On the night Sandy hit New York City, intrepid and often wacky filmmaker Casey Neistat went out on bikes with a friend and made an incredible video portrait of lower Manhattan like I’ve never seen it before.
The video amassed over 700,000 views and earned Casey a cool $500, a licensing fee from Al Gore’s Climate Project. He used the cash to help some of the New Yorkers hit hardest by Sandy, out in Staten Island, and got a glimpse of just how things bad are on New York’s most distant (and, some residents would say, its “forgotten”) borough. Once known for its giant landfill – now being turned into an innovative park — the island was whiplashed by the storm, and lost 19 of the 40 people that died in New York City during Sandy.
The island was the storm’s “tragic epicenter”, said The New York Times. One Staten Island mother lost her 2-year-old and 4-year-old to a series of sudden waves, reportedly after asking for help from a neighbor and being turned away.
The neighborhood of Rockaway Beach in Queens was also hit brutally hard. Kelly Loudenberg (a Motherboard contributor who lives in Red Hook, another hood that’s been devastated by Sandy) and filmmaker Arianna La Penne published a sobering video tour of the area at the New York Times.
In all, the death toll from Sandy has reached 95 in the U.S. and Canada. Twelve deaths have been reported in New Jersey and four in Connecticut. The storm also killed at least 69 people in the Caribbean before it whipped toward the Northeast, including at least 54 in Haiti and 11 in Cuba. Volunteers are helping to clean up and donate food and clothing to places that are still unheated — there are still 700,000 customers without power in New York, and over a million in New Jersey — just as the temperature drops.
If you live in New York City, volunteer hubs and donation drop-off locations proliferate (today I saw an amazing turnout of volunteers and supplies at The Drink, a hip bar on my block in Williamsburg). Gothamist has a guide on how to help out on Staten Island and a roundup of drop-offs and fundraisers, as does WNYC. You can also join the relief effort on the ground with Occupy Sandy and InterOccupy, groups that are taking what was learned at Zucotti Park and already, it seems, giving the Red Cross a run for its money.
If you’re in NYC, see a good list of where to go and how to help here