As Red Hook Residents Plead for Heat and Hot Water, NYCHA Goes Door-to-Door

By Alan Neuhauser on November 13, 2012 4:52pm 

RED HOOK — Busloads of public housing workers teamed up with dozens of nurses, EMTs and paramedics to go door-to-door in the Red Hook Houses Tuesday, checking in on hundreds of residents who don't have power, and thousands more who still do not have heat or hot water, more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday's outreach effort marked the first time since the storm that the New York City Housing Authority has gone door-to-door visiting the 8,000 residents of the Red Hook Houses, Brooklyn's largest public housing project.

The basements and ground floors of much of the complex were inundated with saltwater by the Oct. 29 superstorm, which walloped neighborhood homes and businesses with some of the worst storm surges and flooding and wind damage in New York City.

"It's all f—ed up out here, man," said Edward Gulston, 44, who lives in the development at 31 Center Mall.

Three buildings housing more than 500 residents remained without power Tuesday, NYCHA reported, and more than half of the development's 32 buildings were without heat and hot water. NYCHA has declined to estimate when the services will be fully restored to the project.

The agency "is working…as quickly as possible," NYCHA said in a press release.

NYCHA was also apparently preparing for the worst Tuesday.

In addition to sending hundreds of NYCHA workers to canvass the Red Hook Houses — including accountants and budget analysts from the agency's finance department — 30 ambulances lined Richards Street nearby, waiting to transport any residents who had become injured or ill during the storm and its ensuing blackout. Contracted by FEMA, the rigs and their crews hailed from as far away as Texas and South Carolina.

"We don't know what to expect," an FDNY EMS official said at the scene. "We'd rather have them here than stress the 911 system."

The ambulances ultimately proved unnecessary — no Red Hook Houses residents were transported to a hospital during the wellness checks, the FDNY official said later.

Instead, residents shared a single request.

"All I need is hot water and some heat," said one woman on the third floor of 770 Henry St., who answered the door wearing a short pink bathrobe and matching pink Crocs. "It's been, like, 16 days."

A NYCHA worker canvassing the building replied, "Hang in there a couple more days. We've been working day and night to get it back."

The worker, a member of NYCHA's family services department, asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to talk to the press. She went door-to-door in 770 Henry St. with Margaret Humphrey, 50, a visiting nurse who lives on Long Island. Together the pair went apartment by apartment, starting on the sixth floor and working their way down.

"Housing! Good morning!" they shouted as they knocked on doors, talking with residents and directing them to call 911 for medical emergencies.

"Just checking on you, man, making sure you're OK," the NYCHA worker told one.

"Keep that smile up," Humphrey told another. "It gets better."

Buildings' hallways were largely devoid of the garbage that had piled up during the first two weeks that followed the storm. Sanitation crews were emptying trash and scrubbing floors and walls twice a day, according to a supervisor with Belfor, a company contracted to clean NYCHA buildings after Hurricane Sandy, but they worked wearing multiple layers, long sleeves and knit winter hats.

As one resident told Humphrey and the NYCHA worker, "I got lights. But I still got no hot water and no heat. It's cold in here."

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