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Sandy Donations Pour In

sandy-concert-donations-tease

(L-R) Bruce Springsteen of New Jersey, Kevin Bacon of Philadelphia, and Christina Aguilera of Staten Island, perform during "Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together" on Nov. 2, 2012, in New York. Hosted by Matt Lauer, the event was heavy on stars identified with New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which took the brunt of this week's deadly storm. (AP Photo)

Aid organizations are finding multiple ways to draw in donations in the wake of the massive storm--even as some struggle to dig out of the destruction themselves. Jesse Wegman reports.

Unplugged residents in the still-powerless parts of lower Manhattan may not know it yet, but charities around the country are reeling in donations to help them, along with the millions of others up and down the East Coast who are suffering the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy.

On Friday, the Red Cross announced it has received $35 million so far in donations intended for Sandy's victim's through a variety of channels, including online contributions, text messages ($10 per text), and a prominent button on the iTunes Store homepage.

More donations were expected to roll in following a hastily arranged benefit concert for Sandy's victims, featuring Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Sting, and Christina Aguilera, and broadcast Friday evening on NBC.

The new numbers were a big jump for the aid organization, which on Wednesday said it had already raised $11 million.

"I think the word is certainly getting out," said Karen Stecher, a spokesperson for the Red Cross. "As people see the images on television, on our website, on social media, they're being motivated to step up and help."

(Click here for more information on how to help Hurricane Sandy victims.)

The need for immediate financial resources is still urgent: Nearly 6,800 people spent Thursday night in 97 Red Cross shelters across nine states, and the organization has served more than 215,000 meals so far, according to Stecher. Aid workers are distributing 60 trailers of relief supplies, including personal-hygiene items, clean-up kits, rakes, shovels, tarps, dust masks, and work gloves.

Other relief agencies have also seen spikes in donations since Monday's storm. As of Friday afternoon, the Salvation Army had received slightly less than $2 million in Sandy-related donations, including $1.77 million online, $45,820 through text donations (like the Red Cross, $10 per text), and $122,000 through its 800 number.

In New Jersey, the Salvation Army has provided more than 32,000 meals, 27,000 snacks, and 27,000 bottles of water.

Some organizations are finding that the donation rate has picked up particularly in the past 24 hours. "It's accelerating as people are grasping the extent of the damage and the emotional turmoil in many communities," said Leslie Gianelli, spokesperson for AmeriCares, which is based in Stamford, Conn. "Now that the stories of people are being communicated, it's almost becoming a Katrina-type reaction in the last 24 hours."

AmeriCares had taken in $850,000 by Friday afternoon, Gianelli said. "People are getting past the shock and people are taking a closer look at what's happening here."

Meanwhile, some agencies in New York were trying to raise funds while at the same time digging themselves out of the damage wrought by Sandy.

The United Way of New York City, which on Thursday announced a regional fund to assist the hardest-hit communities, was still operating without power on Friday afternoon. Its Midtown Manhattan offices sit less than two blocks from the blackout line.

"We set up camp at one of our board member's offices, but it's been quite a challenge," said UWNYC President and CEO Sheena Wright.

Wright said UWNYC, which raised more than half a billion dollars for the September 11th Fund in the years after the terrorist attacks, was focused on providing assistance over the long term, particularly for the low-income families that the United Way assists on a regular basis.

"If you haven't been to work in a week, you're most likely not getting paid, because you have a low-wage job," Wright said. "If your kids are not in school since Monday and you depend on that free breakfast or free lunch, you're in a lot of trouble right now."

Wright said donors—including corporate partners such as Starbucks, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America—had committed close to $1 million to the new fund as of Friday afternoon.

World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, had raised $290,000 as of Thursday, but had to contend with a flooded warehouse in the Bronx, which destroyed one third of all its relief supplies. World Vision provides kits of food, hygiene products, and flood-cleanup products, as well as blankets and tarps to those in regions, such as the Appalachias, where Sandy combined with other storms to dump several feet of snow earlier in the week.

There was also concern that in the wake of Sandy's destruction in the United States, the damage wrought by the storm outside the U.S. could be overlooked.

