‘Not Hard to Reach’: East Villagers Come Together For Rockaway

IMG_8544Nicole Guzzardi
PianoCourtesy Liz Wolff Piano outside of Ms. Wolff’s family’s home.

Cure Thrift Shop usually donates proceeds from its earnings to diabetes research, but this week it has a new cause: the Rockaways, where residents – about 31,000 of them still without power – are cleaning up demolished homes and struggling for food and warmth.

Liz Wolff, the store’s owner, has a personal connection to the devastation: she grew up in Rockaway Beach, and her parents’ home was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, as were those of friends and family. The wreckage, she said, was incredible.

“Homes are either tumbled to the ground, or just unlivable,” she said.

To help out, she decided to turn her store into a donation center. “A lot of people in the city can’t get out to Rockaway and they want to be able to help and do anything they can,” she said, “but of course gas is an issue now, so we’re collecting everything here.”

IMG_8519Liz Woff Donations at Cure

Earlier this week, she dropped off an SUV full of donations. This week, she loaded a barrage of items – including clothing, baby food and diapers, cleaning supplies and contractor masks – into a truck provided by Arizona Iced Tea.

The company, owned by Wesley Vultaggio, who grew up in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Rockaway, transported the items and a mass quantity of beverages to Queens.

Despite the drive’s somber purpose, Ms. Wolff seemed touched by the way New Yorkers came together.

“It’s filled the entire back portion of our store,” she said. “We have so much; it’s been amazing.”

brindleDaniel Maurer DP Pizza’s concession stand.

One might say the East Village and Rockaway Beach have been interlinked ever since the Ramones pointed out, in memorable musical fashion, that the latter wasn’t hard to reach. In any case, Cure isn’t the only East Village business with ties to the waterfront community.

Caracas Arepa Bar posted photos to its Facebook page of the devastation its boardwalk outpost faced in the wake of Sandy. “Caracas Rockaway… totally destroyed as well as the whole peninsula,” read an Oct. 31 post. “We were there yesterday and it’s really sad… we will reach out for volunteers to help people out there as soon as we have a clear idea on how to do it properly.”

With the boardwalk ripped from its moorings, the future of Caracas Rockaway is uncertain, as is that of DP Pizza, the pizza stand operated by the Brindle Room.

Jeremy Spector, the owner of the East 10th Street restaurant, said DP’s boardwalk concession stand at Beach 96th Street didn’t sustain much damage, but he described the peninsula’s plight as “heartbreaking and upsetting.”

He has faith that the locals will pull through, though. “The people there are strong-willed and determined, so I know they are working to get everything back up and running,” he said.

BasementCourtesy Liz Wolff Basement of Ms. Wolff’s family home.

While Cure’s drive ended today, other neighborhood spots are still accepting clothing, food and money to help those in Rockaway and across New York.

Nazareth Housing, at 206 East Fourth Street, is accepting donations indefinitely from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the week. They are no longer in need of clothes, but still need canned food and supplies.

Bowery Mission, at 227 Bowery, is still accepting clothing and other items 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their location at 45-51 Avenue D is no longer accepting clothing because they’re run out of room, but it’s still accepting food and supplies.

Ascension Outreach Parish Hall, at 12 West 11th Street, is accepting anything and everything from clothing to food and supplies, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

IMG_8536Nicole Guzzardi Canned goods donated to Cure

Immaculate Conception Church is accepting monetary donations in the form of checks or cash. From 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., donations can be placed in boxes in the back of the church labeled, “Hurricane Relief.” From 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., they can be dropped at the church’s rectory.

For those who prefer to volunteer on the ground, transportation to the peninsula is about to become less daunting: today Mayor Bloomberg announced a new weekday ferry service, and Governor Cuomo said an A train shuttle should connect stops within Rockaway by Sunday, the New York Observer reported. Update: City Room confirms that “A train service within the Rockaway peninsula will resume on Sunday, with a shuttle bus connection across Jamaica Bay to subway service at Howard Beach, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said.”

Tomorrow, the Rockabus will shuttle volunteers to Rockaway from Williamsburg, and MTA buses will transport volunteers from Seventh Avenue, between 17th and 18th Streets.

Once there, volunteers can check in with the Veggie Island farm stand, run by East Village-Rockaway residents Elizabeth Gilchrist  and Taka Imamura. As a Reuters video shows, the stand has become a hub of food distribution and volunteer coordination during the peninsula’s recovery.

Abounding Grace Ministries, the church on Avenue C that participated in food distribution at Dry Dock Playground, is also shuttling volunteers to Rockaway. The church is working with a consortium of other religious institutions and government agencies to distribute supplies, and is dispatching teams of volunteers to help gut flood-ravaged homes in an appropriate manner. Call Jeremy Del Rio at 347-921-4426 for the latest information about pick-up locations, meet-up times, and needs.

If you’re looking for something to do this evening, a benefit at Webster Hall will feature performances by music groups Lachi and Iphonic as well as a show titled “Raise Your Voice,” by Yum’s The Word, a spoken-word group that tells stories in a birthday-party setting. (Spoiler alert: there will be homemade ice cream cake.) Proceeds go in part to Good Old Lower East Side’s relief efforts. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $12 at the door.

Alexa Mae Asperin contributed reporting.