November 29, 2012

1. Find someone who listens, or pass along this info to someone in need

Right after the storm, a lot of people who lived and volunteered in totally ruined parts of the city went into a sort of survival-mode-meets-shock as they scrambled to make sure people could survive. Food. Water. Flashlights. Blankets. Absorbing and processing the actual trauma of the situation took a back seat to creating a support system that would keep everyone alive. 

But weeks have passed and the mental and emotional weight of losing a home, living in totally inhumane conditions, seeing neighbors struggle… it can be overwhelming and scary.

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Mayor Bloomberg today announced additional support for New York City’s nonprofit organizations affected by Hurricane Sandy. Along with NYC’s residents, nonprofits in hard hit areas are also absorbing significant losses. Building on a strong commitment to support and strengthen the nonprofit sector, the initiatives include:

  • the NYC Nonprofit Recovery Loan Program — a $26 million bridge loan program
  • pro-bono legal assistance offered by 1,400 volunteer attorneys from the Lawyers Alliance for New York City. For assistance, call (212) 219-1800 ext 224
  • briefings regarding federal reimbursements and filing procedures
  • updated nonprofit assistance information on
  • support for nonprofits at the NYC Restoration Centers

The program will provide interest-free loans ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 to NYC nonprofits impacted by Sandy and will cover losses from operation disruptions and property damage.

Priority will be given to organizations that have suffered the most severe losses or are operating in the worst affected areas, and will be made against expected claims to be filed with the nonprofit’s own insurance company and with FEMA, as well as against committed government, foundation and corporate contracts and grants.

The NYC Nonprofit Recovery Loan Program is supported by funders including the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, the Ford Foundation, Capital One Bank, the Robin Hood Foundation and The New York Community Trust. It will be administered by the Fund for the City of New York.

In NYC alone, Hurricane Sandy created $15.2 billion in uninsured costs.


Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg visited Washington DC joined by Senator Charles Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to ask for fiscal help from the federal government for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

In New York City, the public and private losses caused by Hurricane Sandy, which were not covered by private insurance come to $15.2 billion.  New York City’s recovery is vital to America’s continued economic recovery and growth.

Read the Mayor’s remarks delivered yesterday at the U.S Capitol Building at

Please consider helping out this Thursday and Friday! Especially if you have a car.

A letter from Occupy:

Dear Occupy Sandy volunteers,

St. Jacobi (54th and 4th ave) and St. Luke and St. Matthews (520 Clinton ave) churches have generously hosted the Occupy Sandy effort for almost a month now and we couldn’t be more grateful to both communities!

However, on Friday, November 30th, we will start to adjust our operations as we streamline our efforts and prepare for the long haul. Please see important announcements about these changes below.

DONATIONS: St. Jacobi church will stop accepting donated goods as of close of business Wednesday, November 28th and 520 Clinton will stop accepting donated goods on Friday, November 30th.  In the interim period, please take all donated goods to Beach 100 and Rockaway Beach Blvd in the Rockaways, 2828 Neptune Ave in Coney Island or 1128 Olympia Blvd in Staten Island. Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about future distribution centers.

VOLUNTEERS & VEHICLES: St. Jacobi will need extra volunteers and vehicles to help clean up the church on Thursday, November 29th and Friday, November 30th and will no longer intake volunteers starting Saturday Dec 1st. 520 Clinton will continue to intake volunteers and dispatch vehicles until further notice.

THANK YOU to all of the members of the Jacobi church and the St. Luke and St. Matthews churches for welcoming us into their community and THANK YOU to all of the volunteers who helped make the both spaces run. We look forward to working with all of you as we continue to do all of the important work ahead of us.



Disaster doesn’t know zipcodes or boundary lines, and for the first time ever, Robin Hood is extending much-needed assistance to New Jersey organizations that need it most. Robin Hood is proud to announce $5.2 million in new grants from the Robin Hood Relief Fund, including $1.5 million in grants for New Jersey organizations helping those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, Robin Hood made a grant of $2 million to New York City’s “Non-Profit Recovery Loan Program,” which will provide interest-free loans to NYC non-profits impacted by Hurricane Sandy. 

Since the storm, Robin Hood has made grants to more than 90 different non-profit organizations in the hardest hit regions.

Team Rubicon’s Marvin Avilez is GI Joe meets tech entrepreneur. Avilez is a San Francisco native who lives in NYC and recently launched (then sold) a company called Social Amp. He joined the Marine Corps in 1989, was part of the first Iraq war, and went on to specialize in counter intelligence and interrogation. (Counter intel.. Scary right? And sort of intriguing in a Homeland sorta way…) As if those resume points aren’t impressive enough, Avilez and his Rubicon teammate Peter Meijer rescued a man and his dog who were trapped in an attic as Sandy ripped along the coastline. Real American Hero stuff.

