“They were all facing the same direction. They were all on their cots, all of them were old, all of them were alone. Where are they going to go? They don’t have homes waiting for them. They don’t have family coming to get them. Where will all these people go?”
These questions were posed to me by David Shaw, an artist and Brooklyn resident, who went to volunteer Wednesday night at the Park Slope Armory, which has been transformed from a YMCA into a make-shift evacuation/refugee center. Yes. A refugee center. Refugees. This is what we are dealing with post-Sandy, and it is important to use the proper words in a time like this. The New York Times is publishing pieces about “glamping”—or “glamourous camping” for those of you who have never heard this incredibly insensitive and idiotic portmanteau before—which seek to shed light on the more frivolous and fun side of being without power. But the “glampers” profiled by the Times are not refugees. They are not in the midst of a humanitarian crisis. They are incredibly wealthy families who live in TriBeCa and have been without power for a few days. Their power will come back. Their homes will be waiting for them. There is nothing inherently wrong with making light of what is certainly a difficult situation, but, when you juxtapose “glamping” with what is going on in much of New Jersey, on Long Island, on Staten Island, and in parts of Queens and Brooklyn, the cognitive dissonance is staggering.
This is a difficult time in New York City, and it is a time when the disparities of haves and have-nots has never been more apparent. However, the line isn’t as clear as the starkness of the nighttime Manhattan skyline would make you believe, with all of downtown in the dark. Obviously it has been a huge struggle for those without power, and, no, not everyone downtown is wealthy or “glamping” (I will never not hate that word.) But this is nothing compared to the thousands of New Yorkers who have lost everything. Whose houses have been destroyed. Whose loved ones have died. Whose lives were washed away in a single night.