NEW DORP BEACH — The city is shutting down volunteer-run Hurricane Sandy relief tents on Staten Island to clear a path for residents who want to sun themselves on the beach.
The Cedar Grove Community Hub has been given just three weeks to move its operation so that the spot, which serves as an entrance to New Dorp Beach, can be open for Memorial Day, said Donna Graziano, organizer of the hub.
“There are a lot of residents that don’t care about the park,” said Graziano, who slammed the decision from the Parks Department and the mayor’s office. “They don’t have their homes.”
The Parks Department said the tents must move, not only to open access to the beach but also so work can be carried out to protect the area from future storms.
“Cedar Grove and New Dorp Beach are currently under construction as we continue the vital work to restore our beaches and shoreline parks,” said Tara Kiernan, spokeswoman for the Parks Department.
“This work is being performed both in anticipation of the upcoming summer season, as well as to provide temporary emergency protective measures for the adjacent upland communities.”
Kiernan said the city gave ample notice to the relief center, and suggested it find a new location.
“We have given advance notice to the group and suggested they partner with local not-for-profits to identify possible alternative locations,” she said.
“We appreciate the group's service to the community following Hurricane Sandy and know they will continue to provide to those in need at their next location.”
However, Graziano said she hasn't been able to find a spot large enough to host the five-tent complex, which gives food, clothing, supplies and warmth to nearby victims of the storm.
Before Sandy, the lot at Cedar Grove Avenue and Toppings Street — where the relief center now sits — was a walkway to the beach.
But Graziano said few residents would miss being able to access the beach, which she called unclean.
“It was never used,” she said. “Basically people would walk their dogs and [the city] kept it dirty.... These people don’t want that.”
Graziano helped set up the volunteer and relief center days after Sandy swept through the neighborhood, taking some homes on the block down to their foundations.
And while Sandy was almost six months ago, Graziano said many families are still without a kitchen to cook in and rely on the relief center for food.
This is the second time the hub's volunteers feared the city would close them down or move them. In December, Graziano said workers from the mayor’s office told her the hub needed to be taken down by the end of the month because of the cold weather.
Graziano said she plans to hold a community meeting at the center to get residents on board to fight the move, and she's also circulating a petition to send to the city to let the tents stay.
“I need to do something,” she said. “I’m basically just getting the run-around.”