This is how Avilez, 42, describes that rescue at Gerritsen Beah: “My partner and I had gone to the shelter at FDR High School to respond to a call, and while we were there a woman got word from her husband that water in their house was up to his ankles. She asked what to do, and I thought 9-1-1; but then he called back and said the water was up to his thighs. And then it was up to his waist. She started crying and said, ‘He’s in the attic with the dog. He has a new hip.” My partner said let’s go, but I wasn’t sure if we should deviate from our mission. Then he said, we have to. There was a NY1 reporter standing there because she was reporting on the shelter, and I thought, this is bad. I don’t want this to spiral out of control. So I agreed to check it out. We couldn’t even drive onto the street because the water was so high and we were still 15 blocks away. But we got lucky and ran into another vet who was out checking his dad’s house with a boat. We were able to get in and get our guy out.”

Avilez, a former sergeant in the Marines, was the first guy to show up at New York City’s Emergency Operations Center as representatives from different aid groups gathered to prepare for the storm. I got a chance to catch up with him and learn about the city’s response to the disaster, lessons that could be learned, and the tech company he wants to start before the next crisis.

How did you prep for Sandy?

The Saturday before the storm I got an email during lunch from Team Rubicon. It said, We need people. Get your gear ready.

Your gear should always be ready, right?

I was the first to arrive at the OEC from Rubicon, and the first to arrive from VOAD, which stands for Volunteers Organized for Action Disaster. It’s a group of 30 or so organizations that New York City has accepted as assistants during disaster, and it includes names you’ve probably heard like the Red Cross and New York Cares.

VOAD deals with all things human services, meaning mental and physical health, shelter, food, water, pets, all of those things that help humans deal with trauma. Among other things we focused on ensuring that the shelters were safe and secure.

I was there as the groups planned for the storm; and my mission was to coordinate what we call “jump teams,” meaning teams that respond to problems as they happen. If a shelter needed help, if people needed to be moved, if someone needed medical attention, a jump team would be called. The team would act as eyes and ears, try to fix problems, and send intel back to HQ so that smart decisions could be made.

As the hurricane swept into NYC, what was life like inside the EOC?

Well, there was a lot of hurry up and wait. We had no idea when we’d be called to act, or what we’d have to do. We had to be prepared for everything.

There was still debate over whether to shut down the subway. People were still debating just how bad it would be, since it is incredibly difficult and expensive in New York City to store and prepare emergency food and water. I determined that the jump teams would be relied upon heavily, and I called back to my chain of command and requested a lot of bodies.

The city planned for displaced people in Zone A only, and created a shelter system that would be adequate for a 92-hour period.

In the weeks that followed the storm, the housing situation moved from a short-term crisis situation to a long-term standard of living situation. There wasn’t preparation for that. Shelters are schools and schools need to more forward.

But in reality, no one was prepared for the unique pattern and structure of the storms that converged, the angle of the weather pattern swept over the coast, and the way it was timed with the tide. This is what made Sandy so destructive. No one knew how bad it would be.

Did you think the storm would be this destructive?

I was saying that this thing was going to be bad, that there needed to be more prep, that we had to start preparing for a disaster. But I always prepare for the absolute worst. I was calling friends in Zone B areas like Sheepshead Bay and Mill Basin and telling them to get out.

You’re also an entrepreneur, with businesses including a startup called SocialAmp, which was acquired by Merkle this year. Will you continue to work in tech? Or will the Sandy recovery take up most of your time?

I have a company called Visual Ops, which helps organize and bring together teams and tries to understand why teams fail. The work I want to do with the Sandy recovery is related to this interest, which means creating an information management system for the five boroughs that coordinates all of the NGOs — a system that helps people to work together and that systematically deals with issues. Successful teams, successful leaders, can gather information, share it, study it, and make good decisions.

Admittedly, I’m used to a different type of information management and communications system with the military, which has a standard for operations centers that few others can match on a day-to-day basis. People radio back information to a central command, that information can put into an action request that gets ticketed, and that ticket can be taken care of.

Information management is what allows you to effectively prepare for and during an emergency. Take the shelters for example. We had no idea who would show up, so we had no way to adequately prepare.

One possible solution would be to create a way for people to sign up before they arrive, and have that information centralized and accessible to all the aid groups. That would help alleviate the strain on the logistics chain and help determine the right amount of food and water to have on hand. It would give an idea of how many people were staying at home who might need help later.

That said, I think that an effective communications system is centralized; and I believe that one lesson for the city is to incorporate the idea of a single point of command during a crisis.

That point of command shouldn’t necessarily come from the top. It should come from the bottom, from the ground where the action is happening, because emergency management happens from the bottom up. 

