Neighbors help neighbors in ruined Rockaway

Howard Sarter, 13, tends to a fire set up outside of his storm-ravaged home as his cousin and aunt look on. Photo by Karen Frantz
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As the days dragged on since Hurricane Sandy bludgeoned the city and cut power to many communities in the Rockaways, some people took it upon themselves to feed and provide for their neighbors as they waited for city services to be restored.

In Howard Beach Monday, siblings Howard, 13, and Sarah Sarter, 17, brewed coffee outside their water-damaged and powerless home and offered cups to anyone passing by, something they said they have been doing since the day after the storm.

“They’ve been helping a lot, these kids,” said the teens’ aunt, Barbara Sarter.

The pair also helped tend to a small fire pit blazing in their driveway, where they said they barbecue every night and tired police officers had congregated for warmth the night before.

Many of their relatives are also stepping up to help keep the community safe, Howard and Sarah said. They said their parents and uncle and other relatives had banded together to launch a neighborhood watch after some incidents of looting and break-ins occurred. The teens’ home was a target.

Howard said a few nights ago he caught a man in a black hoodie breaking the glass on their front door, but it appeared the would-be burglar had not gotten far enough to steal anything.

“We both ran in opposite directions,” he said.

Some residents of the Rockaways also were helping neighbors with an impromptu barbecue Friday, cooking food and handing it out to people in need.

“We’re feeding whoever passes by,” said Federico Salinas, who lives near the corner of Beach 84th Street and Beach Channel Drive.

A group had gathered outside his house to cook chicken, hot dogs and other meats that had been thawing in people’s powerless freezers on an outdoor grill, an activity Salinas said had been taking place since the storm.

Another neighbor, Matthew, who lives nearby, said he also had some family and friends bring in generators and space heaters that he was distributing to people in need.

Many of the people gathered at the house said they had not heard from city officials or aid workers about how to get help by that time.

“I don’t see anything on this block but neighbors helping neighbors,” Matthew said.

He also said he was concerned about looting or worse and said the area had little security from police. So he said a friend had given him a gun and he had begun to patrol the neighborhood at night to protect the community.

“I go around all night with a gun on my hip,” he said.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Posted 8:09 pm, November 7, 2012
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Reader feedback

Mary-Beth Ault from Fairfax, Va says:
Thank you for letting the rest of us know how people are helping each other during this mess. Some of us were hit harder down here in Virginia than others. Many of us were lucky and never even lost our lights.
Is there any way regular citizens can help? Could we send needed items like dry goods or blankets to any of these cut off neighborhoods
Nov. 9, 2012, 3:17 pm

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