A visit to Staten Island

It was an eventful day on Wednesday for the B3 fam, our first full one since arriving in the NJ/NY area with a van full of canned goods. We drove to Staten Island, to the distribution center for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

The distribution center, by the way, is a sight to behold. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was an abandoned building. It’s been painted, wired for electricity and unbelievably well-organized, so folks can come in and find the things they need. I liked what the Siller Foundation was doing from afar, but seeing it up close, I am blown away by what they’ve already accomplished.

Earlier in the day, former Met great John Franco was kind enough to go to the MLB.com studios to talk about the hurricane relief work going on and how baseball is involved. He’s been working with the Siller Foundation closely and also talked about the work that ConeyRecovers is doing on Coney Island (we will be there tomorrow, so if you’re volunteering, let me know and say hello. Former big leaguer John Halama will be there to help out). It’s a great interview, so I encourage all to watch.

After dropping off all the cans — see slideshow below for the B3 kids in action — we then got the chance to ride around the surrounding area with Gary Perone of the Brooklyn Cyclones. Gary has been instrumental in getting Minor League Baseball involved in efforts here (Staten Island, Brooklyn and down in Lakewood, NJ — three minor league markets hit hard). He also helped organize the Siller Foundation’s distribution center. So many New Yorkers have stepped up to help out, and Gary has done more than most. Seeing the devastation up close after having just seen TV footage is jarring, to say the least. I remember being in New Orleans the spring after Katrina and feeling the same way. The areas we saw were startling, if not quite as horrible as the tour of the lower 9th Ward I was on back then (there are areas in Staten Island and other places that are), but in some ways it was more startling to see one spot seem almost “back to normal” and another spot nearby condemned. There’s a long way to go, for sure.

After that tour, we met up with the folks from the Siller Foundation — meeting Frank Siller was a thrill and everyone there greeted us as family — and then headed to one of three Thanksgiving dinners being held for victims of the hurricane on Staten Island. Joining us was Major Leaguer Jason Marquis and he was kind enough to chat with me for a few minutes. On the video, you can also see some footage of the distribution center.

It was an unbelievable day and evening, one we’ll never forget. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow on Coney Island has in store. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I, for one, am feeling incredibly grateful for everything in my life and all the people in  it, including the ones we just met who are doing such fine work here.

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