This is where we sunbathed… 


Jacob Riis National Park. 

10 foot containers in the foreground. A 30 foot high, half mile long mountain of Rockaway homes lie behind. 

EaterNY took a tour of Brighton Beach to see what was up post-Sandy. Definitely click on the story for photos and details. The short version: By the water, not so good. A few blocks inland, much better. 

The big problem, it seems, is lack of customers. If you have an uncontrollable, or even just strong-ish, desire for some vareniki, get on the Q train and head to Café Glechik. 

Andrew Cuomo claims that Hurricane Sandy has wrought more destruction (measured, apparently, in business dollars and square miles) than Hurricane Katrina, setting off a collective slapping of foreheads. Oh my god, is that where he had to go to get money out of John Boehner? Blech. Politics.

Anyway, the good people at the NYTimes Cityroom created a side by side comparison of the two storms that you should check out by clicking right here.

By the numbers, Sandy is bigger and badder. But remember that New Orleans had a much smaller, poorer, population. The city had fewer politicians like Andrew Cuomo and Mike Bloomberg and Chris Christie who have the influence and visibility to effectively freak out and make life hell for people until they get justice in the form of federal dollars.

Going into Katrina New Orleans was a city that had long flirted with some sort combo of social/infrastructure collapse.

And practically no one got out of Katrina unscathed, while, let’s be perfectly honest, much of NYC is only dimly aware of just how bad things are for their fellow New Yorkers hidden out by the coast in the outer boroughs.

November 28, 2012

1. Talk to your boss about a day off

Holiday time… Office parties and social parties and family parties and friend parties. Shopping and other holiday prep. Eating too much and being a glutton. Not much work is happening at the office. It’s the perfect time for you and your coworkers to take a day during the week to volunteer. The number of volunteers drops precipitously Monday through Thursday, and volunteers are still desperately needed to help with mold remediation, clean up, demolition/construction, distribution of heaters, and distribution of information on legal aid/small business resources.

It’s just one day. Maybe the boss will okay it. Maybe the boss will want to come, too! Bring your own lunch. Fan out in teams of 10 and head to Coney Island or the Rockaways or Staten Island or Sheepshead Bay. You’ll be so happy you did. 

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This evening, Brooklyn Based and Work it Brooklyn are hosting The Kitchen Is Flooded & Other Disasters, a night of tales from professional chefs that benefits Sandy relief, natch.

Chefs and storytellers include Allison Robicelli, creator of the Bay Ridge Cares Kitchen, Jami Attenberg, author of the novel, The Middlesteins, and Paulie Gee. 

Frites ‘n’ Meats will provide food (support them! Their food trucks provided hot food after the storm…), as will the ABCD’s of Cooking, DreamScoops, and Anarchy in a Jar

Raffle prizes include gift cards to amazing Brooklyn restaurants (think Seersucker, Frankies, and TALDE), two passes to next year’s Choice Eats, paté from Brooklyn Cured, and a gift set of kimchi jars from Arirang Kimchi

Ticket and raffle money will go to ReStore Red Hook, which is helping small business owners. Food vendors are donating 10% of sales to ReStore Red Hook. And Brooklyn Brewery is giving everyone a free beer. 

Tickets are $15 and include a free beer and one raffle ticket (you can purchase additional $3 raffle tickets at the event). You can also select “Donate More!” to support ReStore Red Hook even further.


Work It Brooklyn and Brooklyn Based Present:
The Kitchen is Flooded & Other Disasters
Chefs Storytelling and Food Professionals Networking in Support of Red Hook Businesses

Tuesday, November 27
7:30 – 9:30pm
Brooklyn Brewery
79 North 11th St.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211
Tickets at

There aren’t many volunteer groups that will actually stick around after everyone forgets Hurricane Sandy happened. That’s the nature of disaster relief. But the process of rebuilding a community takes months and years. So it’s great to see local businesses transform into relief centers and local residents turn into community organizers. 

Lava Girl Surf and the Rockaway Beach Surf Club have been running of the best organized relief hubs in the Rockaways. Their stated mission “is to keep the Rockaway community intact and get our displaced residents back as soon as possible.”

Since Lava Girl Surf will be at the beach for lots of summers to come, they’re also strengthening ties between year-round residents and day-trippers, wealthier and poorer parts of the community, between so-called gentrifiers and the so-called gentrified.

If you want to support them or volunteer with them, head to the Surf Club at Beach 87th Street. They’re open daily from 10-5. More info here.


Today, Mayor Bloomberg announced that landlords and owners of multi-family residential buildings impacted by Hurricane Sandy must make the necessary repairs to provide electricity, heat and hot water to their tenants. Building owners have two options: owners may correct conditions…