Sandy Survivors Suffering. Letter to the Editor. 12-12-14

Sandy Survivors Suffering!

Letter to the Editor. 12-12-14

In this season of joy and good will, there are thousands of Survivors of SuperStorm Sandy peppered throughout your communities: who are suffering, cold, hungry, many living in gutted, moldy houses because Housing Programs ran out, with children, sick, disabled dying, waiting too long. Sandy Survivors are isolated on the fringes of a society in denial, glad it was not them who lost everything to the terrible flooding, sewage and slime on October 29, 2012.

Sandy Survivors have been drained, financially and emotionally, by failed U.S. Disaster Recovery systems ill-prepared for major disaster, discriminating against Sandy Victims because of abuses they claim Katrina victims committed.

Sandy Survivors are being tormented, forsaken, by inept Repair/Renovation Programs, like New York State’s failed NYRising Program: limping along, put out to bid almost two years into the disaster, reorganizing and floundering midstream. NYRising Victims working diligently to get home, are pummeled by inaction, delaying tactics, manipulation of facts, constant lost paperwork, unanswered communications, favoritism, and total abandonment of desperate homeowners. NYRising’s Program was hastily implemented, before it was designed, and is continually, erratically changing rules, increasing requirements, decreasing grants, back-sliding, to the extreme detriment of displaced homeowners.

I beg you, the public, to look into the eyes of your community, recognize your neighbor’s who lost everything through no fault of their own: reach out to them with kindness, support empathy and good will. There but for a few degrees on a map, goes YOU! ALL WE WANT TO DO IS GO HOME!
Hurricane Sandy Survivor.

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Hitting a Brick Wall. 9-27-14

Hitting a Brick Wall. 9-27-14

Hitting a brick wall isn’t really very scary, when bureaucrats have been building brick walls in your face for two years. A sudden oncoming embankment at 50 mph triggered defiance in me, at that amorphous fate that picked me tonight to splatter. It was a metaphor for what my life has become at the hands of others: and possibly avoiding it is foreshadowing of things to be.

So it was to be the end for me on a murky stretch of Sunrise Highway just east of Carlton Avenue at 8:30 p.m. on a misty Fall Saturday night. It was an end I refused to accept. A blood clot, an autonomic storm, or the melanoma, maybe, but this, I would not tolerate.

It was the perfect end to a perfect day. By nightfall, I had totally forgotten where I was in the horrific timeline of my life, for one sweet day. This morning, I decided to seek some normalcy, after almost two years isolated in bed by intractable pain in a small dark hotel room, peering through the horrible distorted haze my life had become at the hands of FEMA and the Disaster Recovery System: which has tormented, dismissed and abandoned tens of thousands of east coast Americans for two onerous years in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I was an advocate for disabled people, an ADA Consultant, a hero to many, before SuperStorm Sandy blasted all of our lives into slivers of contaminated memories, muck, and hideous bureaucratic incompetence: before FEMA disrespected us all. I awoke today wanting to touch the person I was before the sewage surged into my comfortable home, contaminating everything I owned with putrid slime and importing bullies in government boots into our neighborhoods. I longed to hold yesterday in my hand, to validate my past, if only for a moment. I decided to go to the East End and inspect a Village for disabled access, like everything was normal.

I drove the same route east that I had driven for all the years of my volunteer work on the East End. But I was different now, a stranger in my van: scarred, profoundly sad, numb, disbelieving, so pensive: the last two years running in front of my car. I was desperate to shed the ugliness of bureaucrats and the insanity of the Disaster Recovery System I was forced to operate within since Hurricane Sandy. I longed to recover the contentment and security of my life before Sandy. I longed to recover me: if only for one day.

With every mile I drove away, I felt the muck of my mutilated life crust and drop away: shedding layers of indignity and abuse. I was in the moment, with shafts of sunshine and balmy breezes prying at the edges of my profound sadness, soothing me, reviving me.

