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Staten Island Sandy Relief Tent Downed by Storm Winds

By Nicholas Rizzi | February 1, 2013 5:08pm

NEW DORP BEACH — The storm that blasted the city with strong winds and heavy rain early Thursday morning, took down the main tent at a New Dorp Beach relief center for Superstorm Sandy victims.

At around 11 a.m. on Thursday, the winds took down the main tent of the Cedar Grove Community Hub, which serves hot food and provides warmth for victims of the storm, as originally reported by WPIX 11.

“It started shaking,” said Donna Graziano, 52, who runs the volunteer camp. “Then the thing started collapsing.”

Only Graziano and two other volunteers were inside the tent when it came down, and Graziano kept residents and other volunteer away from the relief camp during the storm, worried the tents would flood or come down.

“We sat in the car and made sure all the residents stayed away,” she said.

“I kept the volunteers off [the] premises,” she said. “I was afraid from the water we were going to be flooded out and the winder were going to be bad.”

The storm also knocked power to 5,000 Consolidated Edison customers across the city, 1,200 in Staten Island.

On Friday, volunteers worked to reinforce the tent to make it better able to handle strong winds. They put the tents on top of wooden planks that are nailed to the ground, and were in the process of installing wood beams on the roof and adding a door to the main tent.

Graziano temporarily shut her relief efforts for residents, but said she hoped to reopen by Friday night.

“What are these people supposed to do?” she said. “We have to be open.”

Graziano said she has pleaded with city officials to provide her with sturdier tents to be able to withstand the weather, and complained that a relief center set up by Senator Andrew Lanza in Great Kills got two, military grade tents, while the Cedar Grove community struggles to keep their tents up.

She said she has already lost four tents to storm winds since opening the aid center in the wake of Sandy.

A spokesperson from Senator Andrew Lanza’s office was not immediately available for comment.

The volunteer community at Cedar Grove started small with a barbecue and some hot dogs, but grew into a five-tent complex in a parking lot, with member of Occupy Sandy joining in to help.

Aside from weather, the relief tents have also been plagued by looters, and previously feared being shut down by the city, which they later denied.