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Red Hook Nonprofit Wins White House Honors for Sandy Relief Work

RED HOOK — Van Brunt Street just got a little closer to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Red Hook nonprofit, PortSide NewYork, has won the White House “Champions of Change” award for their relief and recovery work during Hurricane Sandy.

The waterfront organization, based on the tanker MARY A. WHALEN, is being given the award at a White House ceremony, April 24, along with several other winners, according to a press release, Wednesday.

The event will be streamed live, from 10:30 a.m., to noon, here.

The Champions for Change award honors everyday Americans “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world,” according to the White House website.

The event on April 24 recognizes individuals, leaders, small businesses and neighborhood groups who helped rebuild communities after Hurricane Sandy.

In the days before Hurricane Sandy, the maritime organization prepared their tanker for the storm to prevent damage to their ship that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, prior to Sandy.

After the storm, PortSide set up their Sandy aid station at 351 Van Brunt St., the office of Realty Collective, a neighborhood real estate brokerage.

“351,” as the hub was called, is located on a small hill, which saved it from extensive damage and flooding, said Victoria Hagman of Realty Collective, in a recent interview.

With free electricity, Internet and a phone line, PortSide teamed up with Realty Collective and Gallery Brooklyn to create the Sandy recovery center for the Red Hook community. 

The center was a safe place “to escape the cold, to charge cell phones, iPads, and power tools, to check e-mail to blow up a new air bed, to start the FEMA application or an insurance claim, or to wait for an escort to enter an apartment building whose electronic doors didn’t lock without power,” according to the press release.

The organization was the first small business recovery center in the neighborhood, Director Carolina Salguero said, in a recent interview. They offer maritime perseveration, visiting vessels, arts and educational programs, community service and advocacy.

“Speaking personally, I was very moved by the collective spirit which sustained Red Hook in those first dark days.  Let’s keep that spirit alive; it takes a village, we were all it, and we need to keep that spirit going forward,” said Salguero, in the press release.

PortSide NewYork could not be reached for comment.