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Sandy’s First-Responders for NY Cleanup & Reconstruction

November 19, 2012

NEW YORK - It's work that can be back-breaking and dangerous, and in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the day laborers who do it are in very high demand. Freeport is among the communities that suffered major damage on Long Island, and it's also home to the nonprofit organization CoLoKi. The group operates the Freeport Trailer, where director Liz O'Shaughnessy says they provide a variety of services to day laborers.

Since many are recent immigrants who speak little English, CoLoKi serves as a go-between, she explains, helping to line up jobs and then, as an advocate, making sure workers get paid.

"Judging from the amount of pickups that have happened here, it seems like they are desperately needed. They've become known as the first responders in the cleanup effort and, I believe, moving forward, also will be needed in the reconstruction."

O'Shaughnessy says so many local contractors have been stopping by looking for workers that she now warns them to be there before 9 a.m. or they'll be out of luck.

These immigrant workers in New York are following the lead of day laborers in other recent disasters, O'Shaughnessy says, by taking on very difficult tasks.

"We saw it in California during the wildfires, when they were forming brigades to help get the residents out. Also, immigrants streamed into Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and were very, very instrumental in rebuilding New Orleans after that catastrophe."

Long Island has been a flash point for tension over immigrant issues, so O'Shaughnessy is keeping her fingers crossed that the hard labor these workers are providing to rebuild homes, businesses and lives, will make a lasting impression.

"My hope is that out of this terrible tragedy that people, especially in the hardest-hit communities, will recognize the value of these hard-working immigrant workers - and with that comes a new respect and understanding of them and their situation."

ColoKi is doing its best to provide the workers with suitable work boots and safety equipment through donations, she says.

More information is available at www.colokiinc.com.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY