Photograph by Katja Heinemann

In Sandy's Wake, Chinatown's Powerless Island

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    Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, residents of Knickerbocker Village, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, still live in apartments without electricity, heat or hot water. The complex, situated between the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge, consists of twelve 13-story brick buildings surrounding two courtyards and is mostly inhabited by Chinese immigrants and the elderly. At least one building in the 1930s 12-building low and middle income housing complex have no cooking gas, and garbage chute compactors are backed up and non-operational. It might take weeks to repair or replace the development's boilers, so steam heat may not return to the apartments until sometime in December. Tempers are beginning to flare, with tenants calling for a rent strike, and assorted flyers laying blame on both management and the official tenants' organization.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Three days after Hurricane Sandy, government help arrives in the area. New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, who along with her staff had been tireless in coordinating volunteer relief efforts, makes a Chinese language announcement about food rations: three MRE meals and five bottles of water per person.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    A flyer in the lobby entrance of 16 Monroe Street calls for residents to join organizing a rent strike.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Justin, who turned eight the previous week, lives on the second floor of 18 Monroe Street in Knickerbocker Village with his 71-year-old father, Chan Pit Wa. Their unheated apartment is cold, and after going for almost two weeks without electricity and hurting his back while falling in the unlit stairwell of the building, Chan has grown increasingly desperate and feels that he is unable to care for his son under these conditions, so he wants to send the boy to Hong Kong to live with his mother. The day before Justin accidentally set his homework on fire while trying to work by candle light.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Chan Pit Wa with his son.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Chan Yin is a home health aide who looks after Liang Xiushi, 93, in the apartment she shares with her husband on the seventh floor of 16 Monroe Street. Without electricity, she is unable to operate Ms. Liang's hospital bed to prop her up while feeding her, or to lift her out of bed. The apartment has been without heat, hot water or cooking gas for almost two weeks.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Zheng Xuezhen, a few days shy of her 84th birthday, lives without heat, electricity or hot water on the 5th floor of 38 Monroe Street in Knickerbocker Village. Unable to get around without her wheelchair, she has family members caring for her, heating hot water bottles on the apartment's functional gas stove.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Volunteers deliver Red Cross meals to the Hamilton-Madison House operated neighborhood warming center at 50 Madison Street. The Red Cross has been serving hot meals to residents, and FEMA is on-site to process claims, but mostly relief has been organized by local officials and neighborhood community organizations.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann
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    Volunteers and Knickerbocker Village building staff deliver hot meals provided by the Red Cross, community businesses and church groups to the homebound seniors.

    Photograph by Katja Heinemann