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City Denies Plan to Shut Down Sandy Relief Camp

By Nicholas Rizzi | December 24, 2012 2:39pm

NEW DORP BEACH — The city has denied claims that they planned to shut down a tent city providing relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Dorp Beach.

Volunteers at the Cedar Grove Community Hub said workers from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office told them they’d need to take down their tents by New Years Day, DNAinfo.com New York reported on Friday.

However, the mayor’s office said the city never ordered the tents to shut down and did not know where the volunteers heard that from.

“The city did not order the Cedar Grove volunteer group to shut down their tents,” said Samantha Levine, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

Levine said that she wasn’t aware of any plan in the future to shut the volunteer tents down.

Donna Graziano, who runs the tents at Cedar Grove, said workers from the mayor’s office told her the tents would have to go.

“January 1st I’m being shut down because of weather conditions,” Graziano told DNAinfo.com New York.

Volunteers and community residents held a meeting last Thursday night inside one tent to discuss the rumored closing and try to organize to keep the tents opened.

"I feel bad, very bad,” said Frank Russo, 61, a 13-year resident of the neighborhood who signed the petition. “Why are they doing this? What’s the issue here? Our winters have been mild.”

The tents serves hot food, gives out clothes, heaters and supplies to residents who live near Cedar Grove Avenue — one of the worst affected areas in the city.

Organizers started a petition and posted a video on YouTube to try to drum up support and demand the tents stay open. As of Monday, the online petition had more than 1,000 signatures.

Residents, many of whom don’t have power to cook, said they relied on the hot meals and warmth the Cedar Grove Community Hub provides and that it wasn’t time for it to close.

“They can’t come down,” said Lorraine Orobello, 54, who lost her home in the storm. “What are we going to do? This is part of the healing process.”