It has been a week since Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Thankfully at this stage power is back on in many of the affected areas, and I think we are all grateful to have the subway running back into the city. Improvements are happening quickly, which is wonderful.

Our coastal neighborhoods, however, will take a lot longer to repair.  Flood-damaged homes are full of sand and sewage-contaminated mud. Power has been cut off until basements are free from water. The clean-up effort is huge, and, as always with lost possessions, very painful. But many hands make for light work… If you want to get involved, there are loads of options. I volunteered with Rockaway Emergency Plan on Sunday, and they were really awesome. Although, there are many areas where you are needed.

A small group of us met in Ridgewood on Sunday morning and rode our bikes out to Rockaway. It took us about an hour-and-fifteen minutes to bike there from Bushwick; alternatively you can take the L train or a bus.

When we arrived the fine people behind Rockaway Emergency Plan gave us all a very clear briefing. This is important information because there are dangers involved (gas leaks, electrical fires, contamination, etc.) They are trained professionals nearby to assist and inform.

If you want to get dirty you can help clear out basements. The homes we saw that day took in five feet of water. Furniture, books, TVs, beds, pretty much everything that got wet has to go. Clearly devastated, one resident asked me to throw out her wedding album. Bear in mind, all these items are waterlogged so weigh twice as much as they otherwise would. If you don’t want to do heavy lifting, there are other tasks, like sorting through donations.

No more clothes donations are needed. Food, cleaning supplies, diapers, batteries, and flashlights are still needed.

This information came off The Rockaway Emergency Plan Facebook page yesterday:

“It looks like it is going to be a beautiful weekend in the Rockaways and we’re going to need it.

Clean up efforts will resume at 219 Beach 129th Street on FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY.”

They will be there today and all next weekend. Fill a car with your mates, or form a bike crew like we did.  It’s a great thing to do, there’s plenty of food, coffee and camaraderie.

If you are looking to donate money, a lot of the Rockaway residents recommend their local non-profit organization called Graybeards. ALL funds go towards disaster relief; none of it is lost in administration fees.