NYU is proud of the many students, faculty, and staff who have, despite diverse academic demands, volunteered in extraordinary numbers to lend aid where it is most needed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As of December 1, over 500 individuals have reported service contributions totaling more than 3,000 hours at roughly 20 organizations in Lower Manhattan, the Rockaways, and elsewhere—efforts which represent only a fraction of the cumulative aid contributed by NYU community members, departments, and student groups.
One mobilization effort involved more than 70 NYU affiliates who participated in the Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation’s “Day of Action for New York.” In addition to hands-on-deck, NYU also provided a crucial staging area for the Day of Action’s dozens of buses and the roughly one thousand volunteers who went to help with critical disaster relief work. The Washington Square News has more:
“It’s been very difficult,” said Alen Schlesinger, 62, a resident on 142nd Street in Rockaway, Queens, as he stood in his den, which was cluttered with boxes of his family’s possessions. Schlesinger’s home is among many in the Rockaways that has been without electricity and heat for three weeks.
[Volunteers] participated in a number of different projects, including park cleanups, distributions of coats and other materials, serving meals and canvassing the neighborhood to assess the situation and to provide necessary information to residents.
“CGI reached out to organizations and colleges [and] universities from throughout the region to collaborate with them on this initiative,” said Diana Lugo-Martinez, program administrator of NYU’s Center for Student Activities, Leadership and Service, in an email. “They called our office and asked if we wanted to help, and we said absolutely.”
Sophomore Jeremy Lakin said he felt a need to help with relief efforts after he was affected by the hurricane in many ways. Not only did he have to evacuate from his residence hall during Sandy, many of his family members and friends also went through rough times during and after the storm.
“My home in Pennsylvania was hit. My friends and family in [New Jersey] were all hit,” Lakin said. “I have a friend who actually lost someone in the hurricane, so I wanted to help out with the relief efforts.”
Once the volunteers arrived in Queens, they witnessed the devastation that could not be seen in Manhattan.
Rozelyn Chok, 23, a Juilliard student, said she was shocked by the difference between the situation in Manhattan and in Queens.
“We saw an entire house just gone, like tipped over,” Chok said.
Destroyed houses, filthy streets, sidewalks covered in sand and huge piles of garbage and ruined possessions along the sidewalks were some of the sights in the Rockaways. On nearly every block, groups of volunteers from numerous organizations were helping in any way they could.
“The volunteers have been terrific,” said Rockaways resident Tim Tully, 54. “All the different groups, the Army, everybody’s coming around and they’re wonderful. They really are.”
Volunteers from Sunday’s Day of Action said they hope that their efforts made at least a small difference in the lives of the Queens’ residents.
“For a lot of the people we talked to, I think it was just helpful for them to know that people know they exist and know they need help,” Chok said.