A relief center for storm-ravaged New Yorkers was looted and vandalized overnight on Christmas by thieves who stole donated supplies and destroyed items intended for Sandy victims.
The center on Staten Island has been an oasis of hope for those residents of the hard-hit borough who lost their homes in the storm nearly two months ago. The supplies are housed under a tent, blocked off with barricades and manned by volunteers, but the workers left the center unattended on Christmas night.
Thieves made off with baby gear, baby blankets, baby clothes, winter clothing and warm bedding.
Losing those items is "a punch in the stomach," said Mike Hoffman, who heads up the Staten Island volunteer team known as Boots on the Ground.
"I had a couple leftover propane stoves that were donated," said Hoffman. "One was just ripped open, they didn't even take it. They just ripped it open and destroyed it. So that's one less family now that can cook a warm meal."
And with a winter storm heading toward the area again on Wednesday, the center had been stocking crucial supplies.
"People are here struggling, suffering," said Sandy victim Eric Slick.
The people who busted into the center stole supplies from the shelves, ripped open bags of dog food and swiped jackets off hangers.
Volunteers running the site believe thieves plan to return the merchandise for money. They are now looking to relocate the relief center indoors.