When someone say New York City, what do you think of? Maybe it’s Manhattan, the concrete jungle that contains Wall Street, Times Square and Broadway? Maybe it’s Brooklyn, the cultured melting pot that produces great food and diversity. How about the Bronx and the Yankees and 27 World Series? Maybe Queens, the amazing Mets, home of the World’s Fair Globe and known for that scene from Men in Black. But I bet Staten Island didn’t cross your mind. Staten Island doesn’t have any skyscrapers, Pro sports teams or worldwide events that happen. Staten Island is a place all of its own; so close to the place everyone thinks of when you say NYC, yet in a separate world all together.
Staten Island has no yellow cabs, no mass amounts of people walking the streets in big crowds, no streets lined with dirty water dog carts or street vendors selling knock-off Coach Bags and Ray Band glasses.
What makes Staten Island great is not flash or fame or fortune, it’s not what people can see just by looking at it. It’s something you have to live; something you have to experience. It’s the little things, it’s Lee’s Tavern with some of the best cracker-thin crust pizza and fried calamari in the world, and yet its located under a train station with no sign calling to people, only visible to those who already know where it is. It’s going to one friend’s house as his mother cooks perogies or another as they cook special meatballs with a secret family recipe. Staten Island is playing ball with your friends anywhere you can find a school yard or an open field- basketball, baseball or football. It’s washing your car in your drive way while your neighbor does the same thing. Staten Island is the image of suburbs mixed with small towns, an ideal picture of America. Houses of every style and era line the streets and parks give a small country feel when you walk through them.
On Monday Oct 29, Staten Island changed. We no longer are content with being forgotten and ignored, we no longer could live on our own like almost all the 470,000 people living in a 50-square-mile area were content with doing. Hurricane Sandy came and turned our small town upside-down.
We need help. The shore is completely gone, midland beach has lost nearly every home in the area. We have lost 21 of our neighbors, friends and family as a result of the storm, more than half of the deaths in all of New York. FEMA and the Red Cross until this week concentrated on New Jersey and other areas that need help, but they have close to ignored us.
Our own Mayor Michael Bloomberg has concentrated on Manhattan and Queens and even tried to run the NYC marathon, which starts in Staten Island, also a place where there are no more homes. Numb to what was really going on until immense public pressure changed the mayor’s mind. Intermediate School 2 Egbert was used as a morgue as victims were found among the wreckage.
The baseball fields that I played on as a kid in south beach are covered in sand that used to be the beach. Great Kills harbor and pier, where me and my friends fish, is now a graveyard for boats that the storm surge carried off their docks and stands and parked them in people’s houses and yards. Restaurants like Puglia’s by the Sea and Cole’s Dockside are no longer standing and may never come back.
A big portion of the island is still without power, warmth and shelter. We need help, the help of our friends in all communities, man power is most needed we need people to help clean up and help us rebuild.
Yet in all of this destruction that I never thought I would see there is hope. I have never been so proud to carry Staten Island as a part of me. The people have come together and are working around the clock to help anyone and everyone they possibly can. Neighbors have taken people in; almost every school has started a food and clothing drive.
Staten Island is what America is all about, we are coming together as a community with love and compassion, the generosity of everyone has been more than anyone could ever ask for. We are going to rebuild and we are going to come back together. We need help to do it, your help please donate or volunteer it would mean so much to the community and it will not be forgotten.
Buy a shirt from Wilkes Cares Hurricane Relief event. Ten dollars goes a long way and pays for a meal and a bed for someone. Donate to charities that are set up locally like the Tunnel to Towers Foundation for New York and New Jersey. Together we can rebuild America’s biggest small town.