Sisters and Brothers,
On Monday we traveled to Coney Island to visit some of my mom's friends who were there when Hurricane Sandy hit, support the relief effort and to assess the situation. When we arrived we immediately saw sand all over the place. The Hurricane spread the Coney Island Beach all over the peninsula. Everywhere you go you can spot water lines in and outside of buildings that markhow high the water had gotten. In one of the local community centers the inside walls have a line that is 3 feet high. Outside the center, cars were flipped around, community businesses were destroyed and people were left to fend for themselves.
It is to the credit of the caring and courageous people of Coney Island that they pulled together and survived this horrible disaster. Before the city officials, FEMA or the Red Cross arrived, the people, working with the churches, especially Coney Island's Gospel Assembly, got organized and started digging themselves out of the sand. They also organized themselves and began the task of receiving, sorting, packing and distributing supplies.
Many of these courageous people are residents of the many public housing developments that are so concentrated in this part of Brooklyn. They are the same people whose homes Bloomberg refused to maintain and repair even though he had received nearly $1 billion dollars from the federal government for this purpose. The racist and anti-poor Bloomberg policy has not been put on hold but has been accelerated by this crisis. It is well known that Bloomberg visited New Orleans in 2007, a month later the decision was made to demolish the "Big Four" (public housing for African-Americans). Just this week, using Hurricane Katrina as a reference point, Bloomberg announced that 30,000 to 40,000 people would need to be relocated, most of them public housing residents. He is currently downplaying his previous statements and estimating that only 10,000 people will need to be "relocated."
The racism of Bloomberg's public housing policy is clear to see for all who visit Coney Island. The housing developments that are closer to the beach and suffered the worst damage already have electricity, working elevators, security guards in their lobbies, heat and hot water. As well as a community center that is being fully stocked with food, blankets, water and other necessary supplies. These building are inhabited by a large number of Russian Jews. Paradoxically, the developments that are farther away from the beach and have suffered less damage are in all levels of disrepair. Some don't have electricity, working elevators, heat, or active support. These buildings are inhabited primarily by African-American and Latino residents.
What we are demanding is that there be no disparate treatment of public housing residents, or anyone else needing help in our city, and that they should all immediately be provided with electricity, telephone service, heat, hot water, safe and clean living conditions and support.
Since that is not what is happening today, there is a fear that the Bloomberg Administration will not make the necessary repairs but, rather, use the approaching Nor'easter and the deteriorating conditions as an excuse to evacuate the mostly African-American and Latino residents with the intention of permanently "relocating" them away from their homes.
In terms of meeting the residents' physical needs, we are asking everyone to support the people who are suffering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy and that they don't allow Bloomberg, (and Cuomo, Obama, and the State Legislature, and the City Council) the real estate developers, and Wall Street investors to manipulate this crisis to displace people from their homes. Gentrification is already creating economic refugees who are forced to leave their neighborhoods in search of affordable housing in other parts of the city and increasingly leaving the city altogether. This process will only be accelerated if we do not take action.
These are concrete steps that you can take:
1. Support the victims of this natural disaster by donating money, gasoline and supplies to local relief organizations like Coney Island's Gospel Assembly. Volunteer your time, especially if you have construction skills, like plumbing, electrical wiring, etc.
Contact info for:
Coney Island's Gospel Assembly
2828 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224
Coney Island's Generation Gap
2904 Neptune Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11224
2. Bring a political message to affected communities like Coney Island, Red Hook, Far Rockaway Staten Island and other places, that while this was a natural disaster, it was also a man made disaster caused by the politicians, and their real estate and Wall Street sponsors. A clear example was Bloomberg's willingness to use generators for the Marathon while many people across New York City are without heat, hot water or lights. Further, that the people must stop relying on the politicians and organize themselves to resist the never-ending attacks on their well-being. If you wish to become involved in this effort, please contact the People Power Movement-Movimiento Poder Popular at (646)696-8485, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit us at www.facebook.com/peoplepower2011.
Your Brother in Struggle,
Mark A. Torres, Chair
People Power Movement-Movimiento Poder Popular
All Power to the People!
Todo Poder al Pueblo!