Before it clobbered the Eastern seaboard, Sandy swept through Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba, killing scores and leaving thousands more homeless and at risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera. In Haiti, still recovering from the catastrophic earthquake that struck in January 2010, 52 people were confirmed killed by the storm while flooding left 18,000 people homeless.

International Medical Corps, which is based in Santa Monica, Calif., and raises money for disaster relief around the world, has seen only a "fraction" of the donations that the U.S.-focused groups receive, according to Margaret Aguirre, a spokesperson for IMC.

"People understand disasters that hit their lives directly, and there's nothing wrong with that," Aguirre said. "That's the way the world works; we feel for those in our own communities."

Still, Aguirre hoped that the outpouring of sympathy in the wake of the storm would ultimately translate into a greater awareness of the plight of all the storm's victims. "I look at what's happening in New York and I think, that doesn't look much unlike flooding I've seen in other countries, in south Sudan, in Haiti. But it's about what resources do you have to address the issues."

"Haiti doesn't have the infrastructure that the U.S. has, so when roads are shut down or when roads are flooded, there are more resources in the U.S. to deal with those issues. It's not like someone can go check into a hotel, or easily have someone bring them food from somewhere else," Aguirre said.

RECOVERY

U.S. Military to Deliver Gas

U.S. Military to Deliver Gas Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

On tankers to storm-ravaged areas.

The U.S. Defense Department announced Friday that it will send 24 million gallons of fuel on tankers to storm-ravaged areas of New York and New Jersey. While many officials have insisted there is "no reason to panic" over a fuel shortage, less than 40 percent of the areas gas stations are operating at full capacity and frustration over the gas shortage has caused long lines at pumps in the affected areas, with lines stretching for miles in some areas. On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie  ordered a gas-rationing system until further notice. In New Jersey, Christie told residents to go south to look for gas, saying that while only 25 percent of stations north of Interstate 195 are operating, 90 percent of those south of the highway are in service.

Read it at The New York Times

CARRYING ON

Stopping The Marathon Was Wrong

Yes, it’s been a bad week for the Big Apple—all the more reason that people need symbols of hope and resilience. Also, fears of the race draining precious resources are misplaced, writes Jay Michaelson.

It was inevitable that there would be a backlash against the New York Marathon going ahead as planned this weekend. This is New York, after all, and whatever decision was made—go for it, cancel, or postpone—you knew some people would object, and object loudly. Especially if, like the New York Post or a borough president, they can score demagogue points by doing so.

But to see New York cave to the voices of fear, rather than of reason, is unprecedented, shameful, and wrongheaded. It’s an object lesson how well-meaning activists can undermine causes they seek to promote.

First, let’s be clear: superstorm Sandy is the most devastating thing to happen to New York City since Sept. 11. My city is crippled, thousands are without power, and now thousands more are struggling to get food, gas, and basic necessities. We are hearing stories of elderly people trapped in the upper floors of high-rises, and of people whose lives—particularly on Staten Island—have been destroyed. There have also been inspiring stories of personal generosity and governmental can-do.

The question, then, is whether the marathon would have helped, hurt, or been irrelevant to these efforts.

A lot of loud, noisy, uninformed people won the day by shouting “hurt.” Won’t the marathon divert resources better spent on emergency supplies, food, and shelter, they asked. Shouldn’t cops be delivering essential services, rather than guarding a racecourse, they said.

Actually, no. There was never any data showing any diversion of resources. The city had already hired additional police—paid for out of the marathon’s proceeds—and Mayor Bloomberg has insisted that the net effect on relief work would have been zero. The real front lines in the relief effort are Con Edison, the Red Cross, and governmental emergency services—none of them have anything to do with the marathon. In other words, this is not a zero-sum game; it’s just not the case that cops will either be at food distribution centers or guarding the marathon.

NYC Marathon

Workers assemble the finish line for the New York City Marathon on Nov. 1, 2012, in New York’s Central Park. (Richard Drew / AP Photo)

And the marathon normally provides a massive economic boost, bringing $340 million in economic activity to the city. Even discounting that for lower attendance this year, it’s a huge net win for New York. Since municipal resources are severely stretched because of Sandy, the last thing the city should do is reduce its revenue streams.

