RED HOOK — Battered Red Hook braced for another black eye from Mother Nature on Wednesday, with volunteers scrambling to hand out blankets as a nor'easter threatened to bring freezing temperatures to the already beleaguered neighborhood.
Residents who've been scraping by without heat, power or hot water since Hurricane Sandy did what they could to prepare for the new storm. Some lined up in Coffey Park, where the National Guard was handing out blankets, ready-to-eat meals, water, newspapers and fliers telling residents where to find warming centers.
Nearby, a food truck distributed free grilled cheese sandwiches and a mobile hospital van provided medical services. But the donation line and food handout at Coffey Park stopped at noon, because the city closed all parks as a precaution against the looming storm.
One National Guard soldier said he worried residents might not be aware the donations wouldn't be available after noon, because on previous days following Hurricane Sandy the donation line started at 1 p.m.
At Red Hook Initiative, the neighborhood nonprofit that's been coordinating volunteer efforts, Red Hook Houses resident Betty Bernhart was hoping to find two space heaters, canned food — in case her electric stove loses power again — and bottled water, because she was worried the water in her building may be unsafe to drink.
Bernhart, 43, said she and her 15-year-old son both had bad colds and she was hoping a space heater would keep them from getting sicker as they faced their 10th day without heat.
"I'm worried with this other storm," Bernhart said. "The best I can do is hold on. All we can do is try to help each other."
Bernhart, who works at an assisted living facility in Westbury, Long Island, said she was worried about the elderly people in her building. On Tuesday she distributed fliers asking for volunteers to take charge of donated solar lights in her building's darkened hallways.
But the trash incinerator in her building hasn't worked since Sandy, so garbage has piled high and the hallways stink, Bernhart said. She wasn't hopeful about finding volunteers willing to spend time there. "The stench is going to be unbearable," Bernhart said.