Sunny's Bar, Red Hook

Sunny’s Bar, Red Hook

When Hurricane Sandy lumbered through New York two months ago, I was wrapped up in my 6th-floor-level flat, with my only worry that my windows could break. A week later and without a damaged window in sight, my power was back on and it was easy to forget that just a few miles down the road people were homeless. And two months on, thousands still remain without homes, power or a livelihood.

This morning, I travelled to Red Hook, a neighbourhood in south Brooklyn where many are still struggling to get back on their feet. In case you’re wondering, it’s here:

Red Hook map

While the area looked pretty unaffected by Sandy’s wrath on the outside, once we got to work in residents’ homes it was a shock to see just how the buildings had been gutted by three feet of floodwater.

I joined up with about 10 other volunteers from New York Cares and went to Sunny’s Bar where the owner, Tuna, handed us mops, brooms, buckets and hammers. For two hours, we scrubbed, wiped and lugged furniture and bags of linens and rubbish.

Left, prepping the wall for drywall. Right, water damage at Sunny's

Left, prepping the wall for drywall. Right, water damage at Sunny’s

It was so refreshing to be outside, using my hands and doing something useful.

One particularly eye-opening moment came as I spent an hour de-dusting an upstairs flat where an elderly resident had lived until the storm made her pack her bags. Reminding me just how the storm had put their lives on hold, a calendar in her apartment was open at October. It was a real Miss Haversham moment.

Sunny's Bar