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Hello friends,

I am writing to tell you about a Red Cross volunteer day to Far Rockaway, Queens, which you’ve probably heard about. The story of my last stint at the shelter in Long Island was posted on the CUNY SPS Community Blog, and I thank them for their initiative. It may also be on the Red Cross blog soon.

This stretch of land, Far Rockaway, is a peninsula on the south end of Queens/Long Island, just south of JFK airport, which was right in Sandy’s way and still has widespread power outages and fuel shortages.

The New York Red Cross organized a volunteer effort to cover some of the most affected areas, which are basically the last pockets without power. There is an info-graphic that compares three recent major storms.

This was also an interesting day. We met up with our Red Cross (ARC) friend and headed down to Floyd Bennett airfield where the National Guard, FEMA, ARC, etc., have set up with fuel tanker trucks, trailers, mass kitchens from the Southern Baptists, and so on. Anne and I were with an ARC member and we set out ahead of the volunteer bus to find the location where we were to meet the food trucks, and to let folks in the area know there would be hot food.

The drive to Far Rockaway over the bridge from the airfield was an eye-opener. Even big trees had toppled and the storm’s winds had spread the sand from the beach from the waterfront up to a few hundred yards inland. Written on a boarded-up McD’s was: “Nothing here 2 take. U R 2 late.” Some commentary on night-time activity. Smashed car windows told the same story.

People in those neighborhoods were tending to their homes, generating piles of rubble that sanitation crews were picking up here and there. Some streets were closed to traffic entirely, because of downed trees, downed cables, trash, or rubble. Utility crews, said to come from all over the country, were all throughout the neighborhood, working on power lines and assessing damage. Some unfortunate neighborhoods will always be the last to have services restored.

Much of the dislocation comes from the associated effects of not having power—no heat, communications, spoiled food, trash piling up, lack of fuel, totaled cars everywhere… The area has been without power since the storm 18 days ago, when the ocean water, 4 to 6 feet deep, rushed in and destroyed any electrical circuit it met—in cars, in fuse boxes on houses, street lights, garages. Generators were around by buildings, work sites, and on main streets and corners. Lines of hundreds waited in long lines for fuel trucks, carrying gas cans to fill up their cans and generators, all overseen by police officers.

We found that a church close by had clothing donation and distribution going on, and found people charging their phones on generators. The food trucks arrived soon, run by volunteers from California, Virginia, and other places. People soon started queuing up for a hot meal ready to go, but that didn’t compare to when the next truck, carrying a load of clean-up kits, diapers, and over 900 comfort kits (containing a blanket, flash light, batteries, wipes, hand sanitizer, hand warmers, and more) arrived. Since we had walked the neighborhood, we easily found three apartment complexes that lacked generators and the kits found their way into the crowds in less than an hour. Here a word about the volunteers. They came from schools and companies all over town and formed instant teams for canvassing, food prep, handing out supplies, and did it all with a compassionate and positive attitude.

There were bright spots. Some houses had remained dry and people had taken in others who had no place to go. Sometimes we were told that things were fine, or that neighbors were helping each other by sharing a generator. In another back yard we found a guy with a beer and a hearty “who cares”-laugh barbecuing.

The whole effort will have gone on for a few more days after the first one on Saturday, which we were part of. I am thankful for getting a chance to help, and that leads me, with a little smile, to a good opportunity to mention that a small donation to the Red Cross is a very easy and helpful way to support disaster relief, not just here, but all over the country.

One more thought. After Katrina hit New Orleans it became public knowledge that in a situation like this people really need to be prepared to get by on their own for 72 hours. Please consider checking a preparedness web site to make a plan. They say hindsight is 20/20, but sucks nonetheless, if enjoyed from a raft.

Best, as always,


PS: As always, these views are my own and do not reflect the views or positions of any other party, directly, or otherwise.

Michael Spieth is a graduate of the Advanced Certificate in Project Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies.

To the students, faculty, and staff of the SPS community:

Much of this week we have been reaching out and hearing back. The stories of lives disrupted make it impossible to deny the enormous impact of the storm, even as it feels impossible to reckon fully with that impact. But we have also been reminded of how we are bound together as a community of mutual support, how feelings of isolation or disconnection are temporary as we pull back together and return to our shared work and purpose.

