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AR: I have no idea how this really happened…I don't. I'm actually working on two efforts. The first one was with Made in NYC — I had approached them about creating an online shopping portal linking to local businesses. Our plan is to get people to show their support by shopping through this site for Christmas instead of Amazon, and letting them know that their holiday shopping will help rebuild NYC.
I’d also started calling lots of my old friends in different neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Staten Island, and found out that nobody was helping them. Meanwhile I go on Twitter, and I see people bitching there's no WiFi on the Lower East Side, or wondering what local restaurants are open.
Listen, I'm all for the small business recovery. I'm all for everyone going out there and eating out and shopping local. But when that's the highest priority for people, and I've got friends who are going to sleep holding kitchen knives because looters have been trying to get into their houses; when there's five cops on every corner of Manhattan to ease gridlock and no one in Coney Island has seen a cop or a single relief person in three days; when people are bitching about their commutes and no one has a single inkling that they are fucking pulling dead bodies out of rubble on Staten Island, I'm not going to take that sitting down.
We're from Bay Ridge. These people are our brothers and sisters, and they were being completely ignored. So I got on Twitter and just started screaming at the top of my lungs, making people listen to me. Then people started tweeting or calling me, saying that they knew people on this block who needed help, or someone in Staten Island who needed food, and we just started finding ways to do it. I went on my local parents Facebook group and told people to start bringing things to my apartment. We started making sandwiches. Total strangers were coming in, setting up, getting to work. We were packing up cars with food and water and toiletries and cleaning supplies, and shuttling them out to dark streets in places like Midland Beach and Sea Gate and other neighborhoods no one has ever heard of. We didn't even realize what we were doing until maybe 24 hours later when my aunt came to my apartment and asked what was going on. We were just going…reacting. People needed help. And if the government was going to take their sweet-ass time to get it there, then we were going to help them ‘til they got their acts together.
BKMag: Obviously you can’t sustain this sort of production out of your apartment forever, so how do you keep the momentum going?
AR: We're not running anything out of our house now; given that our apartment is about 400 sq feet, we honestly didn't have the room in the first place. And donation centers are overloaded with things brought in over the weekend, so we're encouraging people to go in and help them sort — they have things that are really needed on the ground in there, but no one is able to get to it because of the disorganization.
We're also working with some big names in food media to organize a hot food hub here in Bay Ridge where we can mobilize food along with crucial supplies to forgotten neighborhoods — sort of a continuation of our "mobile relief center" system. Many people are still living in their destroyed homes while they rebuild with no gas or electric, many are elderly, and many are just exhausted from the cleanup. We'll be here to support them over the next few months. It's the Brooklyn way.
For more information, visit robicellis.tumblr.com