Microcredit & Community
Development Task Force
About MTF
About Microcredit
Strategic Plan Graphic
Our Publications
Contact Us
Update from New York
Category: News | By RotaryGlobal, 5-Nov-2012 | Viewed 10828  Comments 0
Hi Rotarians and friends:
New York, Friday November 2, 2012. 

(Photo: Instagram) Clouds approach the Empire State Building in NYC
They say that if you get handed a lemon, then have a positive attitude and make lemonade.  So that is what we have been doing the last couple of days here in New York, since some of our meetings have been either postponed or cancelled.  With vehicle restrictions and media reports keeping people away,  visitor activity is lower than normal. That means we have enjoyed great prices on Broadway shows, such as Jersey Boys @ $27. and Phantom @ $40.

We also had the opportunity to participate in a TV show taping of Anderson Cooper who has been placing a lot of focus on the disaster and people affected by it.  We saw two sisters who both lost their homes all positions.  There was a man from NJ who lost his home in a massive fire of over 100 homes.  Yet all of these folks seemed thankful for the safety and health of their families.

Other frustrated folks have been foreign travellers who arrived here to learn that the running marathon has been cancelled.  Some commented that before leaving Brazil, they were assured all was OK.  But upon arrival at the NY airport, they learned the a Mayor had cancelled it a few hours prior.  While marathoners have been upset, apparently NYC residents were more upset that resources and manpower would be used for the marathon and likely take the focus of manpower and resources away from the disaster relief needs.  So there are many mixed feelings here about this topic, depending on which side you are on . . . and largely driven via social media.

It has been interesting to hear the news reports and then meet affected people and learn about their personal disaster experiences.  This includes staff at our hotel, who have no electricity or water at home and have difficulty commuting to work with no subways or trains running.  The busses started running at no charge yesterday and today, but the line-ups are horrendous.  It is easier and faster to just walk.

(Photo: Instagram) Clouds approach the Empire State Building in NYC
While southern Manhattan, known as downtown, has been out of bounds for the past few days, we had the opportunity to visit the affected area.  It was an eerie feeling as we drove down the usually busy 5th avenue.  It was just like a ghost town, south of 32nd street, where there has been no electricity since the hurricane.

There were few vehicles and even fewer people, not counting police, security and utility repair workers.  In the area of the 911 World Trade Center many huge pumps were at work, emptying subways, tunnels and office tower buildings.  Seeing a totally flooded highway underpass tunnel was amazing, complete with a multitude of garbage and wood scraps gathered by the water along the way.

It was encouraging, yet painful, to see a store owner offering coffee and soup in a darkened primitive set-up, while throwing out spoiled food from his deli and market store.  There is no power unless one has a generator.  Huge diesel units have been brought in but are mostly for use by relief and rescue workers.

One cannot imagine the stress and challenges these residents are experiencing.  With no power, there is no heat, no cooking or water and no toilet facilities.  And in the high-rise buildings, that also means no elevators.  In one case we saw an evacuated hospital after the power generator failed.  Imagine carrying out patients, down 9 floors of darkened stairwells. 

The positive helpful attitude of people helping others was a delight to witness.  Those who could share power from a generator allowed people to charge phones and computers.  And it was evident that stores who could, were doing whatever possible to help the neighborhood.

On Wall Street the Stock Exchange has been reopened but the streets are blocked to traffic.  Some on purpose with fencing and many others by diesel generators, water tanker trucks and utility repair vehicles.  Alongside these units are a combination of emergency response command posts, huge diesel driven water pumps and cleaning vac units, on their way inside the office towers for cleanup.  Hoses and electrical wires are strewn about many of the gutters and sidewalks.

Without power, there are no restaurants open unless they have their own generator.  So mobile food trucks are the only source of warm food for local people.  One lady on the street mentioned that she never knew a cup of hot coffee could taste so good.  She had gone several days without anything hot.  Another store had set up BBQs on the sidewalk offering residents food, since it was going to spoil without refrigeration.

Very few stores are open and those that are, had many empty shelves in a darkened atmosphere.  Surprisingly batteries and gasoline are in very short supply, with reports of two hour line-ups and some arguments between fearful and frantic people in need.  This has also curtailed some of the taxi availability.

The news reports show people in the neighboring municipalities of New York and New Jersey are even worse off with total loss of homes and less help coming their way.  On the news we've seen Mayors of smaller forgotten communities pleading for Government attention and assistance.  Clothing, blankets, heaters, gasoline, food and water are most in need.  We plan to accompany local Rotarians on Sunday to deliver aid in needy communities.

The Mayor of New York has explained to impatient, distraught victims that public safety has been a first priority.  Next has been the restoration of electrical power and transportation.  That means fixing wiring, panels and burned transformers, pumping out and refurbishing the flooded subways and tunnels from neighboring areas.  The problem is compounded by the fact that it is salt water here.  Most parks are closed, due to the danger of weakened trees or limbs falling on people.  Central Park alone, is said to have 7000 trees at risk based in early inspections.

While many areas in midtown and uptown have not had serious damage, they have been affected by the lack of internet and communications which are often necessary to run a business these days.  On top of this many of the commuting employees are unable to get into the city for work.  A huge part of Broadway St north is cordoned off near Carnegie Hall, due to safety issues from the crane that had the top collapse.  It is still hanging in the air and they are not sure how to deal with it.  You likely saw that on TV.

Part of the United Nations was under 25ft of water.  In talking with one of the managers, the risk of contamination and mold in the air has raised additional concerns.  While our UN Day is on track to proceed, they are having challenges getting adequate staff to work tomorrow since most staff have personal home and family challenges to deal with on the weekend.

So that's an update from here.  We are expect to meet with local Rotary leaders and learn what the plans will be to assist those in need, via the local District and Rotary Clubs.  So we will keep you posted.

You can see a slide show here.

With best regards,

Doug V

PDG Douglas W Vincent,  RC Woodstock-Oxford
Rotary United Nations Representative, Z24
RI Service Above Self Award recipient '09
COL Representative 08-13, District 7080
RI Peace Community Project, Co-Chair
Humanitarian Missions Chair, D7080
CRCID Representative, D7080

Box 1583,  684288 Hwy 2 W,
Woodstock, ON  Canada  N4S 0A7
Phone (519) 537-3753, Fax 519 537-8925

For pictures of our most recent humanitarian aid trip, go to:

To post a comment, you must be a member and Login.
This blog represents the opinion of the writer only. It does not necessarily represent the view or opinion of this orgnization. We make no warranty of the accuracy, validity, or source of the content on this web page or any of the blogs presented on this web site. Similarly, the comments to blogs o
© Design Copyright 2021 Neurosmith Software.