We acknowledge that some of you have suffered grievous losses, and we are deeply sorry. If there is anything we can do to help, please let us know. Please feel free to email me directly at with your concerns, suggestions or needs. We have been making (and will continue to make) adjustments that should make it easier for us all to get through what remains of this semester. And we are confident that, however bad things may seem now, we will get through this. Already, the impressive resilience of the SPS community justifies that confidence.

John Mogulescu
Dean, School of Professional Studies

John Mogulescu is the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs and the Dean of the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and his responsibilities involve him in many different aspects of the University’s academic life. In addition to SPS, Dean Mogulescu has overseen collaborative programs between CUNY and the NYC Public Schools, CUNY Prep Transitional High School, the CUNY Language Immersion Program, CUNY Start, and the Adult Literacy and GED Preparation Programs. Dean Mogulescu also supervises the University’s Workforce Development Initiative, special training initiatives for City and State workers, and programs for welfare recipients, in addition to Adult and Continuing Education at CUNY and its non-credit programs, which serve over 250,000 students per year.

The view of Manhattan at night over the East River

The message below is posted on behalf of Dean Brian A. Peterson:

The City, the University, and everyone at SPS are diligently working to cope with the aftermath of the many challenges associated with Hurricane Sandy.  I want to express our deepest concerns and support for those who may have suffered loss during this challenging time.

Yesterday, as I made my way to the SPS’s offices, I noticed a number of spontaneous “charging stations” cropping up throughout midtown.  These stations, powered by generators and extension cords, have allowed individuals—neighbors and strangers alike—to power up their devices, and they remind me that small things can make a big difference.

If you or someone you know needs assistance in the coming days, resources can be found at the FEMA, the American Red Cross Greater New York Region, and NYC311 websites. For those members of the CUNY community who want to aid their neighbors, please remember that Citizen CUNY is an easy way to find volunteer efforts.  Additionally, the New York City Office of Emergency Management website is a good place to obtain current information about recovery efforts, status of transit/transportation and electricity, amongst other information.

While the recovery process from this disaster is going to be very slow, very costly, and very sobering, we will prevail.  We’ve prevailed before and I encourage all of us to do our best to recharge and support one another.  Small things—a phone call, an email, a brief conversation, a smile—can not only make a difference, but can make things happen.  I encourage you to support one another simply by being in touch.  Reach out to your fellow classmates, your instructors, your friends, and know that together we are resilient and will rise to face those challenges that are ahead.

Brian A. Peterson is the Associate Dean for Administration and Finance at the School of Professional Studies.

“Dark Light NYC” Image. Trinidad Rodriguez. 2012
“The American Entrepreneur” Image. Brian Peterson. 2012

The message below is posted on behalf of Dean Brian A. Peterson:

My usual flurry of associate deanery was interrupted late Wednesday afternoon by a call from the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Not that I minded the interruption, I love the OEM, but I knew the call could only mean one thing: SPS was being mobilized to help the City prepare for the arrival of a major storm.

I bet you didn’t know that our School – your School – plays a role in helping OEM implement the City’s coastal evacuation plan. Last year, we finished enhancing the capacity of the web-based disaster management tool that manages the City’s sheltering system, and we also created and coordinate the emergency shelter training offered by OEM to City employees who serve as shelter volunteers during such events.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Last August, in fact, we deployed and supervised the web-based tool that informed, placed, and tracked over 5,000 workers and 10,000 evacuees at 80 of the City’s evacuation sites during Hurricane Irene.  We had completed building the program for OEM just weeks before; it had not yet been tested in real-life conditions, and we were new to the hurricane business. It was scary, stressful, and exhilarating to know that our SPS team was making a difference in the lives of our fellow New Yorkers. Being on the phone with the Mayor’s Office was pretty exciting, too.

And so, here we are again: a major storm – actually, a confluence of a couple of major storms – is heading our way, and is expected to begin to affect our area on Sunday.  Our SPS team will be hunkered down with our sleeping bags and takeout food at the School’s offices throughout the storm, making sure that OEM has what they need to ensure that our City’s shelters and their volunteers are ready to help as many people as may be necessary.  I couldn’t be prouder.

Stay tuned to the OEM website, as well as to your local television, radio, and web stations for updates as the storm approaches. And above all, stay safe!

Brian A. Peterson is the Associate Dean for Administration and Finance at the School of Professional Studies.