A storm surge from Hurricane Sandy unmoored the Bay Parkway Community Job Center, New York City’s only center for day laborers, and moved it a couple hundred feet inland from the Bensonhurst shore, cracking one of its walls in the process. Ligia Guallpa of the Worker Justice Projects, which operates the center, and Lionel, one of the center’s founders, tried to show it to me Tuesday afternoon, but the New York Police Department objected.
Some of the community groups that advocate on behalf of the New York metropolitan area’s day laborers pointed out on Nov. 8 that some hiring sites have been damaged during Hurricane Sandy, that many workers’ families have been forced to evacuate their homes, and that these workers -- who are helping to rebuild some of the devastated houses and communities in the region -- need their employers to provide better safety equipment.
In New York, neighborhoods in Staten Island were covered in snow as low temperatures made conditions difficult for residents who’ve been living in the dark and cold. Tens of thousands were displaced by Superstorm Sandy, and more than 100 killed. Gonzalo Mercado with El Centro del Inmigrante in Port Richmond said his group was walking through the neighborhood trying to make sure people had food and supplies. He said many families were sharing cramped spaces.
What will it take to recover from the super storm that struck the East Coast? How do we repair after a disaster? Downed power lines, empty gas tanks, flooded tunnels, destroyed homes, lost family members: No one could have predicted what Sandy would do to places completely unaccustomed to that type of weather.
As the region gets ready for recovery one thing is true. Day laborers, migrant, and low-wage workers will be key to rebuilding New York and other affected areas. The workers who lend their labor to homeowners and contractors on a daily basis are gathering at worker centers and at street corner hiring sites, ready and available to help those in need of relief.
These are day laborers, nearly all of them undocumented immigrants, who are helping to clean up and rebuild New Jersey and New York after the storm that left power lines down, homes and buildings flooded, sidings contorted ,and trees lying across roadways, or atop cars and roofs.
Las familias, sobre todo hispanas, que residen en Staten Island y que perdieron sus hogares y pertenencias por el huracán Sandy tienen ayuda disponible con sólo comunicarse con Gonzalo Mercado, director del Centro del Inmigrante en dicho condado.
El número a marcar es el 917-913-4488 y les auxiliarán a presentar su reclamación ante FEMA, les comunicarán con el Consulado Mexicano (de ser necesario) y les asistirán con lugares donde puedan quedarse, obtener ropa y comida, entre otros artículos necesarios.
Hurricane Sandy may be gone, but the monumental task of reconstruction remains. In New Jersey and New York in particular, thousands of workers will be needed to rebuild or restore roads, homes, and office buildings damaged or destroyed by the storm. If history is any guide, many of those workers will be immigrants, and many of those immigrants will be unauthorized. Ironically, as they play an outsized role in reconstruction after a natural disaster, immigrant workers will be especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by unscrupulous employers. As a result, federal and state officials must be vigilant in ensuring that labor laws are vigorously enforced to protect all workers involved in
Manhattan’s Koreatown is open for business, but things are not quite the same. “Let me see…” said the woman who answered the phone at Cho Dang Gol restaurant, speaking in Korean. “It took me three-and-a-half hours to get to work today from Flushing.” When I asked about the rest of her co-workers, she explained, “We are taking taxis and some of us are getting rides, but it is so hard.” Many of the restaurant’s workers lived in Flushing, and even though the restaurant subsidized the taxi cost, she was not looking forward to the ride home. Likewise, a commuter from Bayside, Mr. Lee Yong Nam, told The Korea Times that his Bayside-Midtown Manhattan minivan commute, which normally took 40 minutes,