TRAPPED

Prison Break

It’s a nightmare scenario: trapped on a flooding island. New York’s most famous jail avoided that fate during Sandy, but does it have an evacuation plan in place? Caroline Linton investigates.

In preparation for Hurricane Sandy, New York City was divided into evacuation zones: Zone A meant a mandatory evacuation, on the orders of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Zones B and C were labeled as having a lesser risk for flooding.

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An aerial view of the Rikers Island prison is seen September 24, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Debra L Rothenberg / Getty Images)

One island, in the East River between the Bronx and Queens, was simply designated as a “No Flood Zone:” Rikers.

The 400-acre island is, of course, home to one of the country’s most infamous jails. It houses an average of 12,000 inmates daily—people who are awaiting trial and cannot afford bail, in transit on the way to a longer-term facility, or sentenced to less than a year in jail. It was Rikers, for example, where then-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn spent his nights after being denied bail for the alleged rape of a hotel maid. The city employs about 7,000 staff members on the island, in addition to 1,500 civilian employees. It is only accessible via a bridge from Queens, either by bus or private car.

New York’s Department of Corrections wrote in a statement prior to Hurricane Sandy that they were prepared to evacuate the island in the “highly unlikely” event that it would be necessary, though no specifics were outlined. The staff remained on the island throughout the storm to “keep the facility self-sustaining,” and NYCDOC commissioner Dora Schriro even spent Monday night at Rikers. Staffers, representative Robin Campbell said, stayed on the island in case of any problems.

The NYCDOC has remained steadfast that even these precautions were not necessary. According to Campbell, at no point was Rikers Island under any threat from the storm: no power outage, no flooding. The facility, Campbell said, is meant to withstand storms up to Category 4, and since Hurricane Sandy was a Category 1 storm, it would be “extremely unlikely” that the facility would need to be evacuated. A small portion of the perimeter of the island is considered in Zone C and would be vulnerable to flooding, but there are no jails in that area.

But there are many who don’t take comfort in the NYCDOC statements, especially given the way the city was brought on its knees after Sandy hit.

“It’s just not right,” said Margaret Shelton, a Queens resident whose daughter was at Rikers during the storm. “It’s like they left these people out.”

Epicenter

Hurricane Sandy’s ‘War Zone’

As of Friday, 20 people had died in what locals call the "forgotten borough" as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Some perished as they tried to evacuate at the last minute; others were found days later, drowned or electrocuted in their homes.

On Saturday, Damian Moore was seen putting up Halloween decorations outside his home on New York’s Staten Island.

Staten Island Sandy

Beatrice Spagnulo, 80, died inside her single-story home when it was flooded by the storm. (Alan Chin / facingchange.org for The Daily Beast)

On Monday, he left for work as a garbage collector in Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, he found out his two boys, Brandon, 2, and Connor, 4, were missing.

On Thursday, he learned they were dead.

One of the more horrifying tales to emerge out of the emotional wreckage of Hurricane Sandy is that of the two toddlers—one swept from his mother’s arms, the other losing his grip on her hand—who drowned when a massive storm surge overtook them as they were fleeing for their lives.

Neighbors say they can only guess what drove Glenda Moore to pack her boys into her Ford Explorer at about 6 p.m. on Monday, just when Sandy’s wind gusts were beginning to clock in at 80 mph and high tide was approaching. The Moores live in the neighborhood of Great Kills, on high ground and beyond the mandatory evacuation zone. Yet she made the decision to drive to her sister’s home in Brooklyn, taking the fastest route—Father Capodanno Boulevard—which also runs parallel to, and within eyesight, of the shoreline.

“Why did she leave?” asked Linda Caristo, a homemaker who lives across the street from the Moores and says she has been “sick” over the boys since she saw Glenda brought home by the police on Wednesday to await news of her missing kids. “The power went out. She was alone. Her husband was working. She must have panicked.”

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The Week in Viral Videos

Mayor Bloomberg speaks Spanish, a bizarre horse/man runs in Washington, and a crippled crane dangles over New York. Plus more of the buzziest videos from this week’s storm.

The Calm Before the Storm

Here it comes. Watch a time-lapse of Manhattan’s Sunday afternoon skyline as the city braces itself for Hurricane Sandy.

