Building trades workers including the New York City District Council of Carpenters along with the Building Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, began an organized volunteer effort on Staten Island today, Nov. 9, the first part of a plan to help rebuild Hurricane Sandy-ravaged areas.

Photo Courtesy of the NYC District Council of Carpenters
Members of the NYC District Council of Carpenters volunteer on Friday, Nov. 9, with post-Hurricane Sandy cleanup on Staten Island.

The workers met at 7 a.m. at the Federal Emergency Management Agency tent on Father Capodanno Blvd. in Staten Island and began the first phase of relief—the cleanup process, which includes pulling out sheetrock and flooring, says Michael Bilello, executive secretary treasurer at the District.

Phase two, the operation phase, will consist of determining how to best help council members who have reported damage to their own property and requested assistance, Bilello says. The council has a charity fund for members that is in the works that will be “tailored to suit the needs of the disaster,” he adds.

“The main thing is to get people off the streets,” Bilello says.

The third phase will be the rebuilding process itself.

Bilello says that, so far, about 55 to 60 District members have called in to volunteer and about 75 members have called in for assistance. The District’s apprentices are also expected to sign up to volunteer in the field next week, he adds.

The carpenters’ assistance is not limited to council members, however. “We start out by going to a member’s house but we will help their neighbors too if they are in need,” Bilello says.

Going forward, he says, rebuilding talks should focus on the type of construction practices used in the face of more frequent severe storms. “The industry needs a plan,” Bilello says.

The carpenters plan to help tomorrow in Long Beach, Long Island, which suffered significant damage from the storm. On Monday, they are set to go to the Rockaways, Queens.

Bilello says there is no time limit on how long the volunteer work will continue. "As long as we're out there doing something, we're doing good," Bilello says.

Meanwhile, other carpenters unions have also offered their services. These include the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Eastern District; Local 751 in Senoma City, Ca.; and the Central Southern Carpenters Regional Council in Louisiana., which wants to return the favor for when the NYC district helped with Katrina rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, Bilello says.

The District is using the Labor Technical College located at 395 Hudson Street in Manhattan as a collection supply station for those affected by Sandy. Items such as nonperishable food, clothes, cleaning supplies, winter coats, diapers, baby clothes and formula are currently being accepted.