helping feed and clean Red Hook all week.

Yesterday, hundreds of Brooklynites, including myself, ran down to the waterfront. We jogged past food lines on West 9th and cheering public housing residents, who have spent days with neither electricity nor heat. We ran by restaurants that threw a free BBQ in the street on Wednesday before their food spoiled in melting freezers and room-temperature fridges. Further down Van Brunt St., I ducked under a weeping willow tree cradled by a straining chain-link fence (a dangerous scenario I probably should’ve maneuvered around but … I was tired). Still, I was relieved to see the rainbow film of oil that had covered the sidewalks and road for blocks — and that made me slip more than once last Tuesday — had vanished. Unfortunately, the slick, along with pollutants and debris across the city, has likely made its way to the harbor. The dead lobsters outside of the Red Hook Lobster Pound were also gone. I’m fairly certain those guys didn’t make it to the BBQ.

The “Run for Red Hook” ended at 61 Local, a bar in nearby Cobble Hill named after Red Hook’s one and only bus route, B61. By 10 a.m., the athletes were refueling on donated beer and baked goods, while the organizers basked in an adrenaline glow intensified by nearly $7,000 raised — not bad for fewer than two days of planning. But the generous joggers weren’t alone. The goodwill in South Brooklyn, and elsewhere in the city, has been so pervasive that you don’t have to wake early and run 6.2 miles to help out. I’ve heard some shelters have more volunteers than they know what to with, and with several businesses donating portions of their profits to Sandy relief efforts, many a lazy Sunday bruncher and late-night pickleback shooter has chipped in as well. Cheers to that.

All in all, I’d say we’re off to a good start, but getting everyone back on their feet and in a better position to withstand the next storm that barrels up the coast (or the sea-level rise that creeps up our banks) is a finish line that’s still a ways off.

 This story originally appeared at onearth
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