Miles of lush rejuvenated scrub Pines stretched along the highway, recalling the Sunrise Fire of 1995, a series of major brush fires in the Westhampton area in late August, that razed 7,000 acres of the East End Pine Barrens and closed down Sunrise Highway for days. I remember smoke engulfed the area with days of fear the fire would spread to East End towns. This stretch of highway brought back the fires for me. As I passed Shirley, I always remembered the mysterious explosion over the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, of TWA’s Boeing 747 Flight 800 on July 17, 1996: reports of missile strikes, cover-ups, recovery, memorials and monuments on the beach at Smith Point County Park. I remembered the crowds of rescue vehicles and boats, months of mystery, conflicting eyewitness reports and major inconvenience.

The land was reverberating its history, triggering memories of my involvement in the pattern of the past. I forgot where I was in time and suddenly realized life is not all about FEMA. There is life outside of FEMA Hell. The breeze dried tears I spontaneously shed for the loss of my place in line. Layers of the hypocrisy and hatefulness of others toward me fell away. In the distance, I saw the person I lost as a result of the horrible failures of the Recovery Systems and the bureaucratic maze of incompetence after Hurricane Sandy.

Lost in thought, time passed quickly. I pulled into the Village peaceful, anticipating a productive afternoon of purposeful work in quiet solitude, inspecting access accommodations. But, I was immediately reminded that this was a day to celebrate Fall harvests. There was a banner stretched above Main Street announcing the event, and what seemed like thousands of people lined the sidewalks, here to party on this exquisitely beautiful day. I was a wounded warrior walking through the Mardi Gras: returning from two years isolated in one dark hotel room with officials of FEMA and NYRising bashing me.

Hoards of well dressed people walked across the intersection I designed, in the walkway I relocated, down the curb cuts I made safe for them, using the traffic lights I timed to accommodate a wheelchair user. They didn’t know the work that went into that one intersection, or who I was. I was ingrained in the history of this place, coming home to nourish my broken heart.

I knew the people here would not help me to go home: most were tourists, here to soak in the ambiance, perhaps some seeking solace too, like me, in a beautiful place. I knew the townspeople would not help me, despite seventeen years of expertise I gave to the Village: because when my house went down, I put fliers around the community and spoke to people, to no avail. I was beyond looking for someone to rescue me. I belonged here.

I went to the disabled parking space created for me behind Village Hall, but they were renovating Village Hall, and my space was full of construction materials. I evaluated and modified architect plans for access for this renovation years ago. I drove to Main Street and parked in the disabled space on the corner of the Lane and Main Street.

As I exited my Rampvan, there were people everywhere, living today, using the walkways, parking, intersections I designed: in flip flops and shorts, holding hands, laden with purchases, pushing strollers, bikes, carrying antiques and large paintings, colorful balloons, popcorn, ice cream cones, walking dogs on leashes. I felt my people, without homes, walking beside the beautiful people, shivering and invisible. I was one of them. I crossed the intersection, while singers on every corner, with guitars, drums, and keyboards, filled the Village with melody.

I rode slowly west on the Lane, homeless and wounded, reluctant to be visible, watching life go by. Joyful people looked at me like I was one of them. I loved them for their innocence. I wanted anonymity and acceptance today. Tomorrow was time enough for truth and pain.

As I traveled west, waves of people crowded past my large powerful wheelchair on the narrow sidewalk. Every one of them looked me in the eye and said “Good Day.” I was in awe of the moment: hoards of ambling people were open and sweet and only wanting to relax on this brilliant Fall day. I was here: now. They validated a part of life that I had not known for a very long time and forgot existed. I decided to absorb the moment, and to make a second pass through the Village later for my access inspection.

Coming toward me was a double stroller, pushed by a stunning woman with long silky hair. A newborn wrapped in pale blue fleece slept angelic in the right-side
seat. In the left, a bouncing, giggling toddler in lavender overalls held the leash of a large, dignified, meticulously-groomed black poodle. The dog wore a red t-shirt with the letters “Baby Sitter” written in black, with a red bow above each ear. As I passed, the man smiled at my maltese and said, “Adorable.” I smiled at their silly poodle taking himself so seriously, and forgot that I was homeless, and alone.

Across the street, by the Art Gallery, several voices and guitar performed too loud, “Who will Stop the Rain,” as fans sat on the wall visualizing gentle showers. My mind filled with tidal waves, long dark corridors of Disaster Recovery and mold. I needed to move on.

