Staten Island Volunteers Fear City Will Hamper Their Hurricane Relief Efforts

After the flood waters created by Hurricane Sandy began receding from the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island, one of the first things that Aiman Youseff did was to set up a table on the sidewalk near what was left of his house, a one-story wood frame, at 489 Midland Avenue.

Over the next month that patch of pavement was used by hundreds of people who either lived on the island or traveled there to help those in need. The volunteers began referring to the spot outside Mr. Youseff’s house as a hub and it became part of a network of similar places — churches, community centers and street corners — that were used as assembly points and distribution centers.

The volunteers gave out hot food and warm clothes and, eventually, formed groups to tear sodden, moldy drywall from flooded homes and help residents to rebuild. Several organizations including Occupy Sandy, an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street, and another volunteer group called the Yellow Team also used the location. Mounds of donated supplies quickly took up the entire sidewalk for half a block in front of LaRocca’s Family Restaurant.

Now some are worried that the city may try to halt their organizing efforts. On Thursday and Friday, those people said, a city official told them that they would have to dismantle their operation.

According to Farid Kader, 29, a Staten Island resident and a volunteer, the official said that he worked for the mayor’s office.

“He told us, ‘we’re moving you out,’ ” Mr. Kader said. “He told us it was unsafe. That’s the word he used.”

After that, Mr. Kader said, the official ordered a Red Cross truck that was delivering supplies to the area to leave.

The City Hall press office did not immediately respond to a message from a reporter on Saturday.

Mr. Kader and others said that they had no desire to fight with the city. Still, they added, the volunteers had worked hard for weeks to help people in the immediate aftermath of the storm when official city aid was barely visible.

“If it wasn’t for the volunteer, nothing would be getting done out here,” he said. “If they wanted to start a site on Midland Avenue themselves we would clap hands and walk away.”

Several of the New York neighborhoods that suffered the worst storm damage are on Staten Island. Volunteer groups were the first to arrive in many areas where residents needed help and members of several groups said that the city should allow them to continue, even if official agencies assume more control over operations.

“We have been providing everything from hot food and tampons to bleach and crow bars,” said a volunteer, Hannah Scott. “The sense of having that taken away is creating panic.”

After the official’s visit, some volunteers said, police commanders arrived on Midland Avenue and said that the hub could use part of the sidewalk but not all of it.

On Saturday the volunteers moved the hub’s kitchen onto a driveway off the street. Using money donated from friends, they built a raised plywood platform for the kitchen and erected two white tarps overhead.

Along Midland Avenue a single line of folding tables remained, stacked with donated goods including cans of green beans, diapers, Red Cross blankets, jars of baby food and tubes of toothpaste.

Later, some of those volunteers reassembled at an Occupy Sandy hub at the Olympia Activity Center about five blocks from Mr. Youseff’s house, where a volunteer coordinator, Goldie Guerra, dispatched groups with sledgehammers and masks to help homeowners gut their houses.

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