- Posted November 13, 2012 by
Union, New Jersey
This iReport is part of an assignment:
'Superstorm' Sandy: Your stories
Relief Efforts in Union Hampered by Township Parking Authority and Officials:
Awful Priorities in Union NJ:
The following is a story about our efforts beginning Nov 1 to provide relief to union Twp residents which was hampered when the Union Parking Authority accused us of defacing Municipal Property by using Blue Painters Tape to create signs near areas affected by power outages in the Burnet & Vauxhall areas of Union.
On the 4th day of our relief effort where Donations of Hot Food, Coffee, and even a tent were donated to support our cause the township tried to shut us down the day before election day citing too many extension cords as a member of the Union Health Department told us if we did not shut down the Fire department would be there next and then the Police.
We had 2 extension cords from leaf blowers running Verizon FIOS: 1 small TV & 2 power strips for charging cell phones on November 1, while the Township of
Union did not open a shelter until the 4th day of Sandy's Aftermath.
We had Verizon FIOS internet, tv, and Landline using our generator 30 minutes after the power went out for us which lasted 3 days.
on the day before the Election we caught the Township Parking Authority removing out Blue Painters Tape from a Traffic Light Controller box at the intersection of Burnet & Vauxhall and when I questioned their reasoning they said I was defacing public property and ordered me to remove all the painters tape used to direct people to our relief efforts.
I was then threatened with being charged for Damaging Municipal Property if there were any scratches on the Green Traffic Light Controller Box or the Aluminum light poles.
This was while Vauxhall was blocked off for 9 days with a huge tree down and all the residents were without power.
The township did not open their shelter till 4 days after our effort began on Nov 1 and inadvertently we embarrassed local politicians by commenting on the sign pointing people to our charging and comfort station was removed on the Union Twp facebook page questioning the Priorities of the Parking Authority in Union when the decide that a Shiny Green Box outweighs the Suffering of so many.
I removed all the Blue Painters tape as ordered.
This abuse of power while we were supporting so many hampered our efforts to help even more people in town who desperately needed our help.
We named our site on 1555 Ridgeway St
"The Little New Orleans Relief Center"
with the Slogan
"We aren't waiting for help to come to us,
We are getting out there to help the Community."
After the tape incident I walked into Senator Lesniaks Office in Union and told our story about the signs being removed in a time of such overwhelming need and they were horrified.
When I returned home the Inspector from the Health Department was at My Home and demanding we shut down saying the order came from the top to his supervisor to shut us down.
We were given the excuse that we had too many extension cords so I said I would remove one and we only had 1 power strip and a small color TV off a boat running but that was not good enough.
We were then told the order cam from Union Fire Department (I spoke to the fire chief later at the Union Township Committee meeting and he apologized to me for the way we were treated but the order did not come from him) and then told the Police would be there to shut us down.
We were running safely and had donations coming in as word spread about our efforts and the stream of people increased as word of mouth spread.
We were open 7 days 24/7 first running for 3 days off our generator and then continuing our efforts after our power came back on Nov 3.
I wanted to know who made the decision that township priorities were Shiney green Boxes over people suffering and why it took 4 days to open a shelter while no one in the Vauxhall area was informed in any way.
I myself drove around talking to everyone I could and asking those with generators to run extension cords with power strips so their affected neighbors could charge their phones.
I returned a call from Union Twp Mayor Florio after Senator Raymond Lesniak intervened on our behalf calling the Mayor and asking why they were hampering efforts to aid those in such need.
The Mayor told me that he had received a call from the senator and told me he would look into it and get back to me the day after the election which he did not. He ran unopposed.
The inspector never came back and Fire and Police showed their appreciation for our efforts,
I recorded the conversation of both the inspector who came to shut us down and the Mayors call.
We even distributed 30 gallons of gasoline stored to run our generator to those in dire need as well as running our Comfort Center 24 hours a day for the 7 days we served the public beginning Before any call to help was ever issued.
I am a 49 year old Programmer who interviewed in WTC Tower 1 thirteen days before they fell and have been unemployed for the past 4 years where I have gone from making $70,000 a year to being on foodstamps but when the obvious need arose we stepped up and took the initiative inadvertently embarrassing town officials who didn't get any relief efforts running till Nov 4th.
No good deed goes Unpunished.
I appeared at the Union Township Committee meeting on Nov 8 (on Blip TV 34) to support my town and their first responders while sharing information thru YouTube reporting around town showing how extensive the damage was as
well as using the numbers from PSEG to explain that Union had 52% power out but that was still only 2% of the power out in the state.
There were Utility crews in Union from 46 states around the country and we spoke with one crew member from New Mexico who said they started in Maryland and worked their way north to NJ..
I understood the scope of this disaster was way beyond the possible efforts of responders in local and federal gov and remembering how long it took to get help to Katrina Victims we took the lead and made a difference.
I want to thank Senator Lesniak for all his efforts on our behalf and union Police Director Dan Zizer as well as Union Fire Chief who while obviously exhausted praised us and apologised to me for what happened.
I want people to know what happened here and the misuse of power as well as priorities by the Union Township Parking Authority who took upon themselves the decision to initally remove the tape directing those suffering to our relief efforts.
Where the hell were their Priorities.
All this is onmy Facebook Page at email@example.com, the Union Twp Facebook page, Sen Lesniaks FaceBook page and I have videos up on youtube under the Member ID: DanielinNJ. and have attached pics and text of what happened.
We just want the truth to be known.
1555 Ridgeway St.
Union NJ 07083
Our Efforts to provide charging and TV as well as food Gas & water to those in
Nov 1 night:
Note left at our charging station before the township of union even had a shelter open:
The Union Parking Authority Removing our Signs announcing our effort since
Nov 1 to provide cell charging and food:
Our Sign Before the removal:
Giving away 30 Gallons of Gasoline FREE:
Posted to the Union Twp Facebook Page:
Thank You All so much.
