Super Storm Sandy’s Effects on me and my fellow trade unionists.
by Clarence Elie rivera
I have lived through hurricanes before. In November of 1998 I was in Puerto Rico when Hurricane George hit the tiny island of Vieques in PR. Since Vieques had been hit in 1989 by Hurricane Hugo, the island was more than prepared for it. So other than losing power, it seemed all was well except every leaf was blown off the trees as if a gigantic buzz saw had ripped through the island. Living without electricity on a tropical island is very different from being without in the cold, nasty Northeast.
Since I now live in the Northwest part of the Bronx, Sandy came through with 70-90 mph winds but had absolutely no direct effect on my living situation. We barely had rain, and being so far up on Marble Hill the surge did not effect us despite being only two blocks from the river. Because our power is underground we did not lose electricity and this time not even the leaves were that disturbed.
But where I work, DC37, is located in Zone A and just as the waters rushed down and filled the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel the same thing happened to our building. Approximately 800 people work for DC37 from professionals, to office support staff and field workers were displaced. Our community, and home away from home was devastated. We are now scattered across the city in satellite offices and it will be more than four to six months before we can return to a common space. Because the water submerged the basement for more than 24 hours, the basic infrastructure of the building was destroyed. Phone lines, the main electrical panels, the print shop, were all rendered useless due to exposure to the corrosive sea water. It took five days to pump out the basemant.
Union Resilience Post Sandy is a video that depicts the perseverance of maintenance workers and porters of labor union SEIU 32BJ in maintaining the main building of DC37, the largest municipal labor union in New York City. DC37 headquarters are located at the corner of Barclay and West Street just two blocks from Hudson River. For over 24 hours I was fielding calls from colleagues concerned about the welfare of the workers as they were trapped on the second floor due to rising waters. The building’s Assistant Manager Mike Corbin, lives only two houses down from me in Marble Hill so we made plans to trek down and photograph the damage and check in on the workers. The photos in the video are those that were taken as soon as we were able to get to the building some 24 hours after the waters subsided. The news footage by “Sky News” were of the building as the waters were rising.