Two laughing girls in pink jeans skipped across the sidewalk in front of the Confectionery, swinging, twirling, tossing their long yellow curls. I saw that their faces were painted beautifully with pretty delicate pink and white flowers. There was a sign that read, “Face Painting.”. I loved them for their uninhibited joyfulness and their innocence. But relentlessly the children of the Storm back in FEMA Hell were tramping through my mind: watching their parents slowly die of want and bureaucratic abuse, trying to get back home. We all needed a day in the sunshine.

As I approached the park, I noted signs for the restrooms I designed were newly painted. I was startled by a tangled crowd of people strewn across the lawn enjoying the festivities.. I was swamped with visuals. People and concessions, wandered all the way to the lake. Strollers criss-crossed the park, as children ran, arms outstretched, with delighted abandon. Children sucked on candy apples, ice cream cones and cotton candy. Five young boys ran in circles in the middle of the lawn, playing tag with a barking Golden Retriever. Two tiny Yorkies, dragging streamers, ran up to me and looked up. Pollyanna stood up, ready to play. They turned and ran back to their security, satisfied my mass was not a threat. The Retriever stuck his silken head under my left arm, snuggled and slobbered a moment, then ran away. The sweet fragrance of corn on the cob and sauerkraut teased me. I was hungry. People sang Ballads, Rock, and songs of the Sixties, all mixed together in one loud divergent symphony, overstimulating. A woman from the pet store across the way chatted about my service dog and invited me to participate in the Pet Parade in three weeks. Everywhere, everyone acknowledged me with pleasant conversation. No one knew that I was different: homeless.

So it went. It was a golden day of friendly people and sensory stimulation. I was cautiously happy, because I knew that I did not own a place in life right now. But it felt good to walk through the world of the living, if only for a day.

Main Street was more of the same, pleasant people sitting at tables, eating meals outside at curbside restaurants along the sidewalk, with friendly dogs beside them on leashes: people smiling at me, not away. It was difficult to receive unconditional acceptance, after being battered and dismissed for two years in the Disaster Management System. But I was here, now, and I never wanted to leave.

In front of Village Hall people sat on bales of hay, on benches, on the sidewalk, while a woman sang Cher’s song “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.” She sang, “Feeling broken Barely holding on But there’s just something so strong Somewhere inside me. And I am down, but I’ll get up again. Don’t count me out just yet.”. I knew she was singing just to me, so I stopped and listened with appreciation. I felt like the crowd understood.

Before I left the Village, I went to Dune Road to complete my access inspections, and rested in my van on a hill overlooking the ocean, while my service dog hung her tiny head out the window and fell asleep to the hissing of the ocean across the sandy shore. I inspected the phone booths I had put out on Dune Road, and was proud that I had fought so hard for them. I watched Cranes and Osprey glide across the marshland as far as I could see, and horseshoe crabs move like magnets in unison in the sea grass beneath my feet beside Road D: a phenomenon I look forward to witnessing each fall. The bright sun fell low over Dune Beach and closed its eyes on a day well done. As I was leaving Dune Road, miniature deer nibbled at the lush lawns of sea-side estates: I was honored, peeking into their secret sanctuary, witness to their vulnerability.

As I drove away from the solace of familiar environments, filled with the nourishment of blue skies, the rhythm of the ocean, the chatter of friendly people, and productive work, I was content. I listened to Bobby Vinton and sucked on hot cinnamon candies. Pollyanna was fast asleep under a pink bunny blanket in her car bed beside me, exhausted from being adored all day by strangers.

Riding west, back to SuperStorm Sandy homelessness, to the place where I belonged before the storm but is uninhabitable now, felt cold. The trip back home was usually a time of sweet reflection: replaying the day. The East End turns very black after the sun sets, and no matter how delightful is the day, once darkness falls, I always want to go home. But, by the time I get to Babylon, it feels like I am at a carnival, with all the bright lights and busy, colorful businesses on Sunrise Highway and, I long to return to the Long Island “country.”. Today was different. With every mile, I rode closer to life on hold: to the horrific reality of the failed Disaster Recovery System in America, to FEMA Hell, to NYRising litany of broken promises. As night descended, the friendly faces of strangers celebrating the Fall season, was juxtaposed against abandonment of Sandy Survivors. Reality always resurfaces when the light of day fades.

