Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit the New York City region with a wind-driven surge of water abetted by a full-moon high tide that pushed water levels to unprecedented heights. Waterfront communities in Staten Island, Long Island and along the New Jersey shore were devastated, and the cost in lives lost and destruction of property was unimaginable.

Much of Lower Manhattan and the Lower East Side were flooded as well, power was out for a significant portion of our community for days, and many commercial and residential buildings were uninhabitable for months. Warren Street in front of our community center was under three to four feet of water which found its way into our Great Hall and down to our cellar Aquatics level.

More significantly, the flood breached the sandbags protecting the parking garage adjacent to our Center. The garage area next to our sub-cellar level filled with flood water, which eventually burst through three sets of steel doors leading to our boiler room and our Arts and Culture level, ripping through walls and tossing furnishings and equipment around like rubber duckies in a bathtub.

When it was all over, we had nearly 20 feet of standing salt water in our sub-cellar, ruined ceilings, floors and walls on our cellar Aquatics level, and ruined floors and walls on our street level.

On Tuesday, we assessed the situation and began cleaning up. We found pumps in New Jersey and ran four of them day and night for four days to pump out the water. We then removed more than 40 dumpsters of program equipment, furniture, drywall, insulation and more, and we cleaned and treated our entire sub-cellar level - including the air. We replaced boilers, pumps, electrical panels, walls, flooring etc., and we opened our pool and upper three floors on January 2nd. It will take several more months to bring back our sub-cellar level, but we're working on it.

Rebuilding our Arts and Culture level will be enormously expensive, but the cost to our kids will be so much more if we don't give them the opportunity to work and learn in these great programs and spaces.

Meanwhile, we have continued serving the children in our after-school programs without missing a beat. Kids had a blast in our Downtown Basketball League, our weekend programs in satellite locations have been a success, and many of our Center programs are taking place in alternate locations.

Throughout this ordeal, we have continued to employ our Center staff in various roles - no layoffs - so that familiar and knowledgeable people are waiting to greet you when you come to our programs. Our financial assistance to families has also continued without interruption, and we stand ready to help families and children who may be facing special challenges at this time.

Many people have asked how they can share the video we premiered at our event with friends and others. It's a montage of scenes from our Arts and Culture programs juxtaposed with the same spaces after Hurricane Sandy.


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