Volume 75, Number 17 | September 14 - 20, 2005

Villager photo by Bob Kreizel

From left, Nancy Ortiz, Jeanette Burnette and Lisa Andujar sorted clothes donated by Vladeck Houses residents for Katrina relief.

At Vladeck Houses, outpouring of aid for storm refugees

Remembering their own difficult experiences after 9/11, tenants of the Lower East Side’s Vladeck Houses have been pitching in to help the Hurricane Katrina refugees in their hour of need.

A few days after the hurricane and devastating levee breeches in New Orleans, Nancy Ortiz, tenants association president for the Madison St. public housing development, hatched the idea of collecting supplies for the residents displaced by the disaster. On Aug. 30, she wrote up a letter to Vladeck residents, the next day she posted it around the area and the day after that they were open and accepting contributions at the tenants association room. In a week’s time, the room was overflowing with supplies to send down South for relief.

“We’re getting clothes, Pampers, shampoo, soap, blankets, sheets, toys for the kids — the majority is food — hand lotion, things that’ll make you feel a little better,” said Ortiz, speaking last Thursday. “We just did about 50 boxes last night — and there’s still stuff coming. I figured it wouldn’t be busy on Labor Day, but it worked out — people were clearing out their closets” around this time of year, she said.

They separated the donated clothes into boxes for infants, boys and girls and men and women.

Ortiz hooked up with a friend in the Bronx who was able to get an 18-wheel tractor-trailer. Pickup at Vladeck was slated for last Friday night or Saturday morning, with additional pickups to be made in the Bronx and Harlem. Three volunteer drivers with commercial licenses, one from Vladeck, were to drive the rig the 40 hours to Houston, Tex., where many of the refugees were sent.

“It’s going straight to the dome,” Ortiz said, referring to the Astrodome.

However, it was also possible the truck would drop off at some other area where the refugees have been relocated, Ortiz said.

Ortiz, who has been the Vladeck tenant leader about a year, said the residents can relate to what the Gulf Coast storm and flood victims are going through.

“We’re just trying to work as hard as we can to get these things to the people that need it,” Ortiz said. “We understand from 9/11 when we were under martial law here. If you didn’t have ID, you weren’t allowed in the neighborhood. We had no deliveries. We had no phone — I didn’t get my phone back until December. People didn’t have cars. To get milk you had to drive Uptown.”

Lincoln Anderson

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