Local community groups and volunteers flocked to the city's hardest-hit neighborhoods in the wake of Sandy, but had little coordination and connection to the government relief effort. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a mayoral candidate, spoke exclusively to NY1 about his plan to improve things for the next storm. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following exclusive report.
When FEMA failed to show up with food and water, hungry New Yorkers headed to the Red Hook Initiative center to get a meal. When the Red Hook Houses went dark after Hurricane Sandy, volunteers from the group went door to door.
But in an exclusive interview, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio told NY1 on Tuesday that these volunteer efforts, which happened across the city after the storm, need to be better coordinated and connected to City Hall.
"They didn't have the information from the city government that they needed. They didn't have the support. A lot of them couldn't get gas for their vehicles," de Blasio said. "So in a sense, the piece of the puzzle that was most important, most immediate, most urgent got the least support."
The public advocate's office is releasing a report on lessons learned from the community groups and volunteers who pitched in after the storm. The details were shared exclusively with NY1 on Monday.
De Blasio, who is running for mayor, is calling for community groups to be included in the city's plan for responding to emergencies. He wants more first aid and emergency training for volunteers.
He is fighting for volunteers to get access to public housing developments, so they can keep tabs on residents who may be trapped inside and need help.
"This is about changing the way we look at the community organizations and the faith organizations. They're so crucial to the response, yet they weren't treated as partners, they weren't treated as part of the equation until well into the crisis," de Blasio said.
A spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city undertook a massive outreach effort with help from many organizations. The spokesman said the city is developing a plan to ensure it taps into those resources as soon as possible.
The hope is that when the next big storm hits, New Yorkers in some of the city's most vulnerable neighborhoods, like Red Hook, will not be at risk of falling through the cracks.