- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NEW YORK — New Yorkers who got into minor trouble in Manhattan in recent days have been sentenced to Sandy.

Last week, 70 people who were given community service after pleading guilty to infractions such as public drunkenness, open container violations or speeding were shuttled to Coney Island in Brooklyn to help with cleanup efforts after the devastating storm.

They raked leaves, shoveled mud, and picked up garbage and debris. More than 1,000 bags of trash were collected in 732 hours of work. Swaths of Sandy-wrecked filthy streets and sidewalks were cleaned.

“In speaking with community members, we witnessed sadness in some of their faces, but also a determination. Local business owners described the struggle they faced in recovering their businesses,” said Moises Reyes, one of the supervisors in the weeklong cleanup effort created by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Mr. Reyes, who works with the nonprofit Bronx Community Solutions, said participants worked really hard. “I believe they saw the need in the community and didn’t hesitate or hold back in participating with this special cleanup,” he said.

Sandy blew in to the area in late October, swamping subways and darkening swaths of Manhattan for days, downing trees and ravaging coastal areas. Some neighborhoods, like the Rockaways in Queens and Coney Island, were particularly hard hit.

Cleanup and recovery efforts will take months, and there are thousands of people displaced around the city. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the federal government for more than $32 billion to cover the immediate costs triggered by Sandy, plus $9 billion for preventive measures to better protect the area for the next big storm.

Generally, people sentenced to community service in the five boroughs are assigned to city departments such as transportation or sanitation, and some have already helped in cleanup efforts that way. But prosecutors in Manhattan wanted to do something specific to help residents reeling after Sandy slammed the city.

“We sat down and asked ourselves if there was something we could do here in criminal court that would help our city in the aftermath of the storm,” said Nitin Savur, deputy chief of the trial division.

Mr. Savur and his boss, Karen Friedman Agnifilo, focused in on mandated community service — already aimed at giving back to the city.

“We were willing to send our defendants anywhere in the city that needed help,” Mr. Savur said.

Mr. Savur said the district attorney’s office is considering more Sandy-related community service efforts. There is no shortage of people who could be ordered to the rescue effort: About 80,000 of the 100,000 annual cases in Manhattan are lower-level misdemeanors and violations that often wind up with some type of community service.