Because Red Hook Wouldn’t Let Red Hook Go Under

Because Red Hook Wouldn’t Let Red Hook Go Under

Because Red Hook Wouldn’t Let Red Hook Go Under

From New York Magazine

Featuring Operations staff member Sandy Serrano, NY Mag wrote a nice piece encapsulating how the Red Hook community, and the Red Hook Initiative, worked to save itself.

Sandy Serrano heard the power go. A sucking sound, then a high-pitched whine, then click—the entire apartment was thrown into darkness. She was in her home on the fifth floor of 22 Mill Street, a brick cube in the heart of the Red Hook Houses, the largest public-housing project in the borough of Brooklyn and the second largest in New York City. The place, cramped on the best days, was chock-full: There was Serrano, and her husband, and her 82-year-old mother-in-law, and her 12-year-old daughter, and her 25-year-old daughter, and her 5-year-old grandson. In the hallway, Serrano saw light under her neighbor’s door. There was no logic to it, but the guy still had electricity—would he mind if she ran an extension cord from his place to hers? “No problem,” he said. An hour later, his power went out too.

Click here to read more

(Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos/New York Magazine)


As many of you know, Red Hook, Brooklyn is one of New York’s communities most devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In response to its impacts, The Red Hook Initiative immediately diverted its efforts to serve as a de facto center for local relief and support efforts – especially for the 5,000 public housing residents without power or heat but also for local residents and small businesses whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by this storm – so many of whom have supported our efforts in the past.

We are currently providing emergency supplies, serving hot meals, providing access to power and communications, helping to provide information and access to necessary services, and coordinating community volunteer efforts. The situation is very much in flux and we expect to adjust our role to respond to evolving needs; meanwhile, all donations received at this time will go to support these and similar efforts. Thank you for your support – we will keep you updated on the progress.

Check our blog for latest updates.

The Faces of the Red Hook Initiative: Ericka Medina

The Faces of the Red Hook Initiative: Ericka Medina

As spoken at the New York Women’s Foundation’s Celebrating Women Breakfast, May 15, 2008. NYC.

My name is Ericka Medina. I’m 17 years old and a senior at Benjamin Banneker High School in Brooklyn. Up until the age of eight I lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn, with my mother, father and three sisters. I remember those being very hard years because my father was an alcoholic and was abusive toward my mother. I remember always having to stay strong, maintaining my emotional stability, painting a smile on my face so that I could think everything was okay. I moved to Red Hook when I was eight when my father left for Puerto Rico and my mother wasn’t able to maintain our financial situation.

Besides school, there wasn’t anything else for me to do in Red Hook. I learned about the Red Hook Initiative when my two friends got interviews there. My friends told me that we would become Peer Health Educators and all I really cared about was spending time with them, so I applied.

In the first year we learned about reproductive health such as puberty, menstruation, the male and female anatomy, sexually transmitted diseases and infections, pregnancy and more. When we completed the training, we went to schools and different communities to conduct workshops for girls from ages 10-14 and sometimes even for adults.

At RHI, I did yoga for the first time. Before this I had never exercised. Yoga showed me exercise could be entertaining. It also allowed me to clear my mind and helped me with my frustrations.

By the second year as a Peer Health Educators, we were learning about emotional and social health, about healthy relationships and about domestic violence. We learned healthy ways to deal with difficult situations. It also showed us how our emotions can have different effects when portrayed in different situations. We learned how to better express ourselves and as a result we also became more emotionally attached to each other.

I then began to counsel young girls ages 8-12. Hearing their problems related to things I dealt with. The typical “moms annoying me,” and then there were more serious matters such as a girl who was being teased or put down because of her appearance, which affected her self esteem. I reassured them, telling them that they are beautiful and that if you feel confident in yourself then no one else’s opinion should matter.

RHI has been somewhere I can go and express myself and problems without feeling uncomfortable. When my father passed away I immediately rushed to RHI before going home. When I arrived, everyone just held me as I cried feeling his presence no longer there. When I had the strength to get up, I noticed everyone was crying. I realized that my friends and I had something in common, none of our fathers were in the picture. Within that lost presence, we became each others missing links. As I always did, after that night I closed my emotions in a box and locked it which later affected everything in my life.

A few months later as I realized what was effecting my school work I came to the conclusion I had to express my feelings about my father’s death so that it no longer expressed itself subconsciously in my actions. I walked in the RHI office and sat there staring at the floor and playing with my fingers. I was immediately asked what was wrong. I remember saying everything within one breath about how I am forced to smile everyday of my life and can’t once show emotion. I kept on about how I miss my father so much and I don’t know what to do, all the while crying. When I finally got the strength to look up I noticed that they were crying too. They acknowledged my pain and allowed me to sit there and mend on my own. When I finished speaking they held me and told me that they admired how strong I am. That day helped me beyond measure. It helped me mend as well as helping me acknowledge that I am strong and I can overcome anything that is thrown my way. That loss united every one in the program and allowed us to become even closer. I don’t think that I could have gotten through that turning point as easily if I didn’t have the support system that RHI provides.

Then, I had to deal with leaving Red Hook after there was an altercation in our neighborhood. On May 5, 2007 my family and I found ourselves in a situation where a fight broke out and weapons were involved, which made me realize I didn’t want my family to walk out everyday of their life feeling unsafe. I took the initiative and told my mom “we have to go.” That decision was another turning point in my life. It allowed me to mature and grow as a person. Living an hour away from RHI doesn’t affect my relationships there at all. I’m still in contact and I visit at times because I know that they are there no matter what.

I have worked at RHI for four years now and I must say that it has had a huge impact on my life. RHI has provided a second home and family for me. I have grown both emotionally and mentally stronger by being a part of this amazing program. It has taught me about myself, my qualities, and capabilities. Without RHI I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be and what choices or mistakes I would have made. So I stand here with my head high due to the many hands that have kept it that way, thanks to the Red Hook Initiative.