Storm Drove Families Out of Home For Homeless

IMG_8365Dana Varinsky Miguel Paula carts garbage out of the Lavanburg Homes.

Formerly homeless families were displaced once again when Sandy drove them out of their Lower East Side apartments, and it’s uncertain when they’ll be allowed back in.

The Lavanburg Homes, located just west of FDR Drive on Baruch Place, have sat empty since Saturday. The buildings, owned by the New York City Housing Authority, are home to Henry Street Settlement’s Urban Family Center, a 95-unit apartment-style shelter for homeless families with children.

This afternoon, Lisa Pellot tried to get into her apartment to retrieve some belongings, but was told she couldn’t enter. “They’re saying it’s not safe,” she told The Local. Ms. Pellot and her three children are currently staying with family, in an apartment that usually houses five and is now home to nine. They haven’t been told when, exactly, they’ll be allowed to return to their home.

IMG_8370Dana Varinsky Dumpster outside of Lavanburg

On Saturday, the complex’s residents were evacuated in preparation for the storm. Some went to a temporary shelter set up by the Henry Street Settlement, while others stayed with friends or family. Ms. Pellot said that when she left, she only brought enough clothing for a few days. She hadn’t prepared for the colder weather. “My kids gotta go to school,” she said, adding, “They’ve been absent. I have no clothes for them.”

As she waited outside, frustrated, Ms. Pellot’s mail was brought out to her by a caseworker. “They’re keeping us in the dark here,” she said.

Yesterday, the New York City Housing Authority released an accounting of its buildings indicating that the Lavanburg Homes were the last in Manhattan without power. Today, an updated list indicated that electricity had been restored. But Miguel Paula, a member of the building’s maintenance staff, said that because of water damage in the basement, only some apartments had electricity.

This afternoon, Mr. Paula and other workers wore face masks as they carried trash out of the building, filling a dumpster bag by bag. “We have a big-time flood in the basement,” said Mr. Paula. “We were draining water for four to five days.”

The building is also without heat. At the time of today’s update, the only other Manhattan housing complexes still in the cold were the Samuel Gompers Houses, at 50 Pitt Street, and Lower East Side Rehab V, at 89 Avenue C. Those buildings were expected to receive temporary boilers so that their heat could be restored within the week, the authority said.

Citywide, the authority said it had restored power to 331 of the 402 buildings affected by Sandy and heat and hot water to 272 out of 386 buildings.