Hurricane Sandy’s social media clean-up efforts help New York, New Jersey recovery

By Caitlin Dewey

Tottenville, a blue-collar neighborhood at the southernmost point of Staten Island, suffered some of the worst flooding as a result of Hurricane Sandy. So on Nov. 4, scores of volunteers met at the intersection of Hylan and Yetman in the beleaguered area. They split into smaller groups and walked door to door through the damp, debris-filled streets, helping some 125 people pull waterlogged furniture and moldy drywall from their homes, according to community organizer Fred Forzione.

An effort of that scope might typically spring from a big, name-brand organization like the Red Cross. But “Rebuild Staten Island” was organized by Forzione -- and his Facebook page that has helped hundreds of families and thousands of “friends” impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

searching for news or information ended up by the thousands on Forzione’s page, “Rebuild Staten Island.” And Forzione only created the page after searching for Staten Island news himself and finding the results wanting.

The page shares information like local news articles and donation sites, but perhaps more importantly, rebroadcasts calls for volunteers and emergency supplies to an audience of almost 14,000 — and growing.

On Staten Island in particular, Facebook and Twitter users united by little more than a hashtag began to coalesce into active groups. #SIRecovers and #SIOpen were the first, with thousands of tweets over the course of the storm. “More cleaning supplies needed at Mt. Loretto at 6581 Hylan Blvd,” reads one typical message. “Plenty of blankets available at 900 Richmond Rd for pick up,” reads another.

The amorphous online audience has responded to such specific calls or the more general ones Forzione made to organize people in Tottenville on Nov. 4 and every Saturday since. He estimates that they cleaned out some 140 houses during the first volunteer day alone and helped a total of more than 650 families. Occupy Sandy, the recovery effort of New York’s so-called Occupy movement, has seen great success with its Internet-based crowdsourcing too, says Daphne Carr, the 34-year-old graduate student who runs social media for the Staten Island branch.



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