I was driving in traffic moving smoothly along at the speed limit, when without warning the gross hand of fate turned the path in front of me into hellfire. Suddenly the car in front of me swerved to the left and sped away. It seemed strange, until I saw directly in front of me in the road, looming unavoidable, two large jagged metal objects that looked like file cabinets: in my face! I braked, but not completely because there were cars behind me. I had no recourse! Head on collision was imminent. I wondered what idiot dropped these off a truck onto the roadway and kept driving with total disregard for others. I was angry at incompetence and apathy.

The cars around me sped away. My van lurched forward and I swerved to the right, seemingly out of control. I heard all my salvaged belongings falling off the rear seat. I was not afraid. After living the last two years in FEMA Hell, I had no fear. I was in survivor mode. It was a mine field. I just missed the huge metal objects, swerving toward the cement wall. I had nowhere to go: no time to think. I braced for collision I could not avoid. Was this the end of me? I held tight onto the steering wheel of the lurching van, and refused to let go. I took all the hatefulness and injustice directed at me in the last two years navigating the Disaster Recovery System, and channeled it into defiance. I would not let go!. Holding tight, I swerved to the left, just enough to narrowly miss the wall: finding a path between the metal objects and the wall, not quite wide enough. It seemed like hours, but it was only moments: a lifetime. I felt a blow. I knew I was hit.

But, I kept my hands firmly clutching the wheel, anticipating the final blow, trying to navigate the crevice between the offending objects and the concrete wall, as I had navigated through the maniacs at FEMA. I felt strangely calm and in control. I would not allow the last two years of my life in FEMA Hell to be the story of my life.

In the final analysis, hitting a brick wall is nothing, after being walled up behind the brick walls of the horrific Disaster Recovery System in America. There is nothing worse than losing control of your life, through no fault of your own, to corruption, incompetents, profiteers and egotists in important jobs. Brick walls!

I heard a loud crack. I waited for an explosion, oblivion. But there was only the road, and me: and a direction for me to choose. I chose Home! My mind was clear. The van was weaving away from obstacles. My path was clear. I held the wheel so tight it seemed it would break. My eyes were fixed on the path home. I was invincible.

The road was dark. I was alert. I wanted to stop and look at the damage, but I was afraid someone might hurt me on the dark road. My chest hurt terrible. My foot was on the gas and I kept it there. I called to inform authorities of the obstacles in the roadway.

I was driven by one thought, “I want to go home.”

I pulled into the brightly lit hotel parking lot, afraid to look at my van, but needing to just the same. The thought of dealing with fixing the damage, in addition to dealing with the inept disaster management system, was too much to think about tonight. I turned, in order to transfer into my wheelchair, and realized for the first time that everything was pinned against my seat, the wheelchair being held from me by a blue ice cooler cracked in half. The back bench seat was tilted forward, jammed upside down by the ceiling. All of my belongings were piled against me, having cascaded from the seat onto the wheelchair. One of the leg rests to my power chair was cracked. The van was a jumble of yesterday: odds and ends of a life put on hold by natural disaster and bureaucratic incompetence, hopefully unbroken, because they were packed in styrofoam.

I felt grateful as I piled boxes all over the front seats, and others pulled the broken seat off the ceiling.. After much effort, the seat swung into a horizontal position, obviously bent and out of place. I put the suitcases and blankets back on the seat, unjammed my wheelchair, sopped up ice water on the floor, lifted Pollyanna from her fleecy nest, and exited the vehicle. I was anxious to see the external damage to my wheelchair van.

I scanned the front of the van, the side, the hood, the other side, the doors. There was no gaping hole, no smashed fenders, no broken lights. I was confused. There were huge obstacles in the road on my way home. They hit me hard. I held on tight. I would not let them vanquish me.

I got a flashlight and rode around the van once more, meticulously inspecting every inch for evidence: front, back, hood, both sides. On the edge of the side panel in front of the left tire on the drivers side, there was a deep, ruler-straight seven-inch gouge imprinted, but not cut all the way through: a scar. An inch below that, perfectly parallel, was a second three-inch gouge. It was obvious the corner of the file.cabinet had clipped me as I navigated between it and the cement wall, leaving a graphic reminder that reaction works. I closed my eyes and whispered, “Thank you God!” three times. I wondered why God gave me this one.

