Most people come to the Aqueduct Casino hoping Lady Luck will smile upon them; for 10,000 hungry New Yorkers left devastated by Hurricane Sandy, this Red Cross Camp that has sprung up is a sure bet they'll get hot meals and virtually anything else they need to help them through a time when many have lost it all.
An army of Red Cross Volunteers and many others man this make-shift tent city; truckloads of food stuffs are off loaded where they're turned into hot meals, some 10,000 a day, by volunteers from the Southern Baptists Convention. Sharing space in the donated Aqueduct's parking lot are several containers, buses and vans used by the NYPD's Community Affairs officers who are coordinating the donations and distribution of everything from blankets and diapers to cleaning supplies and dog food.
Red Cross Volunteer Larry Fortmuller flew in from California to be a part of the relief efforts, and took us on a tour of the massive operation, which is being repeated at 9 other locations in New York and New Jersey.
They've already been up and running for more than a week; this one cooked up its hot meals even after one of it's tent kitchens was shredded in Wednesday's howling winds.
Fortmuller swept his hands over dozens of tractor trailers, "This is what the people who donate to the Red Cross get for their money. All the food comes in, it's brought in to the kitchens we have, and cooked up by our volunteers."
But food only goes so far. Congressman Bob Turner, who serves the Rockaways and whose Breezy Point home was among those consumed in the massive fire that destroyed 111 homes in that community, has been working the gas shortage issue at City Hall and beyond. How bad has it gotten? Look beyond the gas lines. "We have some entrepreneurs here who will deliver gas to your home. $15 a gallon." When this reporter remarked that there was likely a market for it, even at four times the going rate, Turner didn't hesitate, "Well I would!"
And he points out what so many of his constituents say, that New Jersey solved their problem, why can't we? Just hours later, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg announced their planes for odd/even rationing to attempt to solve the shortages, and went further. "We need someone in every station to say, 'Here I am, I need an inspector. We need the pumps open; we need a truck here. Where are these people? Where is the leadership?"
And you don't have to walk far to find the NYPD. Not providing security or keeping things moving smoothly as they have all across the city. These two weeks they've had a very different role here. More than a hundred Community Affairs officers are collecting and delivering a myriad of relief supplies to those in the Rockaways in need.
NYPD Deputy Inspector James Klein oversees the officers on their street patrols--and in making people's lives just a little better. "Baby diapers, formula, dog food. The donations that came in were overwhelming. We filled 16 city buses front to back, top to bottom. We loaded up a hundred vans. We made it into the neighborhoods and distributed to those who were so grateful to receive what their neighbors near, and friends from far away have given out of the goodness of their hearts."