After the Tide Recedes

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Agencies hit by Hurricane Sandy and other disasters recount road to rebuilding

Located virtually harbor-side in southwest Brooklyn, the Red Hook Community Justice Center faced a daunting set of challenges in the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy last October.

Red Hook’s entire youth programming space and computer lab were destroyed as 5 feet of water came gushing through the basement of the Center for Court Innovation, where the agency is housed, a public/private partnership between the New York State Unified Court System and the Fund for the City of New York.

Red Hook was just one of many agencies displaced or impacted by the storm. It is unclear just how many – the Red Cross didn’t have updated statistics, and FEMA did not have this information. And its experiences, among others’, illustrate how youth organizations and other social services providers have to figure out how to manage after a natural disaster – and how others can be prepared to do so, in advance.

The court system and city have helped with Red Hook’s rebuilding — city agencies are also co-located in the Center for Court Innovation’s basement — and Red Hook has tapped into both its own insurance and FEMA funds, according to Jessica Colon, deputy project director, who did not yet have a figure for the damage. Happily, the renovation proceeded more quickly than expected, and, while in the midst of buying new furniture, cubicle walls, computers and other equipment in late December, Colon anticipated youth programming would be back to normal in early 2013.

But in the days and weeks immediately after the disaster, Red Hook faced problems common to youth agencies whose physical structures or surrounding communities have been hammered by hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters: where they could possibly provide programming as structures were rebuilt, or serve larger numbers than usual; and how they could best reach out and meet youth’s needs while simultaneously facing their own rebuilding challenges.

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