At daylight, I rushed out to look at my van, wanting to validate that something really happened. The two cuts looked like deliberately-placed deep knife wounds. But, overnight each had developed a black line down it’s center, that looked strangely like a scab. Was healing possible?

NYRecreate, I want to go home,please . . . .. 8-26-14

I want to go home, please … 8-26-2014

It was a sprawling building with entrances on all four sides and a great abundance of parking, but no legal handicapped parking. There was no sign inside or out, designating the location of the new NYRecreate Offices. I was told later when they are “up and running” and decide on a name, they will put a sign up.

So, while I knew the suite number, I had no indication which one of the six doors to use. I found a human who told me their suite was inside the north door. There was a high curb that jarred and twisted my wheelchair axle. None of the doors were accessible. As I entered the second hallway I was confronted by eight hefty carpeted steps. Barbed wire! Half an hour, multiple directors, multiple outside entrances later, I passed through the glass doors to an unassuming NYRecreate office.

I spent the next two hours sobbing, sitting in the conference room discussing my case with the coldest manager I ever met. She said all the right things. But, she never blinked. She offered no unsolicited information. She told me she was working very long hours, but when I asked what she was doing, she said listening to homeowners like me. It was obvious, and she admitted, she had absolutely nothing to offer anyone who needed help.

I was snot down to my knees, oozing into my mouth, dripping onto my blouse, from crying. Finally, I asked her if she had a tissue. She said, “They are out in the waiting room.” She never moved. It was the strangest reaction. I continued weeping, all slobbery, as she sat stoically observing me like I was a bird in a cage: representing disaster management.

I told her I came here unannounced because since Pro lost the bid and the new company took over, and we got letters that we have new case managers, no one is answering phone calls or emails. She said Pro was not gone. She said that the reason emails have not been answered is because the new company came in expecting to get up and running and use Pro’s email system. But Pro would not let them, so, those email addresses that were sent to us all in letters of Introduction were always invalid. The email that will supposedly get to a caseworker is: your caseworker@nysandyhelp.ny.gov. I asked why we were never notified of this and she said, because they are not “up and running.” I asked why we were not notified they had moved, and she said, “We sent letters out three days after we moved.” I said that was odd.

I told her that everyone seems to be on vacation and that word is that they will not be doing business until mid October. She asked where I heard that. I said Facebook. She said, “Don’t listen to anything on Facebook. No one has spoken to me.”

I asked if the new company is operational. She said something about the contract not being settled, that Pro won’t let go. Issues must be resolved. I asked why. She said, “Because they are greedy.”

I did not understand. I said “Well, why don’t you do something?. Why don’t you go to the Governor: tell him what is going on.”

She said, “I can’t go to the Governor. I work here.”

I said, “No one is paying my hotel. I have no money. I need to go home. When are you going to be operational?” I was crying. I said, “I want to go home. I am getting sicker every day. I need to go home. People are suffering so much: so much suffering. People are living in gutted houses. Children are living in moldy homes. People are dying. So many people have died, from neglect: from waiting too long. It is horrific! Is that what they want, for us all to die?”

She said, “Why would they want that?”

I said, “Because it would save the state a lot of money.”

She said, “I don’t think that is what they want.”

I told her the story about the Governor running away from reporters asking him to talk to me after the Rally in Holbrook: that he jumped into a car and sped away from Sandy Survivors and media running after him, after I got blocked by stairs. I said it was a cowardly thing to do to a lady in a wheelchair who had formally requested through his Albany Office to meet with him.

She said robotically over and over in response to my questions, “We are in a transition period. When the issues are resolved, we will take care of your case.”

I said, “When will that be? How long is that? I need to go home! People are suffering. We all need to go home.”

She said over and over, “I have no idea. We are undergoing a transition.”

I said, “So you are not operating.”

She said, “I am here every day. I am meeting with homeowners. I am listening to them. I am working very hard.”

I said, “You are listening but you can not do anything. You are on hiatus.”

