One and a half years after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the gym floor at Beach 41st Street Community Center was still out of commission. All of the floors were stripped bare to the concrete.
Today, the Community Center has a fresh coat of blue paint and the gym has a new floor where children can play basketball and run and play—a community effort, thanks to the work of the staff at the Community Center, Council Member Donovan Richards and his supporting staff, Rebuilding Together NYC, and community volunteers from New York City and across the country.
Nathalie Louis says that the repairs to the gym started this summer, thanks to ongoing conversations with NYCHA and City Councilman Donovan Richards. The new paint and other renovations are thanks to Rebuilding Together NYC. Prompted by Far Rockaway/Arverne Nonprofit Coalition’s call for proposals, the Community Center applied for repairs and improvements from Rebuilding Together NYC. The organization will donate a stove to replace the one damaged by Hurricane Sandy and began painting the walls a bright, child-friendly blue in October. The blue—a great improvement over the institutional cream from before—reflects the ocean colors of Far Rockaway.
On October 24, Councilman Donovan Richards re-opened the gym with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the community was able to enjoy the gym for the first time in nearly two years. The following day, Rebuilding Together NYC volunteers got off to an early start at 6:30 AM, as more than 200 volunteers put the finishing touches on the homes and centers that were effected by Hurricane Sandy. Volunteers came from the Red Cross, the U.S. military, FEMA, the community, and even from as far away as Ohio.
Two years after Hurricane Sandy, people in the Far Rockaway community are still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives, and the scars are still visible in the community. Beach 41st Cornerstone Community Center provides not just afterschool programming but a community space and programming for the whole community. The programming is driven by what the community needs and wants to see. If community members come to the Center and ask about a program they’re interested in, Nathalie says the response is not “No,” but instead, “Not yet, and we’re looking into it.”
“This is a rebirth of who we are and what we stand for,” Nathalie says. “We’re here for the community as a whole.” Many of the people whose lives were devastated by Hurricane Sandy are still feeling the repercussions on their mental health. This isn’t just an effort to rebuild a building. In Nathalie’s words, it’s an effort to “rebuild the morale of the Far Rockaway community.”