Sandy Aftermath: Report from the Rockaways

What’s left of the Rockaways boardwalk.

Yesterday, members of The Lo-Down team spent the day delivering food and supplies donated to our pet relief effort this weekend. Accompanied by folks from Instinct Dog Behavior & Training and backed by support from Ruff Club and Bayou Rescue, five volunteers took two large carloads of dog and cat food, kitty litter, treats and toys to companion animals across the Rockaways peninsula, where there is still no power and little hope of most stores reopening before the year’s end.

While Hurricane Sandy is quickly receding into the rearview mirror for many New York City residents, those whose towns were surrounded by water on all sides when the storm hit two weeks ago still have no power, heat or water at home — and thousands have no homes at all. They spend hours standing in line at relief centers for everything from baby formula and hot soup to feed their children to mops and shovels to attack the muck that coats every square inch of ground level, indoors and out.

Rocky and his family rode out the storm in their Rockaways home; their basement-level garage filled with water, totaling both cars. We gave him a large bag of dog food and a stuffed toy.

While FEMA, the American Red Cross and city agencies finally are beginning to appear on the scene in force, the lifeblood of devastated, flattened Queens beach towns so far has been small efforts by grassroots organizations springing into action from elsewhere in the city and on its outskirts: the Occupy Sandy group, churches, clubs of all kinds from New England to Virginia, and even informal bands of friends who just rented a U-Haul, filled it with supplies and drove into town to help. These small relief centers generally had plenty of bottled water, non-perishable food and other supplies to give away, but lacked any provisions for pets. Over the course of the day, we emptied our load at about eight such centers, watching as grateful pet owners snapped up bags of kibble and cans of cat food.

Residents seeking help at this distribution center, in the parking lot of a shuttered strip mall, were desperate for pet food and kitty litter. It was across the street from several gigantic apartment complexes where residents have been told the power will not be restored until at least mid-December.

Thanks to everyone who donated money and goods and helped us spread the word about this project. For readers who would like to get involved in what remains an arduous and uphill battle to recovery for both the Rockaways and Staten Island’s beach towns can find up-to-the-minute information from NYC Sandy Needs and Nobodies Helping Everybody.

If you have a few hours to spare, especially during the work week when volunteers are scarce, many places can use elbow grease of all kinds. If you don’t have extra time but can help with funding, those two sites can point you to groups doing great work on the ground who need cash to keep going.

There are hundreds of large apartment complexes like this one right on the water; they are without power and cars in the parking lot are trashed.

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