Power Rockaways Resilience
Delivering power for now, resilience for the future.
During Hurricane Sandy, the Rockaway peninsula, a small barrier island off New York City, bore the brunt of a 14-foot tidal surge topped by three-story-high waves. When restoration of electrical power was still weeks, or even months away for thousands of residents, and a region-wide fuel-shortage rendered traditional generators useless, winter was closing in. The situation in the Rockaways was critical. Although large-scale investment from the government was on its way in the longer term, this was a humanitarian crisis requiring the kind of nimble, on-the-ground, highly-localized response that can only come from community-based organizations.
The CMRC's Power Rockaways Resilience (PRR) project mobilized just hours after Sandy struck. At that time, families were sleeping outside together around campfires - reluctant to evacuate and abandon their homes in the face of wide-spread looting, and with few safe shelter and transportation options even if they were motivated to evacuate. In public housing, tenants were risking asphyxiation to heat their apartments with gas stoves, because on those early November nights when the temperatures dipped below freezing, there were no other options.
PRR is led by a group of planners and engineers who call Rockaway Beach home (or at least their home surf break). Along with many friends and supporters, the group is still on the ground in Rockaway since the storm doing what we can to help out. What started with mounting small, single solar panels to granny carts with motorcycle batteries to help charge cell phones and small power tools has snowballed into a New York City funded, $3 million effort to ensure no Rockaway resident is ever more than a 10-minute walk from a business with off-grid energy to keep it bright, warm, safe and operational in future disturbances.
After the utilities powered up again, dozens of solar generators continue to supplement the grid with resilient energy and provide a renewable buffer in future storms. The homes and businesses that were powered by the CMRC in an initial effort to simply mitigate disaster have also benefited from a half-decade of reduced or zeroed power bills and the security of knowing that their energy demand is not further contributing to the threat of sea level rise.