The 57th Street Action Center has been operating as the central emergency distribution hub for the Arverne Queens area at the Ocean Bay Apartment houses since Hurricane Sandy struck the NYC area. The center distributes food, supplies, medical, and legal services to those still living in unhealthy environments. There are still 10,000 people living without power in Rockaway alone and the action center is under the threat of being closed down by its landlord, the New York City Housing Authority.
Action Center Director Aria Doe met with the New York Housing Authority yesterday and was told on December 28th “we have to have everything cleared out of the building so they can do “cleaning”. They won’t work around the distribution, and want us out. We were told to stop taking donations, to send all that we have to the Mayors programs, to close the medical and legal clinics and to send our folks to medical units 40 blocks away”
It seems only too obvious that the City is attempting to stop the visual lines that show continued incompetence in dealing with post Sandy recovery. NYCHA will not give a clear timeline for when the cleaning is to be over and when the Action Center volunteers can return. “NYCHA has the opportunity to drag this out as long as they want to, and hinted in the meeting that was what was going to happen. They have been known to take 6 months to change a lock.” said Ms. Doe. “We cannot abandon our people now. It is even more critical that we have a presence in the community with the cold weather, escalating health hazards, and historically, what takes place in the dark to the poor, when no one is standing watch.”
The Action Center still has between 600 and 800 residents coming through their lines on a daily basis. Ms. Doe spent last week surveying the lines of residents coming for help. When residents were questioned with “why do you still come to the line day after day” here were some of their answers.
1. I have no gas without the hot food my family and kids will not eat properly.
2. I need follow-up medical care and I can’t get it.
3. I need bottled water because I am afraid to drink the rusty water in the housing units.
4. I have no heat, the blankets and clothing helps provide it.
5. I am unable to clean my cloths, the kid’s cloths, etc.
6. I constantly need the cleaning products because no one has come to fully clean the apartments.
7. I cannot afford to make a co-pay of $45 dollars at the clinic and have no money for medicine and to see a doctor.
8. I lost my job and have nothing without what you are providing.
9. FEMA denied my claim and I have nothing without what you provide me.
10. Everyone in my support system was effected so those I would go to for help need help themselves.
11. I work but have used all my money for transportation, and to replace what was lost I can’t get what I currently need without you.
12. I am old and can’t walk 40 blocks away to other services.
13. I need help to understand what is going on.
14. You are the only people who will listen and try to help us
The only train (the H) is not working consistently, most residents who had cars lost them, and many are sick with small children, and have to stay close to one another at home. They lack cab fare, and can’t transport the needed supplies on buses.
“I just know our voice, presence and real time relief is still needed so we can’t abandon our residents. We need to once again make the impossible possible and show without a doubt we can’t be stopped” says Ms. Doe pleading for help from anyone who can offer it.
Ms Doe and her team of volunteers are tirelessly seeing a new home for their distribution center and praying that someone at NYCHA can postpone their imminent shut down.