Team Rubicon: Rebuilding the Rockaways

| December 20, 2012 4:00 AM video


Hurricane Sandy’s sweep over the Rockaways flooded houses, destroyed homes and businesses and left thousands stranded. In the wake of Sandy’s destruction, a disaster relief organization called Team Rubicon, operated by military veterans, used its skills to begin rebuilding in Rockaway Beach. The group’s original mission was to use its members’ military expertise to aid disaster-stricken communities, but since its foundation, Team Rubicon has added a new goal: helping veterans adjust to life after the military.

Watch the Video:

Team Rubicon volunteered in the Rockaways to help the rebuilding effort. Video produced and reported by Mustafa Hameed, Xiaoran Liu and Elizabeth Murray for Betsy West’s RW1 at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, December 2012.

“Team Rubicon has been phenomenal for me,” said Eric Papineau, a former Marine and first-time volunteer. Papineau said Rubicon makes him feel connected to his friends serving in Afghanistan. “While they are serving over there, we are continuing our service over here.”

Team Rubicon started as a service project after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Two former Marines, Jacob Wood and William McNulty, gathered a group of veterans to provide aid to earthquake refugees. In the two years since, Team Rubicon has expanded all over the world. But it was just before its first domestic deployment in 2011 that Team Rubicon was changed forever. Clay Hunt, a Marine veteran and one of the original members on the first trip to Haiti, committed suicide.

In the aftermath of Hunt’s death, Team Rubicon added a second point to its mission. In addition to aiding disaster-stricken communities, the organization would focus on providing veterans a community of support and purpose to ease their return to life after the military.

“They’re some of the most selfless people that I’ve ever met, and they really look out for one another aggressively,” said Nicole Green, a former intelligence officer for the Air Force who is now director of personnel for Team Rubicon.

Shane Valverde spent 20 years serving abroad. Now, he’s a director of field operations for Team Rubicon. He said that the sense of purpose and teamwork in disaster relief was important to him. “I think that for veterans, that’s what a lot of us miss,” Valverde said. “By doing this, you feel useful again, and you feel necessary.”

Green said, “Whether you’re a man or a woman, there’s a place for you here and there’s a lot of good work to be done.”

Watch the Video:

Meet Team Rubicon members Bob, Erik, Nicole and Shane, who helped victims of Hurricane Sandy in Far Rockaway in November 2012. Video filmed and produced by Lorena O’Neil, Tenzin Shakya and Stuart Sia.

With over 350 team leaders and almost 10,000 military and nonmilitary volunteers, Team Rubicon’s Sandy relief operations included clearing water, sand and dangerous debris out of houses and residential areas. But over a month after the storm, plenty of work remained.

As an emergency relief organization, Team Rubicon’s official mission in the Rockaways ended Dec. 5, and team leaders worked with service groups in the area to provide a platform for long-term support to a community that is still recovering from a historic storm. They’ve received widespread public acclaim for their efforts, including an introduction by Chelsea Clinton at the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief and a mention on “The Colbert Report.”

The organization relies on donors who pledge money to specific disaster relief efforts, or who pledge a monthly donation to the organization. More information about supporting Team Rubicon’s efforts can be found at its website.

Reporting by Mustafa Hameed, Xiaoran Liu, Elizabeth Murray, Lorena O’Neil, Tenzin Shakya and Stuart Sia, all master’s students at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

  • Linda Olsen-Ruscillo

    As a resident of Rockaway Park, who along with my family were flooded
    out of our apartment, on the night we will never forget, Oct 29, 2012.
    Rockaway residents have continued to work toward “bringing Rockaway
    back”. We will always remember the work of Team Rubicon who worked out
    of a parking lot, next to the building we now live in.

    In the
    “scheme of things” this may seem trivia, however the residents of
    Rockaway are in a fight to keep our ferry, that was originally placed
    here as an emergency (water) means of transportation. Other then the
    obvious, supplying of a needed means of transportation. this ferry
    represents the one and only, in a sense “a shinning star” of the
    something good as a result of the “Super Storm” . At this time the
    Rockaway/Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT the ferry also stops in Bklyn. on
    it’s way to Manhattan) has not been placed on the Fiscal budget for NYC
    2014-2015 if it is not placed on the budget by the end of June, it will
    be terminated in Oct.

    We, the Community have continued to hold
    press conferences and rallies to bring attention, to our plight. This
    ferry is a vital means of assisting in the Economic Development of our
    Rockaway. On Wed. June 18th we will hold a press conference at Beach
    108th St. & Beach Channel Drive at our ferry landing at 6:00 Pm.
    Many of us believe this will be our last effort to “save our ferry” It
    is very difficult to get Media attention, seems Rockaway is yesterday’s

    Frankly we are in need of a “name” that the Media will pay
    attention too. I have reached out to President Clinton via fb, if there
    is any way possible for Rubicon to assist us, we will forever be

    To again mention this may seem trivia, in comparison
    to so many other things happening in our World, but this ferry
    represents so much to Rockaway.

    I may be reached via fb Linda Olsen Ruscillo,, home phone 718 673-0029.

    Thanks for taking the time to read, hope to hear from you.

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