El Bloombito Speaks Spanish Again

Or at least tries to: Mayor Bloomberg—or shall we say el alcalde de Nueva York—poked fun at his less-than-stellar accent with another attempt at the language.

‘Hurricane Horse’ Gallops On

AID

Celebs Film Sandy Telethon

Celebs Film Sandy Telethon Heidi Gutman / NBC via AP Photo

Aguilera, Springsteen and Bon Jovi want your help.

Christina Aguilera (a Staten Island native!) joined fellow singers Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi Friday night to help raise money to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. The “Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together” telethon on NBC will benefit rebuilding and relief efforts in the areas most devastated by the storm. “We are here for you. We will do whatever we can to help. We will not leave any one of you behind, because every single one of you matters,” Aguilera said. The all-star trio is urging viewers to help Red Cross efforts by texting REDCROSS to 90999 (for a $10 donation) or by going online and pledging funds.

Read it at MTV

Battered City

The Marathon’s Logistics Nightmare

Mayor Bloomberg says Sunday’s marathon will bring New Yorkers together—but how exactly will they get together with the subways crippled and traffic a horror show? Marathon veteran Dan Gross wonders.

New York City without the marathon would be like New Year’’s Eve without Times Square or July 4th without fireworks. So to argue that Sunday’s race should be canceled or suspended this year in the wake of Hurricane Sandy may seem spiteful. And yet the marathon backlash is not surprising. The logistics of staging the event just six days after Sandy hit make it a tough sell.

NYC Marathon

Workers assemble the finish line for the New York City Marathon in Central Park, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. (Richard Drew / AP Photo)

Running in the New York City Marathon is one of the most life-affirming things you can do. You set off on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge as fireboats spray water and Sinatra’’s “New York, New York” blares over loudspeakers. After the long, endless haul up through a packed Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn, the crowd thins out to a few curious Chasids in Williamsburg. After slogging through an industrial patch of Queens, runners accelerate over the long rise of the 59th Street Bridge, eager to reach Manhattan and First Avenue’’s wall of sound. A few miles north, a brief, cold turn into the Bronx, a trot down Fifth Avenue, and you start running downhill into Central Park. When I ran New York in 2006 (3:25, thanks for asking!), I never felt more alive.

Plenty of other cities stage marathons. But none quite like this one. The New York City Marathon is fueled by thousands of professionals, volunteers, medical staff, and emergency crews. New York Road Runners CEO Mary Wittenberg presides over an operation that Wal-Mart would envy: goods, people, services, and stuff flow through a crowded city with great ease. 

And of course, after disruptive episodes, events like the marathon can provide a much-needed return to normalcy. Thousands of people around the world have spent a lot of time and money to train and travel for the race. Many are running for reasons that have nothing to do with personal bests and everything to do with survival—celebrating a triumph over cancer, or running in memory of loved one, or raising money for charity. For the bars and restaurants that line the route, the marathon means big business, adding up to $350 million of economic activity.

But the marathon involves a certain amount of conspicuous consumption of basics—fresh fruit, water, gasoline, and electricity—all of which are in short supply in New York and the surrounding region. Staten Island is a remarkably inauspicious place to start. In the hours before the race, thousands of people arrive in New York’’s least populous borough and shed disposable clothes, jam themselves full to bursting with Gatorade and water, and then leave behind a huge mess. This year, it will all take place with people on Staten Island lacking water and electricity, with many residents suddenly homeless, and with volunteers and professionals retrieving drowned bodies.

It takes a lot of human power and energy to run those 26.2 miles. But it also requires a lot of power and energy to run the race: to fuel the cars and rescue vehicles, to power the sound systems and run the communications networks. In ordinary times, nobody would begrudge the use of fuel and mobile-generating capacity for the marathon. But these aren’’t ordinary times. Hundreds of thousands of people within a stone’’s throw of the race route lack power. The New York Post noted that the mobile generators used for the marathon could power 400 homes on Staten Island. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is airlifting generating equipment to the East Coast. The disparity between the spare-no-resource attitude of the marathon and the slow-motion restoration of electricity in the New York region is noticeable.

NYC Marathon

A young boy rides his bicycle on a flooded street in the New Dorp Beach neighborhood of the Staten Island borough of New York, November 1, 2012. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters / Landov)

LET THERE BE LIGHT

Power Back in Parts of Lower Manhattan

Electricity restored to 65,000 customers.

