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From Downtown, Another Wave of Support For Rockaway

House damaged by Sandy in the RockawaysDamaged house in the Rockaways. Matt Kliegman

East Villagers continue to band together to help bring relief to the storm-battered Rockaways, where thousands are still without power or heat.

On the Sunday after Hurricane Sandy struck, Emmett Shine founder of Gin Lane Media, a Bowery-based branding and design company and James Cruickshank, his partner in Lola and an owner of Whitmans restaurant on East Fifth Street, poured into a 15-seat passenger van with 14 other people and headed out to the ravaged peninsula. They ended up at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club at Beach 87th Street, where Lava Girl Surf was leading a community relief effort.

“We were so impressed that this whole grassroots organization had flourished at this beach club,” said Rebecca Zhou, 22, a strategist at Gin Lane.

The group broke into teams of five and began distributing donated items. “That day people in our group cleaned out flooded basements and helped people clear out moldy, wet furniture,” said Ms. Zhou, who went door-to-door, checking on the elderly residents of a high-rise apartment complex. Read more…

Post-Sandy, Bowery Mission and Other Shelters Kept Up Their Good Work

Dining Hall in Bowery MissionSanna Chu Dining Hall at Bowery Mission

Before restaurants and food distribution centers mobilized in the wake of Sandy, shelters and religious institutions that have long fed the neighborhood’s needy were already in high gear.

Last week, more than 160 additional people bunkered down in the Bowery Mission’s emergency shelter areas. James Macklin, director of outreach, said the shelter’s 10 staffers took the uptick in stride, continuing to serve three hot meals a day to 80 permanent residents as well as the influx of visitors.

“I was cooking by torchlight,” said Delon Ali, a chef at Bowery Mission. “We served 700 to 1,000 plates per day here.”

Aside from its long-term residents, the 133-year-old organization provides emergency housing for overnight guests when the temperature drops below 40 degrees and during extreme weather. During cold nights, the Mission might see up to 100 people sleeping in its chapel and dining room.

Mr. Macklin said 160 might have been a record high, but in the 27 years he has worked at the shelter, he has never seen anyone turned away. “I haven’t seen it done and I don’t think we will ever do that,” he said.

During the storm last Monday, the Mission, along with much of downtown Manhattan, was plunged into darkness. It took to Twitter to call for a generator. The next day, three came: two were used to power the Mission on Bowery and one was used at its Transitional Center on Avenue D.

James Macklin at Bowery MissionSanna Chu James Macklin at Bowery Mission

The Mission gets regular donations from individuals and businesses including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Duane Reade, and others. After the storm, there was an even greater outpouring of support. “We have buses coming all the way from Elmira, N.Y., loaded from top to bottom and they’re coming back again to help us do what we do,” Mr. Macklin said. Even neighboring pizzeria Pulino’s sent over some grub.

The donations weren’t just for those at the shelter. The Mission also distributes food all over the city, from churches to Coney Island. It gave away hot meals and supplies on Avenue D today.

Charles Reaves, 43, who had been staying at the Mission for five months, wasn’t troubled much by the storm. “It got a little crowded in here at night but it was okay,” he said. “It was for a good reason. We got to provide food and shelter for a lot of people who otherwise had nowhere to go.”

For Matt Krivich, 38, the Mission’s director of operations, Sandy brought a sense of uncertainty but also of unity. “It brought all of us together a little bit more because we didn’t have distractions. We have a great staff and our residents all stepped up and helped maintain order and keep people safe.”

Over at the Catholic Worker, workers were able to continue using gas ovens to serve hot meals to over 40 residents split between St. Joseph house and Maryhouse. The weekday soup line – normally open to the public from 10 a.m. till 11.30 a.m., Monday through Friday – continued uninterrupted. “But we were cooking in the dark,” said Carmen Trotta, 47, a Catholic worker.

The Catholic Worker did not house any Sandy refugees, since its houses are usually at capacity.

Avenue D Sandy reliefSanna Chu Relief Effort on Avenue D

With their overstocked freezer, the workers were able to keep food cold for a few days after the power went out, before doing a cook-off with leftover meat. Some salad had to be thrown out but there was no big loss, according to Mr. Trotta.

