Since October 28, Queens College has been serving as a temporary home for anyone who was able to get to the campus.
Pedro Piniero, director of public safety at Queens College, was put in charge of running the operation. He said when the gym opened its doors to the public, roughly 30 people arrived, but that quickly grew to around 500. When asked how long Queens College will be serving as a shelter, he said that was up to the city.
“Finding people homes isn't a simple thing,” Piniero said, noting that many of the evacuees were from the hard-hit areas of the Rockaways and Breezy Point.
Piniero said that he has seen families with five, six and even seven children in the gym trying to figure out how to put their lives back together.
“They haven't been to school in a week,” said Piniero. He's afraid that with families focused on getting a permanent home again that schooling will be overlooked and the children will go a number of weeks without seeing the inside of a classroom.
Some of the children are unable to get to school due to the gas shortage as well, so the Education Department of Queens College is bringing the school to them. The college decided to allow the children to attend school temporarily at the P.S./I.S. 499, which is located on the campus.
Dr. Mary Greiner, chair of the Elementary and Early Childhood Education Program, said it's important for the children to occupy their time after school, as well. Greiner plans to have students read books and work with the children on arts and crafts projects to occupy some of their time once they leave the classroom and go back to their temporary home in the gym.
“Our students are very eager to help,” she said.
And over 100 volunteers have been coming daily to the shelter, according to Piniero. Local residents have also been donating items.
“The community itself has been very supportive so far,” Piniero added.