By Dakota An
The elevators were down, the basement was stacked with boxes of food, and the 7th and 8th floors were full of cots filled with strangers. While the rest of New York tried to return to a state of normalcy, students of Brooklyn Tech returned to school to realize they were not alone.
According to the Brooklyn Tech website, due to the damage wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, 216 occupants, including elderly evacuees and those with both physical and mental needs, from the assisted living facilities, Surf Manor and Chai Home, were forced to relocate to the upper floors of Tech.
The evacuees were taken care of by the regular staff of the facilities, volunteers from the Red Cross, AmeriCorps, the Disaster Medical Assistance Team, and officials from the Office of Emergency Management.
As a result of this occupation, the elevators were restricted from student use, as the student body and the shelter area were to be kept separate for health and safety reasons. Because of this, several of the 30-minute classes had to be relocated. In addition, lunch had to be held in the auditorium.
Six days of missed classes meant many students were forced to work harder to compensate for the time lost. The marking period ending on November 9th, two days after classes began, heightened that anxiety.
Sophomore Sandy Mui disliked the 30-minute periods. “I learn a lot less with half- hour periods and teachers had to cram in a lot of info in shortened periods.”
Mui wasn’t concerned, however, about sharing the building, as long as the students and evacuees were kept apart.
Vivian Tam ’14 was also comfortable with the presence of the shelter on the 7th and 8th floors. “I’m not really bothered by it since we’re kept separate, but there’s definitely some obstacles that come with it, like no elevators, cafeteria, etc. I don’t mind it that much of course because it’s necessary as these people don’t really have anywhere to go.”
Tam volunteered during the six-day leave from school to help those in need from the devastating storm.
Tam, like her peers, was also concerned about the amount of work that bombarded her upon the return to Tech. Her experience with the first week back was difficult.
“I didn’t have to relocate, but the 30 minutes were definitely difficult because the teachers changed the curriculum and I had to take a test on Friday, which was difficult,” said Tam.
Teachers also struggled during the first days back to classes. Physical Education teacher Jerome Brown was limited to simply taking attendance.
When asked about the shelter situation, Brown expressed his sympathy for the evacuees. “I feel bad that they’ve been displaced, especially because of the mental state of some of them.”
However, Brown expressed some concern over security, knowing the student should not be around the occupants. He was reassured, however, by the sight of individuals with firearms, mostly police in plainclothes. The school made the message clear that the NYPD and school safety agents were enforcing security.