Hundreds of Volunteers Clear Debris from Downtown Community Center

The bucket brigade clears debris from the Downtown Community Center. Photo by Carl Glassman

Buckets going upstairs. Buckets going back down. Buckets of Downtown Community Center debris, the detritus of Hurricane Sandy, just kept coming, passed along a line of more than 250 volunteers Sunday, Nov. 11 in a massive effort to clear out the devastated center at 120 Warren St.

In the dark lower level of the center, volunteers shoveled the pulverized former walls of a teen lounge, art and ceramics rooms and kitchen into buckets that went hand over hand, up two flights of stairs and continued another half a block to dumpsters parked on Warren Street.

"We emptied out two rooms of debris, filled up three dumpsters and demonstrated what people and community power can do," said Bob Townley, director of Manhattan Youth, which runs the center. "That's the first step. The second step is to rebuild it.'"

Townley's wide-ranging estimate for that rebuilding will cost is $1.2 million to $2.5 million. Like so many other shuttered buildings in the city, the water submerged its mechanical equipment. Twenty feet of water over a 20,000 square foot area filled the center's lower level before it had been pumped mostly dry four days later.

Townley said he estimates that the center will be cleaned out by midweek. "That's all been done by these volunteers and our staff," he said, and the bucket brigaders, their work done, milled about in front of the center.

Someone asked Townley if he needed more volunteers in the coming days.

"No," he replied, "unless they are volunteers who can write checks."

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