Dream Center Ramps Up Donations to NYCHA Residents Post-Sandy



Volunteers Jenna Babbitt, 19, and Jeovanna Coloma, 22, of the New York Dream Center church prepare care packages to donate to residents of Elliott Houses and Chelsea Houses, two New York City Housing Authority developments in Chelsea, to aid in relief after Hurricane Sandy. Photo: Annie Zak

Volunteers from the New York Dream Center, a Christian Church located at West 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, spent Wednesday afternoon giving out free care packages of food, water, candles and sanitary wipes to residents of the Elliott Houses and Chelsea Houses, both public housing developments owned by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). Many of the residents are in wheelchairs, and without working elevators because of the continuing power outage, have no way to get outside for more supplies.

Tyler Logan, 27, a Dream Center pastor, said that while the group volunteers to distribute food every week, they’ve ramped up their efforts in light of the hurricane.

“You’re talking about no power, no running water, no shower for three or four days … we’re trying to alleviate that,” said Logan. “We had to drive our van from Yonkers; we cleared out the Costco.”

He said the Dream Center was also supplying candles and matches, since after two days, most flashlight batteries were likely fading. For residents whose mobility was compromised, Logan said the team was running supplies up to each floor.

“We’re braving it, we’re taking it up there, we’re doing all we can,” he said. “It’s pitch black in those hallways. In a time of need, it’s gotta be the church that steps up. You can’t always wait for the government.”

Residents of the Elliott Houses and Chelsea Houses gather outside the housing developments to receive free food and water from New York Dream Center. Photo: Annie Zak.

One NYCHA resident who hasn’t been able to get around easily after the hurricane hit is Dwayne McDaniel, 42, who lives with his wife and son in Elliott Houses. McDaniel lives in an apartment on the third floor, but is in a wheelchair because he has multiple sclerosis. When he moved in six years ago, he was able to walk, so he didn’t seek a ground-floor apartment. Three years ago, his mobility worsened.

“The elevator doesn’t work, and I had to have three people help me downstairs,” said McDaniel. “These are genuine hardships. It took three people a half hour to walk me down 28 steps.”

Jeovanna Coloma, 22, volunteers with the Dream Center. She helps assemble the care packages of water, granola bars, sanitary wipes and chips for residents.

A New York Dream Center volunteer prepares care packages for residents at public housing developments in Chelsea. Photo: Annie Zak.

“Some seniors are in wheelchairs way high up and it’s hard for them to prepare for this kind of stuff,” she said. The Dream Center does what it can to provide supplies for residents, but sometimes language barriers get in the way; Spanish- and Chinese-speaking volunteers are sorely needed.

A lot of residents who live in the NYCHA developments said this was the worst storm they have seen in all their time as residents. Roberto Harris has been living in Chelsea Houses for 15 years with his 16-year-old twin children, one daughter and one son. He said the storm was worse than he thought it was going to be.

“I didn’t expect this,” said Harris. “There’s no water, no power. I called 311 this morning and there’s no service for anyone in this area. If it wasn’t for these people [the Dream Center],” he said, things would be a lot tougher.

He said the cold water started running again today, but there’s still no hot water.

“At least you can flush. That’s the main thing,” said Harris. After the hurricane was over, he told his daughter to stay uptown at her friend’s apartment, but his son is still in Chelsea Houses with him, and “16 flights up is a long way to go.”

Beyond the challenge of the electricity going out, supplies being low and having trouble getting around, McDaniel said the buildings themselves didn’t sustain much damage.

“As my friend so eloquently stated, these are bunkers,” said McDaniel, gesturing to the buildings.

At one point, a woman passed by and told a NYCHA employee, “A dog just pissed on the third floor.” The employee responded, “We’re on it.” Another woman mentioned to a Dream Center volunteer that she had to venture all the way to 58th Street earlier in the day just to find water.

NYCHA did not reply to attempts at contact by presstime.