She got very agitated and said that was not correct. “Hiatus infers we are absent, not here. That is not the case. We are working every day.”

I said, “So you are working. But you are impotent. You are in transition and can do nothing until the issues with Pro are resolved. You have absolutely no idea how long that will take?”

She said, “That is correct.”

Barbed wire!

NYRecreate, Are U In There? 8-5-2014

NYRecreate, Are U In there: 8-5-2014

Constant excruciating pain is my reality, from loss of $50,000 in medical equipment during SuperStorm Sandy over 21 months ago. It is August, and with damaged temperature control due to severe autonomic dysfunction from SCI, I am at extreme hazard in hot humid weather. I am living in a hotel room: not home. When I need to go out in my electric wheelchair, I must take supplies stored in my wheelchair van out, and put them in the hotel room. When someone is coming to visit me, I must put those items back into the van. This is time-consuming and difficult: a small price to pay for a place to be. My electric wheelchair must be kept in the hotel room, because the battery discharges quickly in the elements. My garage drowned. So, when I need to go out, I must charge my wheelchair and move it through the narrow hotel room door, out into my Rampvan.

Invariably the chair veers out of control when I gun it to get over the marble threshold, and I gash the door. I touch up the white metal surface with a paint pen before I leave, and usually again when I return. Before I leave, I place orange cones in two parking spaces, hoping that no one will move them and claim the spaces.before I get back, or take the cones home once more. I hope my key card does not turn red when I return, because I cannot get to the office in the wheelchair. Pulling out of the parking space, I know for sure that I will never ever be as comfortable or secure as I was on October 28, 2012, making 100 meatballs to freeze for Christmas buffet in my warm, fragrant kitchen. And I know that nobody gets it, or cares!

All this is only relevant to illustrate that it is not simple for me to go out into the world, living in a hotel room without what I need to function with SCI. The systems are harsh, inflexible, and irrationally judgmental.. They circulate paperwork that I am “difficult,” “hard to please,” and “uncooperative” if I voice what I require. In the horrific world of Disaster Programs and Agencies, different needs translate to a person who is “uncooperative.” If you hold up the line, they make you pay for it!

I am in my van heading for NYRecreate in Farmingdale to deliver the Independent Appraisal I am required to submit to Appeal my Acquisition Offer. I breathe a long deep sigh of relief that I made it this far, and I want to go home. But, home is gone! Comfort is gone! Security is gone! There is cement all around me. I follow the line of a faux stone wall to Sunrise Highway, easing very slowly down the parking lot exit ramp so that my Rampvan does not bottom out. I remember my birthday six weeks after I got my van. My birthday present was a sidewalk the width of my yard, and a ramp from the street to my driveway, because my Rampvan was totally unable to enter or exit my own property. I was so happy and grateful for that ramp, and all the structural access modifications that were installed in my house and property. That was my norm. I was not different there. I was accepted for what I am. I am crying now, driving.

I cry every time I venture into my post Sandy world. There is barbed wire everywhere, walling me off from people who did not live through Sandy, walling me in to failing Programs and Agencies spewing incompetence and fraud, slashing me as I try to move forward, binding me to the rubble of yesterday, piercing hope. When I am inside the hotel room, I have very little that is mine. But I also have no visuals of the world I knew. When I go out, and I see familiar places, it cuts me deep with what I lost. When I go to a store, everywhere, I see what I need, what I lost. When I see people driving to a destination, I know that I have none. No matter where I go, I do not really belong: I do not want to be there. I wander alone with a pinpoint focus on home, in a world that went on without me and forgot who I was. I must create what I need, from nothing. I am filled with panic, fear and hopelessness, choking down silent screams: alone in a world of strangers and things.

I drive east on Sunrise Highway and turn north on Route 110, noticing that all the traffic lights are off. I wonder if there is no electric in all of these houses and businesses. How vulnerable we can all become in a moment. I wonder why the electric is off. I maneuver around police cars with flashing lights, snarled traffic, and irate drivers. I am not impacted by them: life crises seem so trivial now.

