Brooklyn's Red Hook Houses Still Lack Electricity, Heat and Water Days After Storm

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Cathy Garcia holds her niece Melanie Nora Creapo, 1, while waiting for volunteers to bring up fo
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Cathy Garcia holds her niece Melanie Nora Creapo, 1, while waiting for volunteers to bring up food to the family's 6th floor apartment in the Red Hook housing project on November 3, 2012 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The low-income apartment building remains without power or water 5 days after Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Each day since the hurricane, Sebrina Singley has trudged up a dozen flights of stairs, carrying food and water to her 12th floor apartment in the Red Hook West houses in Brooklyn.

With the electricity, heat and water still out in her building, she needs water not only to drink and cook, but also to flush her toilet, bathe and do dishes. She's been sleeping in her clothes and, even though it's considered dangerous, she has been using her oven to heat her apartment.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.

Although power has been restored to much of Manhattan, 30 of the 33 buildings in the Red Hook houses -- Brooklyn's largest public housing development -- were without electricity on Saturday afternoon. And residents have no idea when power will be restored.

With an outpouring of donations of food, clothing and supplies at centers throughout the neighborhood, and additional food and water distributed by the National Guard, residents here on Saturday expressed gratitude. But they were exasperated that five days after they lost power, their apartments still lacked essentials.

"We need lights and heat," Dominique Simpson, 27, said, pushing a shopping cart with diapers, water and food that she'd picked up at several donation centers. "This is crazy. It's stressful."

Chris Olert, a spokesman for Con Edison, told The Huffington Post that the equipment in the Red Hook buildings needs to be repaired before electricity can be reintroduced to the buildings. "We want our customers to have electricity as much as they want to have it," Olert said. "We're not going to reintroduce it unless it's safe to do so. Right now their equipment isn't available to be re-energized."

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which is in charge of the city's public housing, said in a statement to The Huffington Post that it is "working with Con Edison, LIPA, National Grid, and the Office of Emergency Management, and other government agencies to restore full power and service to our residents who continue to experience outages. Once the power is back on, NYCHA needs to assess boilers, elevators, water pumps, and electrical components and equipment before safely restoring power to the buildings."

Until then, residents are coping with living in darkness and cold. "I'm learning different ways of surviving," Simpson said.

Simpson, who has a 4-year-old daughter, hasn't had electricity or heat in her apartment in the Red Hook West development since Monday. For days, she's been boiling water for heat and using candles for light.

Wearing a donated a coat she received at the Miccio Community Center a few blocks away, she spent part of the afternoon looking for an extra blanket.

Her neighbor, Ashley Obey, joined her. Obey, who also remains without heat, lives with her newborn nephew, who on Friday had to be taken to another apartment after mucus began to build up in his chest. Obey said she has been sleeping with three blankets and a coat.

"Even if we were in the dark with heat, I could be alright," she said. "But we don't have that."

Waiting in line for water at the Miccio Community Center, Singley said that her mother, who last month had a heart attack, hasn't been able to leave her apartment since the storm rendered the elevator useless. The 12 flights of stairs are too much for her.

"I'm tired," she said. Although it was the early afternoon, she wore a red headlamp, as her apartment is too dark even during the day. "My focus is I've got to get water. That's my focus. I need water."

As she waited, volunteers moved up and down the line of more than 100 people, offering apples, grilled cheese sandwiches and peanut butter sandwiches.

Asked how her life has changed since the storm, she replied: "You appreciate the little things more, like water. Hot water."


The Huffington Post is eager for insights from our community, especially people with experience in power, infrastructure and engineering, on the adequacy of emergency preparation in advance of Hurricane Sandy, and the degree to which past disasters have informed adequate planning and construction. Please send a note to with insights and suggestions for the important questions that need to be asked of relevant private sector and government officials, and point us toward stories that need to be pursued.