Residents of hard-hit areas of the Northeast corridor continue to band together to return essential services and a semblance of normal life to their local communities since Hurricane Sandy struck five months ago. In the seaside community of the Rockaways south of New York City, one local hip hop “boy” decided to drop his mic and lend a helping hand.
Mike Diamond, known as “Mike D” as one-third of legendary rap crew the Beastie Boys, teamed up with his business partner and creative designer Robert McKinley, to help out the neighborhood that he had previously enjoyed as a prime surfing spot. The result was the Rockaway Plate Lunch Truck which brings hot, free, meals five days a week to residents in the Rockaway area who were affected by Sandy.
“Rob and I went out there–like a lot of other people, we felt compelled by our connection to the water, and surfing, so wanted to lend a hand and see what was needed. We loaded up his station wagon with supplies, went out to the Rockaway Surf Club, and we quickly saw that one of the things that was more sorely needed was hot food,” said Diamond in a January interview with Bon Appetit magazine.
That initial trip bloomed into a partnership with a group of concerned restaurant owners who were able to quickly organize into a fully operational food truck operation that has served 19,000 free meals of chicken, rice, beans and vegetables to date. Sandy recovery has been politicized in Washington and FEMA and the American Red Cross received widespread criticism for its slow and confusing response to damaged areas. Diamond says the glaring need for basic supplies for victims drove him and his partners into action in the early days of the crisis.
“If we were the kind of people who were patient, there were trucks the mayor’s office was offering, and all these benefits that we probably could have gotten, but what we realized was that you couldn’t be patient,” he told Bon Appetit. “Patience would not have met anybody’s needs…these American cheese and white bread sandwiches from the Red Cross aren’t cutting it.”
So, now more than five months since the storm hit, Diamond is looking to change the food trucks focus.
“There’s still the need for warm food out there, but our real goal for this summer is to help revitalize the local economy,” Diamond told Rolling Stone Tuesday. “So we’re trying to switch the truck over from giving away food, to charging for food but having it become staffed, run and operated on every level by citizens of the Rockaways.”