How we're helping & your help we need at #Sandy5

By Carolina Salguero

Sandy damaged PortSide NewYork. We went on to help our community.

PortSide has programs and activities pegged to superstorm Sandy’s 5th anniversary.  

We also want to tell, for the first time, how Sandy damaged us, and how you can help our Sandy recovery. Our recovery story is below the following list of PortSide's #Sandy5 activities:

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  • ART: We collaborated with artist Katherine Behar and Pioneer Works to create "Maritime Messaging: Red Hook" which will be performed and installed on the 5th anniversary of Sandy. Sunday, 10/29/17 on the MARY A. WHALEN and NYC Ferry boats coming from Wall Street to Red Hook.
  • HISTORY: We arranged for an official OEM Sandy High Water Mark sign to be installed on the Atlantic Basin, Red Hook fence.
  • FUTURE: We are installing, on the Atlantic Basin fence, a flood prep sign with our popular ship cat Chiclet as spokesperson. 
  • COMMUNITY: We are speaking at two Red Hook resiliency events: Thursday, 10/26/17, WATERSHED art opening and Saturday, 10/28/17 Resiliency Roundtable.  
  • PREPAREDNESS: We are assuming stewardship of the website Ready Red Hook. We look forward to partnering with others to perpetuate this resource.
  • PREPAREDNESS: We have updated Resiliency 101 in our e-museum and community guide Red Hook WaterStories.

Sandy’s damage to PortSide. How you can help.

Five years ago, as Sandy hit, PortSide NewYork was an innovative, non-profit start-up on the brink of closure due to the real estate impediments to maritime activity in NYC.  

Sandy damaged PortSide severely, and I am proud to say that the team at this non-profit, being resilient after years of challenges and being generous of spirit, rose up to help our community in Red Hook, Brooklyn. 

Our diverse Sandy recovery work earned us an award from the White House and honors from the NYS Senate.  We soon hope to ask the community for help in return.  

We will be seeking $26,000 in donations to complete one part of our Sandy recovery, a $231,000 FEMA “Alternate Project.” If you’d like to help us fundraise, please send an email to

We’ll start that after FEMA gets back to us. Right now, we are AGAIN waiting for a FEMA response: we need our project extension approved since FEMA approved our project after their own deadline. The five years of red tape with SBA and FEMA have been more exhausting and time-consuming than the storm. No joke.  

At the point that Sandy hit, PortSide desperately needed a long-term home. We had been promised several homes since we were founded in 2005, promises that were broken, the last being the NYC EDC’s promise to us and the community that PortSide would have a home with building, parking lot and pier space in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn.

rendering from our 2007 plans a our home in Atlantic basin, round 1.  we are in negotiations, again, to get the building space that was promised to us here from 2008-2011.

rendering from our 2007 plans a our home in Atlantic basin, round 1.  we are in negotiations, again, to get the building space that was promised to us here from 2008-2011.

Sandy’s biggest blow to PortSide was to kill our recovery from that broken promise by shutting down several real estate negotiations. That was a deep tactical and spiritual blow. It was Sandy damage that no team of volunteer sheetrock installers could fix.

On top of that, everything that PortSide owned off the historic ship MARY A. WHALEN was damaged, destroyed or floated away.  That amounted to over $340,000 on our FEMA worksheet.   That was a lot of big stuff (a floating dock, a 1941 Hyster crane, replacement parts for our historic engine, tractor trailers full of antique hardware and useful stuff, etc).

The ship itself came through Sandy fine.  All of us worked for four and a half days to prep the ship; and Peter Rothenberg and I stayed aboard the MARY during Sandy. Our work ensured that 613 gross tons of the MARY did not break free and damage herself or the property of others. Compare that to the similar tanker JOHN B CADDELL that became Staten Islands’ symbol of Sandy damage. 

You can read how we protected the MARY here.

After Sandy, I told the crew (under-estimating the extent of Sandy damage elsewhere to a laughable degree), “No waterfront site will have time to talk to us for 60 days. In the meantime, we’re not going to sit on our hands, we’re going to help.” 

On Wednesday, two days after Sandy, Peter and I biked out into Red Hook to the generous disaster BBQ created by Red Hook restaurants that cooked and gave away food rather than let it spoil in fridges and freezers without power.  

Peter and I saw the depth of the damage to Red Hook property and morale. We decided to set up a Sandy aid station.

That Sandy recovery work is described in detail here.

At our 351 Van Brunt Street aid center, it was deeply distressing for the PortSide crew to see the plight of non-maritime residents and businesses who had not prepared for Sandy because they did not understand marine weather.  

At our aid station, we often heard, “they told us to evacuate for Irene, and nothing happened, so we thought we’d be OK.”  Hearing that over and over, prompted us add flood prep info to our WaterStories programs and to create multiple resiliency plans which we shared.  The senior members of the federal disaster recovery team met with us for three hours and thought highly of our ideas.  We see some of them being implemented.  Our Sandy recovery work also led us to be appointed by government to several committees charged with creating resiliency plans and programs.

Due to Sandy, PortSide has been busy helping others for five years.  We now hope folks will help us with our Sandy recovery project.

More about our Sandy recovery project here.


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