As I pull up to the NYRecreate Office building, I notice the windows look dim. I surmise their electric is off also, and hope the combination lock is working. I am wondering why my new caseworker did not answer my calls this morning telling her I was coming. I am thinking about the fact that the NYRecreate’s Offices are not accessible to anyone in a wheelchair. The main entrance of the building is open to all. But people using wheelchairs must request, if they can get through to anyone, to go through a heavy metal door on the side of the building that has a keypad combination lock: so illegal. They don’t get it!

I called my new caseworker for a third time, and listened to a message that said she would get right back to me. I had no general number for the NYRecreate Office. They always said call the 1-800 number. I parked in the illegal handicapped parking, with its three-foot access aisles, because I did not want to sit out in the sun in my wheelchair waiting until someone might come along and might let me into the building. I figured I would watch from the car to see if someone came back from lunch. I always park on the other side of the complex in the van spaces by the child care, far away from here, just so I can get out of my car with the electric wheelchair. Last year, I came to deliver papers. I had never been given a phone number. I sat in my wheelchair for one hour in the freezing rain outside the combination door, knocking on the windows of the conference rooms, trying to get someone to notice and open the door. After an hour, shivering, I was finally let in by someone returning from lunch.

So here I am today sitting outside NYRecreate Office in the heat, feeling like the second-class citizen that I have become operating within Disaster Recovery, for an hour, wondering how I am going to deliver this paper that I am required to file. I see in the distance a man gardening. I begin watching him, trying to drag him down to this end of the complex with the power of my. mind. After about a half hour, he starts walking across the grass toward me. I begin strategizing. Closer, I shout as politely as one can shout, “Excuse me sir, can you please help me.” Oddly enough, he is a kind man, and he comes over to the car and says, “What do you need.”

I asked if he could get me through that door, because I had to deliver this paper. He said he surely would do that. I began the process of getting the wheelchair out of the car. I first had to park sideways in three parking spaces so I could get back into my car. He was very patient and friendly, and there was absolutely no one within eye-shot: but I was oddly not afraid, because I was focused on getting into that building. He punched the keypad: so easy when you know the numbers. He struggled to hold the heavy metal door open as it tried to swallow me. The small vestibule was crowded with boxes and the hall inside was strewn on all sides with empty boxes. I thought it was a mess. There were several men in suits standing and they asked the handyman what I was doing here. He explained that I wanted to deliver a paper to NYRecreate. They told him to take me to the front desk. I wondered why.

The front desk turned out to be at the other end of the complex and I found myself grateful that I did not bring my broken electric wheelchair that only runs for 20 minutes. As we turned the corner, there were suddenly three people staring at me from behind a desk, like I had spaghetti on my head. I guess they were wondering how I got in. The kind handyman told them I came to give some papers to NYRecreate. He told me when I was ready to leave, to call him, and left me there by a stairs I could not descend, on the inside of a locked combination door. Barbed wire!

The receptionist quickly offered, “NYRising moved.”
I wondered why I had to come all the way back here to be told.
Her words smashed against my weary head. I was confused, frustrated, angry.

“NYRISING MOVED?” I exclaimed, “You have GOT to be kidding me!”

She said she was not kidding, and pointed to a sign on the wall.
I exclaimed, “”They move, and they don’t even tell us? What is that? They don’t bother to tell people.”
Everybody just stood there like I was the unreasonable one. But I wasn’t ready to accept that they were gone yet. They should be where they are supposed to be.

“Do you have any idea how hard it was for me to get here?” I protested.
They stared at me blankly.
I rambled on about how my new caseworker did not answer my calls or emails, about how my former caseworker was so competent, and how NYRising was implemented before it was designed. I saw my words amble out the front door and down the stairs. I was standing there pointless.

I asked the receptionist to write down the new location of NYRecreate. She copied the name address and phone number off the wall. She said they moved 4 miles north on 110. She said she wanted to call the new NYRecreate office to tell them I was coming to deliver the paper. But, she asked them if she could deliver the paper instead, on her lunch hour. I was shocked. I wanted to make sure it got there myself. It was important. But, I knew that when I got to the new building, I might not be able to get into it, given NYRisings’s lack of disabled access in the two offices I have used. And, I was wearing down from the pain. So, I accepted the receptionists unexpected offer, with gratitude and puzzlement. Why is there such rampant cruelty in the world, and random acts of unexpected kindness?