“It was a humbling experience to see how quickly our high-tech society can crumble,” said Mr. Trotta. With the lights out, the residents were forced to sleep longer. And with nowhere to go, the workers and residents drew closer together as a community.

While the Catholic Worker’s soup line was a little longer than usual, Graffiti Church had a different experience. The church’s normal Wednesday and Saturday meal services saw fewer people than usual, probably because many had moved out of the area to seek shelter.

In addition to organizing a clothing drive, the church has been helping local residents clean out their apartments and fight mold. “People in this area have never had to deal with this problem before,” said Reverend Taylor Field. To address it, the church, at 205 East Seventh Street, will hold a free mold prevention seminar tonight, from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Alec Baldwin Drops By to Cheer Up Displaced NYU Students

UntitledDaniel Maurer Baldwin leaves the building.

Displaced NYU students got an unexpected dinner guest today, as Alec Baldwin made a star appearance at the school’s student center.

The “30 Rock” star stopped into Kimmel Center, off of Washington Square Park, around 7 p.m. tonight. “I’m an alum and John Sexton asked me to come and talk to the students, thank them for their patience,” he told The Local as he left the building, politely breaking free from a dozen students that swarmed him at the elevator.

NYU relocated about 6,000 students earlier today after back-up power ran out at their dorms, according to an e-mail from Jules Martin, the school’s Vice President for Global Security and Crisis Management. Around midday, the generator at 3rd North residence ran out of fuel, creating a “temporary smoke condition,” but power was expected to be restored this evening, the e-mail said. Displaced students are currently showering at the school’s two sports complexes.

Mr. Baldwin, who lives near Kimmel on East 10th Street, has also been displaced by the storm: he told The Local that he and his wife had moved to a friend’s hotel because his elevator was out and taking their two dogs up and down several flights of stairs “wasn’t working.” He was also out of work for two days: “the show I do,” he said, referring modestly to “30 Rock,” suspended filming on Monday and Tuesday because team members couldn’t make it to Silvercup Studios in Queens.

As soon as Mr. Baldwin made his appearance alongside school president John Sexton in the cafeteria, students charging their phones, pecking at laptops, and dining at Kimmel sent out word via Twitter.

“Alec Baldwin just came to Kimmel and told us to stay safe #YesSir,” wrote @Glenneth_Coco.

“You know those weird moments when you’re temporarily living in Kimmel and you run into Alec Baldwin?” wrote @taylorsprow.

“Thats cool Alec Baldwin came to NYU to chill, but uhh.. can you take us home with you so we can shower n sleep in your probably fancy bed?” tweeted @CinemaBite.

East Village Weathers the Superstorm

UntitledDaniel Maurer FDR Drive near East 10th.

East Villagers woke up to waterlogged cars, downed trees, limited cell phone reception, and an acrid smell in the air – a lingering reminder of a circuit-breaker explosion at the Con Edison plant on 14th Street that preceded a blackout affecting nearly all of Manhattan south of 39th Street.

Next to the facility, on 13th Street east of Avenue C, a half dozen people attempted to dry out and jump-start cars that had been underwater hours before, as other vehicles sat in garages where water still stood above tire level. On Avenue C, a Stuy Town resident tended to a Volvo with a smashed window. The man, who did not want to be named, said he had tried to drive the car out of an underground garage after he looked out of his apartment window and saw river water beginning to gush up Avenue C.

UntitledDaniel Maurer

Within five to ten minutes, he said, the water was up to mid-thigh level. “I tried to get out of the garage and as soon as I hit the gate it was a wall of water,” he said. When he realized the water had reached his car window, he bailed out and waded through a chest-level “river,” dodging floating vehicles as he tried to get to shallower waters on 14th Street. “Cars were afloat. All I needed was one car to blow me into the wall. It was chaotic,” he said, adding that the scene became “9/11-like” when a circuit-breaker exploded at the Con Ed plant, just a block away, and plunged the neighborhood into darkness around 8:30 p.m. Read more…