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Renewal in Red Hook

The devastation that Superstorm Sandy has wreaked on Red Hook has been well-publicized in the last few days, and hasn't spared the former Catholic school that houses the Justice Center. In the midst of so much destruction, we thought we'd shift the focus towards some of the amazing recovery efforts that have been going on in the past week throughout the neighborhood.

CCI staff and AmeriCorps members came out in droves to assist in Red Hook's recovery in the wake of Hurricane Sandy
Starting Wednesday, members of our AmeriCorps program, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, alongside staff from the Justice Center and several other Center for Court Innovation projects, came out in droves to assist in any way they could. Thanks to our strong partnerships with city agencies and community organizations, including the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, the New York City Housing Authority, and Red Hook Initiative, we were able to hit the ground running.

We started by going door-to-door to apartments in the Red Hook Houses, a public housing development with over 6,000 residents that had been almost entirely without power, heat, and running water since Sunday, checking up on residents who NYCHA had helped us to identify as elderly, frail, or otherwise home-bound. Thursday, we assisted the Parks Department to clean up Coffey Park, located directly in between the Red Hook Houses and the Justice Center, in order to clear a space for the National Guard and the Salvation Army to deliver much-needed emergency food and water assistance to the neighborhood. Residents waited patiently for hours in increasingly cold conditions while the National Guard traveled from the opposite end of Brooklyn to Red Hook with supplies. When the trucks finally rolled in, dozens of volunteers jumped into a receiving line to assist the National Guard to unload thousands of MREs and cases of bottled water as quickly as possible, and were able to begin distributing supplies to residents almost immediately.

A sample of the amazing work done by members of the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, our AmeriCorps program, over the past week.

Today, CCI staff volunteers and AmeriCorps members delivered food, water, and care packages assembled by the Red Hook Initiative to 25 apartments throughout the Red Hook Houses to residents who were wheelchair-bound or on life-sustaining medical care. We also continued to assist the National Guard in their two visits to Red Hook today, to deliver a total of 25,000 MREs and 30,000 bottles of water to hundreds of residents who lined up through the park. In addition, several staff, AmeriCorps members, and friends made home deliveries to over 220 residents who are disabled or have mobility impairments. These deliveries involved climbing as many as 14 flights of stairs in a pitch black, narrow stairwell balancing heavy cases of water, boxes of food, and flashlights. Everyone who was home opened their doors with great appreciation as all of the buildings still lack light, elevators, and heat, and many are still without running water.

Staff from the Red Hook Community Justice Center and many different CCI projects flocked to Red Hook to lend a hand.

The most incredible part of this week has certainly been the resilience of the residents of Red Hook. Despite days without power and little concrete information about when it will return, neighbors were always willing to lend a helping hand, even if it meant climbing up 14 stories in a pitch black stairwell to deliver a flashlight to a frightened senior, or lending a neighboring business scarce generators and pumps to clear a flooded basement. Red Hookers have also maintained their fighting spirit, whether it meant putting their experience in perspective and thanking volunteers for focusing on making deliveries to homebound residents, or expressing their gratitude for having their residences remain intact when so many others across the city and beyond have not. They have also kept amazing patience throughout their ordeal--the Justice Center's Judge Alex Calabrese spoke with Captain Schiff of the 76 Precinct, who reported that there had been no reports of looting or robberies in Red Hook since the storm. 

The resilience of the entire Red Hook community has been the most impressive part of this entire ordeal.

Unfortunately, we do not have an update on when the Justice Center will reopen. The lower level of our building, which contains a number of critical offices and other community spaces, was severely flooded and will take a long time and lots of resources to repair. We will be up and running soon from a temporary location, and if you'd like to keep track of our progress, please stay tuned to this blog, as well as like our facebook page.

The current state of the Justice Center's storage room, which was submerged in nearly 5 feet of water during the storm.


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