Baruch College Helps Community Through Hurricane Sandy
NEW YORK, NY- November 8, 2012 – Baruch College takes pride in being a good neighbor to its community by providing education, programming and expertise in a variety of disciplines. Our Continuing and Professional Studies group offers practical courses in many subjects to neighbors; the Baruch Performing Arts Centers hosts award winning drama, dance, and more and the Field Center for Entrepreneurship provides startup help to local businesses. However, on October 28, Baruch College extended a much-needed and different kind of helping hand to the community when it proudly served as one of New York City’s largest shelters during one of this area’s worst weather crises – Hurricane Sandy.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered an evacuation of some neighborhoods on Sunday, Oct. 28, as Hurricane Sandy began making its way to land bringing dangerous wind, rain and storm surges. Zone A neighborhoods near the city’s coast and in the lower part of Manhattan were evacuated and forced to take shelter away from danger. More than 600 evacuees came to Baruch College.
As Sandy moved in, the lower part of Manhattan lost power and some buildings were damaged by fallen trees, broken windows and flooding. Baruch College was among the locations that lost all power and had no communication access; nonetheless it became a safe haven for many New Yorkers.
People from lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Battery Park made their way to Baruch College’s Newman Vertical Campus, where they were greeted by Baruch volunteers and staff from the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Evacuees were quickly placed in the gymnasiums in the Athletic Recreation Complex, which were transformed into a temporary dormitory full of cots and blankets. People’s beloved pets were even accommodated.
The College has served as a processing center during other storms, most recently Tropical Storm Irene that hit the city on August 20, 2011; however Hurricane Sandy presented Baruch College’s emergency staff and other essential team members with a challenge unlike any other – doing it all without power.
Jim Lloyd, Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations, Henry McLaughlin, Chief of Security and Public Safety, and Ilya Ashmyan, Director of Buildings and Grounds were on the frontlines working with OEM, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), members of The City University of New York (CUNY) and other volunteers to ensure the safety of the community.
“It was overwhelming to see so many people coming in--one after another,” said Lloyd. “We dealt with many emotions. People were scared, angry and confused. This was a time that we all needed to work together to help them come through it.”
The College was operating under back-up power from emergency generators with only partial lighting. During the storm, one of the generators failed several times, and Baruch’s team acted quickly to get it re-started.
“Our custodians were hauling fueling by hand and walking up from the basement level to the 14th floor,” said Ashmyan. “There was no light. They took one flashlight with them and they made their way up. Their efforts and teamwork were amazing. We also had custodial staff who made sure our building was as clean and functional as it could be under the circumstances.”
Baruch College served as an official shelter site for the City of New York for four days. During those days, neighborhood restaurants brought food, the Coca-Cola Company brought water and soft drinks, and community leaders including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer visited the College. Baruch volunteers also set up television sets so evacuees could follow news reports about the storm.
BARUCH STEPS UP TO A HURRICANE’S CHALLENGE
Baruch’s fast-acting team included staff from Public Safety, professional trades, Baruch Computing and Technology Center (BCTC), custodial services and administrators who worked together round the clock and slept on-site, working 12 hour shifts. Few were able to go home to their families, because there was no public transportation and the bridges and tunnels were closed.
Baruch College became fully functional on Monday, Nov. 5. On the first day the College re-opened, Baruch President Mitchel Wallerstein sent a message to the College expressing his gratitude and recognizing the hard work and perseverance of the Baruch community during the hurricane. In his message, President Wallerstein states:
“Through their efforts, we were able to house, feed and care for the medical needs of those in the shelter, until they were finally moved on Thursday to other sites where the power was on. I spent a good deal of time at the College throughout the week, and I couldn’t be more proud of what our people accomplished. Once again, the “can do” attitude of Baruch staff—and of all New Yorkers—was on display,.”
BARUCH RECOVERS AND PLANS AHEAD
Baruch College continues to assess the damages that occurred as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Damages include flooding in the first floor of the Information and Technology Building. Baruch’s team will debrief and develop a plan to enhance the College’s Disaster Response Team.
On Nov. 2, CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein announced the establishment of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Council. Baruch College will be an active participant in this fundraising effort.
On Nov. 5, Interim Provost John Brenkman announced a modified academic calendar for the remainder of the Fall semester that will enable Baruch College students to make up the class time that was lost during the shut-down.
Baruch College has proven itself to be more than just an institution of higher education. It is a resource for the community and a safe haven for those in need.