The dark days are over. After almost five days with no electricity, parts of lower Manhattan had their power restored Friday afternoon around 5 p.m. According to electrical provider ConEdison, nearly 65,000 customers now have power again. Local residents posted on Twitter about celebrations in the streets. “Honking and cheering. People going bonkers,” said @caitlin_thomps. “People are cheering,” reported @somebadideas.

Read it at ConEdison

LADY LIBERTY

Statue of Liberty Closed

Statue of Liberty Closed Michael Nagle / Getty Images

For ‘foreseeable future.’

New York’s most iconic lady has also been brought to her knees by a lady of similar power—Sandy. The Statue of Liberty, along with Ellis Island, is powerless after Liberty Island—where the two landmarks are located—sustained water damage. The statue itself is fine, but tourists might be kept away for some time. “Currently, the islands are closed for the foreseeable future. Until the assessment is done, we cannot determine when both islands will reopen,” a spokeswoman for the National Parks of New York Harbor said Friday. The docks and grounds are reportedly still in bad shape.

Read it at NBC News

FOREVER THE OPTIMIST

Bloomberg: Marathon Is Good Idea

Bloomberg: Marathon Is Good Idea Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Says it still happened after 9/11.

Despite a stampede of protests claiming that it’s insensitive to those who still need the city’s help to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Friday defended his decision not to cancel Sunday’s New York Marathon. “If you go back to 9/11, Rudy [Giuliani] made the right decision in those days to run the marathon, and pull people together,” Bloomberg said, although the marathon was held on Nov. 5th in 2001, six weeks after the terrorist attack. Running the race, he says, will “help New York City,” especially through donations that will be raised. In the briefing, Bloomberg also said the city's death toll rose to 41, the city’s relief fund now includes $10 million in donations, and most of Manhattan should have power back by midnight.

Read it at The New York Times

PRIORITIES

800 Line Up at N.Y. Apple Store

800 Line Up at N.Y. Apple Store Eric Risberg / AP Photo

Abandon post-storm necessities for iPad Mini.

Nevermind the lines for gas, food, public toilets, and other post-Hurricane Sandy necessities. Nearly 800 people queued up outside Manhattan’s flagship Apple Store this morning for the launch of the iPad mini. Apple had pushed back the launch time from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. so that store workers would have more time to get to work amid gridlock traffic throughout the city. That didn’t stop some New Yorkers from getting there well before the store opened its doors. Meanwhile, the subway system is still down and thousands remain without power and in need of aid.

Read it at CNN

BRING US GAS

Cuomo: ‘No Reason to Panic’

Cuomo: ‘No Reason to Panic’ Justin Lane / EPA-Landov

Waives fuel tax to get gas into N.Y. Harbor.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Friday there is "no reason to panic" over gasoline, but he conceded that he will waive the city's tax and registration required for tankers to enter the New York harbor. Cuomo promised New Yorkers that millions of gallons of fuel would be arriving Friday. “There should be a real change in condition, and people should see it quickly,” he said. Federal authorities have also waived a law that was limiting fuel vessels allowed into the area.

Read it at New York Post

BACK IN BUSINESS

Staten Island Ferry Resumes Service

Staten Island Ferry Resumes Service Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Half city’s death toll in borough.

New York City is, step by step, moving toward a point of normalcy. The city announced that the Staten Island Ferry will resume service Friday at noon, launching every half hour in both directions. The borough, New York City’s least populated, was one of the hardest hit from the storm. In addition to sustaining devastating damage, 19 people from Staten Island were killed—accounting for almost half of the city’s death toll from the storm. That includes two children, ages 2 and 4, who were swept out of their mother’s arms by floodwaters and found dead Thursday yards apart from each other.

Read it at The Huffington Post

What Makes a Hero?

Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans to help with disaster recovery, did their part to aid victims of Hurricane Sandy in lower Manhattan last week. Team member Curtis Coleman, a former Marine, shares his thoughts on heroic leadership.

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Hilarious Wind-Blown Reporters

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As Hurricane Sandy barrels toward the northeast, see some of the most hilarious wind-blown reports.

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