Sharing Sandy Stories

November 5, 2012 | Borough of Manhattan Community College

“Everyone has a story.”

As New Yorkers continue to come together after Hurricane Sandy hit the city the weekend of October 27th, members of the BMCC community have been sharing their “Where were you during Hurricane Sandy?” experiences.

Business Administration major Luis Tibercio fared well during the storm.

“I was home all day in the Bronx,” he said. “We had a lots of wind on the ninth floor, but  never lost power.”

Andrew Weinstein, a Liberal Arts major from Long Island, “couldn’t study or write papers, because I didn’t have electricity.”

Early Childhood Education major Laura Santillan of Borough Park “checked the BMCC Website for updates. It made me feel assured that we, as a college, were getting it back together.”

Juan Melendez, a Criminal Justice major from Corona, was “glad to be out of my house and back at school. I was getting cabin fever.”

Betty Lopez, a Liberal Arts major, drove from Queens to Brooklyn to catch two subways to BMCC and acknowledges, “It could have been so much worse. But ultimately, you can’t control Mother Nature.”

Staffers step in
BMCC staffers also shared their Hurricane Sandy stories.

Scott Anderson, Vice President, Administration and Planning, explains how BMCC—which was located in the Zone A evacuation area due to its proximity to the Hudson River—re-opened one week after the core of the storm swept through the tri-state area.

“Buildings & Grounds staffers have been pumping, digging and cleaning,” he said. “Flooded carpet was ripped up, and the crew made a path from the door to the desks, so people wouldn’t have to walk on glue. Plus, the main building was sand-bagged along the West Side Highway and Harrison Street.”

Sergiy Shamray, an electrician, stayed at BMCC from Sunday through Wednesday afternoon. “I slept here too, on a cot.”

Paul Rivera, a Laborer with BMCC Buildings & Grounds, was also at the campus during the storm.

“We had to drive through water to get out of the parking lot a couple blocks away,” he recalls. “When we got back to BMCC, the water was up to my calves. We had to wait for it to finish coming in, before we could do anything. We couldn’t open the doors inside the building till it stopped. When the water receded, we started pumping it out.”

He adds, “I’ve been at BMCC for 30 years and have never seen anything like this.”

According to Anderson, no students, faculty or staff—except essential staff—were at BMCC during the storm. Additionally, at Fiterman Hall, BMCC’s newest building, there was minimal damage.

“Fiterman Hall is okay,” explains Anderson. “The difference between Zone A and Zone B is in the middle of Greenwich Street. That slight embankment makes a huge difference.”

Technology prevails
BMCC kept students and staffers updated through the college’s official homepage, Twitter feed, and Facebook page, which generated more than 10,000 “Likes” from students.

All three mediums—plus emails from college administrators—provided pertinent information about how the college was faring post-Sandy.

Although Lower Manhattan lost electricity and was flooded, BMCC was still able to provide online updates offsite.

“Throughout the storm, I was in contact with students through social media. This communication forum has afforded us the opportunity to hear students’ voices, thoughts, and feelings,” said Marva Craig, BMCC’s Vice President for Student Affairs.

“The students never stopped talking to us, for they did not let the storm silence them. Their words confirmed a spirit of resilience within the BMCC community, and there is no doubt that we will continue to support one another as we recover from this storm.”

The next steps
According to Vice President Anderson, BMCC’s implementation of Information Technology (IT) was an important accomplishment.

The college didn’t have power, but with the help of the Brian Cohen, Chief Information Officer at CUNY Central, and BMCC’s Office of Public Affairs, the College reopened its Web page on Thursday.

“BMCC’s electricians worked with IT to patch the college into the emergency generator,” said Anderson.  “A crew is creating a bridge between the BMCC computer center and the emergency generator; a connection between the network with a filtered signal through an Uninterruptible Power Supply. This is crucial because when—not ‘if’—the college is off the electricity grid again, our network, which includes telephone and Web, will automatically switch over and be powered by the emergency generator.”

He adds, “This positions us for the next emergency.”

“Still in recovery”
Anderson says the College is “still in recovery and business continuity mode.”

To ensure that BMCC continues to be well prepared in a state of emergency, Anderson said, “We’re creating a new data center on the sixth floor so our IT level will be above the flood plain.”

Because the subfloor on the first level of BMCC’s main campus was heavily damaged by salt, according to Anderson, “Everything has to be above the floor-level now. Plus, the computer center staff is checking the temperature of the servers on an hourly basis.”

Adds Anderson, “the first two days after the storm, electricians, carpenters and custodians were working around the clock at BMCC. They take a lot of pride in their work.”