From the moment it was safe to exit their homes, the staff of the Red Hook Initiative (RHI) were out in force, mobilizing at their offices inside 767 Hicks Street to set up a warming center, donation drive for food and clothing, a charging area for electronics, and an information and volunteer hub for hope-starved and hopeful residents alike.
Much of Red Hook sits in Zone A, and one of the city’s largest housing complexes, the Red Hook Houses, underwent a mandatory evacuation order, with power and heat shut off in the middle of the storm, by the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA). Still, many residents – many of them seniors, disabled, or with nowhere else to go – stayed behind.
Those that evacuated, such as Evelyn Maples, also had it rough. After a week at John Jay High School’s evacuation shelter, she was told to pack up her belongings and board a bus to a Bronx center, which is reportedly infested with bugs. “This is wrong,” she said. “We were only given three hour’s notice. We are not supposed to have to do that.”
The shelter was being closed because the city wanted to reopen schools. Red Hook’s P.S. 15 had sustained damage and students were relocated to nearby P.S. 27 beginning November 7. PAVE Charter School also relocated to the nearby PAL Miccio Head Start building.
“It’s hard and a big transformation for the kids. They have to share classrooms and it’s hard for my son, who has ADHD and has trouble concentrating, especially with more kids,” said Lizette Maldonado as she dropped her kids off on their first day back. “At home on Columbia Street, it’s even harder because there’s been no power, heat or hot water. We just got power on the 11th.”
“But we’re hanging in there. RHI is the best of the best. They’re God’s right hand, not only for me, but for everybody in the neighborhood,” she added. “There are no words to say thank you.”