We have had over 200 people come here and charge their phones as well as have some warm food and coffee.
The public came thru for us as local businesses donated Food and residents donated water and a tent as well as the local Church donating blankets for the cold.
We setup our Charging station before the sun came up on November 1st, 4 days before the Township opened their Shelter across town but residents in the hard hit sections here are still without power and we are now on our 7th day here offering Support and Relief for those so needy in this Storm which overwhelmed the Union Township and New Jersey State Emergency Response Crews.
Police and Fire Departments are doing triple shifts and are all exhausted and cranky but we want them to know we appreciate them all for their sacrifices.
I was in Lowes on the 29th of October looking for Power inverters to run 100W fluorescent Lights which draw only 18w apiece and while I was standing in the aisle they brought in a Pallet of 5700 W Emergency Generators and dropped them right in front of Me.
I couldn't believe how blessed we were and I know it was in Gods plan for me to be given this chance to help others as I have always tried to do.
I put 2 Briggs & Stratton “Storm Responder” Generators on my mothers Credit card and maxed it out (we couldn't even buy gas) and I wrapped them both in plastic and tarps so I could return them if they weren’t needed.
Within 30 minutes of the power being out I was able to use the “Storm Responder” Generator Power to get my VERIZON FIOS Landline Phone, FIOS Cable TV & and FIOS Internet while most of my town was black.
The idea came from a neighbor asking if I could help charge her dead iPhone and I realized that running 1 extension cord with 2 power strips to a table was so easy I wish I thought of it earlier.
The outpouring of Love and appreciation from those left in the dark was incredible with so many tearful stories of days in their cold dark homes taking care of loved ones and children while unable to get basic communications as all their cell phones went dead.
We gave away 30 gallons of gasoline I stockpiled for the Generator (Thanks Mom!) as well as blankets and food donated by those caring folks in our community who like us feel that community has to be there for each other first and look to the local Government second.
We had one Horribly Insensitive and uncaring incident where the Union Township Parking Maids decided on their own that a sign I made at an intersection leading to the affected areas using Blue Painters Tape was "Defacing" their Green Traffic Light Controller Box.
I was Ordered to remove all the Blue Painters Tape Arrows from light poles as the Parking Maids removed My “Charge Your Cell Phone Free Sign” and arrows from the Light Control Box informing residents within walking distance that we were here to Help.
This was Day 4 of our crisis and a day after I carefully and with thought of the need for removal after this was over purchased the Blue Painters Tape Used.
This Horribly Insensitive and uncaring overreaction by those hired for Parking Enforcement over my objection brought threats of being held liable for any damage in scratching the poles or box.
I never expected this kind of overreaction from Employees of the Township of Union where they seem to have let their small amount of power to ticket and tow cars delude them into believing their control overrides the needs of others suffering in the township of Union.
We understand that the towns resources were taxed far beyond anything ever planned for or expected as This Horrible and Egotistical Abuse of Authority by those responsible for Union Township Parking Enforcement shows a minority mindset in our town as Police and Fire Departments were so wonderful in Supporting our efforts.
The closest thing I can remember to this is when during Katrina Residents of an affluent area would not let those fleeing the flooding cross a bridge into their district and the results there were Horrible as people died on the Bridge trying only to get to safe ground.
When Authority becomes Abuse of Position and Power as these Parking Maids have so thoughtlessly acted in opposition of calls for Volunteers from both our Governor Chris Christie and President Obama, there needs to be a reevaluation of what the Position of Serving the Community as Parking Maids entails.
Their Job description does not include hampering efforts in an unprecedented crisis of massive scope where efforts to provide comfort and support to our neighbors becomes as important to fill in where our Local Township Government is unable due not to any fault of their own but to the unprecedented size of the desperate need resulting from so much damage.
We do not believe that disciplinary action would accomplish anything and are asking only for who was the Senior Township of Union Employee on scene who made the decision that a Shiny Green Box and Aluminum Light poles free of Painters Tape were more important than the suffering those in their community as a whole.
The Community Deserves an Apology at the next Union Township Committe Meeting from the 2 Parking Maids involved.
The Police officer on Scene was reacting to their direction and shares no blame in this act. He was obviously exhausted as we all are working around the clock in support of our community.
Again, discipline would not do anything as the time has passed and others like Home Depot, Lowes and local businesses as their power came back on have stepped up to allow people access to outlets for charging and warm indoor areas for those still in needto rest out of the cold.
What the Parking Maids in Union Township do need is Sensitivity training and a better understanding of not only their job descriptions but their requirement to serve the community and not their own deluded sense of control over meaningless objects.Union Police, Fire Fighters, Emergency Responders and all the Township employees I’ve spoken to are Exhausted as am I in our drive to serve those less fortunate in this time of such great need.
I would like to Thank Senator Raymond J. Lesniak as Well as Union Township Mayor Joseph Florio and Union Police Department Director Dan Zeizer for their work in helping us as a community in supporting each others efforts.
It is now day 7 that we ay our "Little New Orleans Relief Center" have served the Local Community Here in Union and there are still those close by who are without power in need of our support.
Our efforts will Continue as long as there is a need in the community and from this we have all grown closer as we are all in this together.
Thank You to all those Volunteers who are still showing the Good Nature and Compassion We know is such a large part of our Wonderful Community as a Whole.
God Bless America
"The Little New Orleans Relief Center"
We are not waiting for Help,
We are Helping each Other.
Union NJ 07083
DanielinNJ on YouTube