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Shelter from the Storm

Snow blankets the neighborhood after this week's Nor'easter
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With the early arrival of winter in New York in the form of a Nor'easter and frigid temperatures, thousands of residents remaining without power, heat, and water, and headlines like "Misery Mounting at Red Hook Houses as Residents Wait for Heat and Power" and "Small Shops Shiver in Gloom of a Shuttered Red Hook Market," this past week was an especially difficult one for Red Hook. The most recent update from NYCHA reports 10 buildings remaining without electricity and 8 buildings without heat in Red Hook East, and 9 buildings without electricity and all 14 buildings without heat in Red Hook West--a total of over 3,000 residents.


There were a few spots of light amongst the gloom, however. We drew on partnerships with the New York City Mayor's Office and the Brooklyn Public Library to open two warming centers for residents who remain without heat in the NYCHA Miccio Community Center and the Red Hook branch of the library. The Mayor's Office also worked with us to set up shuttle bus service for residents to take hot showers in a community center in Sunset Park. Along with our AmeriCorps program, the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, we also continued assisting the National Guard and FEMA with over 40,000 meals and bottles of water, and other supply distribution (including a particularly harrowing urgent delivery of blankets at the height of the Nor'easter) and made deliveries to homebound residents unable to reach distribution points. The neighborhood also received dozens of much-needed portable toilets, and a visit from a mobile health clinic. 


We are happy to report that next week shows much more promise. As of this Tuesday, November 13th, the Justice Center's Criminal and Family Court operations will be back online at the main criminal courthouse at 120 Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn. We will have a dedicated courtroom, as well as a clerk's office, space for our clinic in an old jury room, a private space to do intake with some creative use of removable walls, a room to hold our groups and workshops. While it will not have all the comforts of the renovated Catholic school that we normally call home, we are excited to transition back towards doing the work that we have always done to serve Red Hook and greater South Brooklyn.


Most of our youth programs will also be back up and running starting next week, thanks to the 76th Precinct for hosting our Youth Court, Good Shepherd Services for providing space for our training for new Youth Court members and our "Think Before you Move" chess program, and Kentler International Drawing Space for hosting our "Make your Mark" JustArts drawing program. We're especially excited to be able to offer the Brooklyn youth we serve some continuity and a respite from the chaos of the past two weeks.


We also heard some good news at last night's meeting with NYCHA Central staff, who came to the PAL Miccio Center to give an update to local officials, including Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilmember Brad Lander, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Captain Jeffrey Schiff of the 76th Precinct, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, representatives from Councilmember Sara Gonzalez and the Mayor's office, the presidents of the Red Hook East and West tenant associations, and staff from the Justice Center. NYCHA Board Member Margarita Lopez reported that along with the Mayor's office, NYCHA has been working nonstop to set up temporary boilers and electrical systems, and hopes to have them both up and running in the next few days. She stressed that that residents should not heed rumors that the "government is trying to shut down Red Hook," underscoring that  "NYCHA is not vacating residents--these are your homes and nobody's leaving." Congresswoman Velazquez also noted that "President Obama will not sign off for federal buildings to be vacated." As patience wears thin among NYCHA residents who have put up with no power, heat, or water, as well as deteriorating living conditions over the past two weeks, everyone is hoping to put the rumors to rest.


Take a look below at some of this week's highlights:



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