Where the lights are still out...

As Hurricane Sandy restoration efforts continue, TED offices had power restored yesterday, along with most areas of Manhattan. But many other parts of New York and New Jersey continue to suffer. A member of the TED Team Thaniya Keereepart shared this experience from her visit to one of the worst-hit areas of Brooklyn:

"Tonight I went out with some friends down to the heart of Red Hook projects to volunteer for disaster recovery. I was sort of expecting that I would just drop off food, clothing, and supplies and help out at the center where I could. I found something different there that compelled me to share with you.

Upon entering the main office area of the volunteer center, the scene was pure chaos. A little girl rushed up to whoever she thought knew anything about anything. She wanted insulin for her mother who wasn't able to come down 16 flights of stairs in darkness. There was none to give out. She took the last of the ice packs and was told that it will help keep whatever insulin left in the house cold and longer lasting.

Rodents were also a big problem. The water had pushed critters up the building. Without light or power, they would crawl everywhere. Raccoons, rats, the works.

War breaks out at the sight of a flashlight, or batteries, or blankets.

We were asked to go get water from Coffey Park by one of the coordinator. Five of us set foot into the night. The streets were dangerous. Teenage boys howled at the sight of us. Crime is high here. Why were there water at the park? The National Guard came by earlier and dumped a bunch there as a part of their "rescue effort". The only light source around at this point was this one mobile flood light that shone on 3 cops who we spoke to briefly. Their job seemed to be simply to stand in the light to emit presence.

We quickly realize that this volunteer center was not only immensely inefficient, but will likely not be able to continue to provide support to the much needed community for all of the projected 14 days without more help. My friend JuAnne, a project manager at Google, and myself took it upon ourselves to analyze the workflow of the volunteer resources with the current heroic coordinator Kirby. Our hope is to build a light weight system that could help improve volunteer process efficiency ...in 36 hours.

Turns out, the tool the Red Hook team currently uses, and the one that i found them on, is from http://recovers.org -- and there's a TEDTalk on it! This same platform is deployed for LES, Staten Island, and Astoria as well ...all for Sandy."

[Edit: More details from Thaniya are included in this TED Blog post.]

I'm proud of Thaniya and the efforts of heroic volunteers all around the area. As we return to work tomorrow, we will take some time to share stories and figure out what else we might do to help.

Meanwhile, anyone wanting to engage could take a look at the following community sites:

...and here's a HuffPo report from Red Hook yesterday.