Update from Justin Green - Director
Our hearts go out to all those who lost their homes and loved ones in Hurricane Sandy. Our Gowanus Brooklyn reuse center was flooded by 5 feet of water during the surge. When I climbed into BIG!NYC the morning after Sandy, it was impossible to walk through the store. The surge had picked up cabinets, bookshelves and doors and made our relatively neat warehouse into a giant pile of debris. The surge damaged most of our inventory, tools, generators, office, computers, CSA refrigerator and one of our trucks. We are still evaluating the damage to our newly built workshop and event space. The surge went over four feet of sandbagging and our five foot flood barrier and even blasted through the walls separating us from our neighbors. BIG!NYC lost over $150,000 in inventory and equipment.
Materials we worked so hard to save from the landfill were damaged beyond repair and had to be thrown out - which is hard for us to do. We probably lost three months of effort in salvaging those materials. If that was not frustrating enough, we had to spend last week cleaning up our own space versus helping others in need in our communities.
Insurance will hopefully cover most of the loss and allow us to reopen soon. Meanwhile, BIG!NYC in Astoria and our compost sites are fine and operating as normal. We need to rebuild inventory and our computer and phone systems. Stay tuned for our grand reopening.
I was amazed how hard BIG!NYC staff worked over the last week to clear out and mop up the store in near darkness. We are incredibly grateful to fantastic volunteers from NYCares, DSNY, Finger Lakes ReUse and Zog Sports, and all our customers who came in and lent a hand.
After a rough week at BIG!NYC, the amazing community support was incredibly uplifting. The work of volunteers will enable us to open much sooner and better than ever. Also, thanks to the Lower East Side Ecology Center, 4&20 Blackbirds, and Lucey's Lounge for their donations.
We have already been able to help provide low cost materials to folks rebuilding in Red Hook. We were able to send our remaining truck down to the Rockaways on Thursday with donations for Occupy Sandy, though most relief groups really need money rather than donations that are difficult to sort. We are trying to find a way to help reuse some of the damaged materials - already over 250,000 tons of waste from the storm is going to be land filled.
Sandy really brought home the devastation of climate change. Climate change is not only abstract shrinking ice caps - it will cost many millions of lives. Through storms and food shortages, we will all be impacted. The two recent hurricanes and the tornado may be the new normal. As we recover, we need to redouble our efforts to reduce our own and our nation's carbon footprint to keep climate change from getting worse. We need government policy to make sure it happens. Otherwise, we are going to see impacts far worse than Sandy.
BIG!NYC in Gowanus will be open again soon to help reduce our waste impact. Thanks again to staff, amazing volunteers and our community for your support.