Three years ago this week Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast, costing many lives and leaving billions of dollars’ worth of damage.
Areas south of Woodhaven suffered the most damage due to flooding and high tides, a deadly combination that left many residents stranded in their homes and emergency service personnel with no way of reaching them.
In comparison, Woodhaven suffered far less damage, but that does not mean to say that it escaped unscathed. While areas close to the water suffered from flooding, residents of Woodhaven faced dangerous conditions involving high winds, falling trees and downed power lines.
Residents calling in reports of downed trees and power lines also fed the information to the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, which kept a running list throughout the storm. By the afternoon after the storm, that list had topped 35 locations.
One casualty of Hurricane Sandy was the nearly 100-foot-tall tree at Forest Parkway and Jamaica Avenue that served as Woodhaven’s Christmas Tree for several decades. The storm had toppled it over, and ripped it out of the ground at the roots.
Communities in New York and New Jersey were devastated. The call went out for help and the residents of Woodhaven responded in a big way. People stopped by the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association office asking “What do you need?”
Then they would either head home or off to one of the local shops and come back with an armload of goods.
Residents opened their drawers and their closets and donated a tremendous amount of clothing which was desperately needed by people who had lost everything. In all, over 1,200 bags stuffed full of clothing made its way through the doors of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association where dozens of volunteers spent hours sorting through and organizing the many thousands of items that were donated.
About a dozen or so residents formed the first caravan that made its way into Howard Beach, through streets that were without traffic lights and were strewn with the personal belongings of people whose homes were overrun by the tides.
When we arrived at one relief location, the people we met there were cold and shell-shocked; their clothes were damp and they were grateful for every piece of clothing that was donated. And because residents of Woodhaven had spent the time sorting and organizing donations, it was very easy for people to pick out exactly what they needed.
The residents of Woodhaven were also very generous with their money, donating over $3,500 to the cause over just a couple of days, with many of the donations in the form of $1 and $5 increments.
Residents held a touching “Flashlight Vigil” for the victims of Hurricane Sandy at Jamaica Avenue and Forest Parkway, at the base of our fallen Christmas Tree. It was just like a candlelight vigil except that everyone brought flashlights with fresh batteries which they left afterwards to be delivered to the Rockaways.
The residents’ hard work and generosity was an inspiration and put to rest the perception that the Woodhaven of today is a town where people do not care about their neighbors.
Three years later, there are still some areas that have not yet recovered from the devastating storm of 2012. We hope that we’ll never have to mobilize like that again, but should the need arise, we’re confident that the residents of Woodhaven will be ready to answer the call for help.
Stay connected to your community by becoming a part of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. Join the WRBA’s mailing list to get updates on community events by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (718) 296-3735.
The WRBA hosts monthly Town Hall meetings where issues of local interest are discussed. The next public meeting will be held at noon on Saturday, November 21, at American Legion Post 118 at 89-02 91st Street, which is at the corner of 91st Street and 89th Avenue behind PS 60. We hope to see you there.