After East Harlem explosion, displaced families seek shelter

MossaDay
A Red Cross worker stands outside a temporary shelter in East Harlem (Photo by Chris Mossa)

 

HOST INTRO:  More than a hundred people haven’t been able to return home after a gas leak explosion in East Harlem Wednesday killed eight people and destroyed two buildings. Chris Mossa meets the displaced residents looking for answers.
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Ten blocks north of the collapse, the sidewalk in front of the Red Cross emergency shelter at 125th St. and Third Avenue is a busy place. Displaced residents are waiting to board buses that will take them back to them home briefly. The scene is still considered too dangerous. A group of residents have just returned from surveying the damage.

MENDOZA: Everything in my apartment — some stuff that was like on top of shelves are all broken. [0:05]

18-year old Guadalupe Mendoza has grown up in a building adjacent to one of those that collapsed. She lost a friend when the buildings came down and now she’s carrying a box of personal items — jewelry, money, her computer — things she could grab during the short trip. Because right now, the shelter is home.

COOPER: The families are in various states of shock in dealing with things. Obviously some of the folks here have lost everything. [0:07]

Craig Cooper is a national spokesman with the Red Cross. He said 60 people stayed at the shelter last night, while others stayed with relatives and friends. Each case is different. Residents from adjacent buildings may be temporarily displaced, while their neighbors in the two buildings that collapsed are looking for more permanent solutions.

COOPER: In the short-term we’re going to be supporting people probably for a matter of a few days. But, the folks who have lost everything, whose homes are just not there anymore, we expect to be supporting them for quite some time.  [0:10]

But relief agencies aren’t alone. Community members are donating clothes and food and local churches have rushed to support the victims. State Democratic Senator Bill Perkins represents this community.

PERKINS: This is very faith-based community and you can imagine how their spirits are lifted by virtue of that kind of support. [0:06]

Still, housing over a hundred displaced families requires action from the city. Earlier today, Mayor Bill De Blasio visited the shelter and promised help.

DE BLASIO: This means that whatever a family’s need as a result of this crisis, we have an option for them, and we’re going to put those options into play right away. [0:10]

The Mayor says the City found temporary apartments in the community for up to three months. And the New York State Association for Affordable Housing is coordinating a permanent solution for families unable to return home.

Some residents will leave the Red Cross shelter, while others will depart from the couches and spare bedrooms of family members scattered around the city. Ibrahim Ocaso was home when the blast occurred. He and his family have been staying with his brother since Wednesday.

OCASIO: I have family, so thank God for that. [0:03]

The city doesn’t have a final tally of all the displaced but it appears all families will soon be in more permanent housing. But for now, Ibrahim Ocasio is waiting to board a bus for his brief trip back home.

Chris Mossa, Columbia Radio News.

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