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Battery Park City CERT snubbed by OEM:
On the evening of Thursday, Aug. 25, with Hurricane Irene bearing down on New York City, members of the Battery Park City Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) assembled at the Battery Park City Authority’s community center on West Thames Street to learn what they could do to help. “Nothing,” said Sid Baumgarten, who leads the Battery Park City CERT. He said that the previous day staff from the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) had declined to meet with him and other members of the team “because we are not affiliated with OEM.” Baumgarten said that the only thing that needed to be done at that moment was to lift some equipment off the floor and get it out of the basement.
Subsequently in an email, Baumgarten explained why the OEM had declined the Battery Park City CERT’s assistance. “You have to remember that Battery Park City CERT was the first certified FEMA-trained CERT in New York City, even before OEM started its program,” he said. “We have doctors, nurses, EMT’s, experts on chemical and biological warfare, etc. who have traditionally done our training and who are members of our team. We have also trained at the Connecticut State Fire Academy in Hartford.” But, he said, that to be credentialed by OEM, “they want to do all the training, despite our having two FEMA Master CERT trainers of our own. We have offered to share the training duties with OEM, but we never got that far.”
Baumgarten said that, “OEM has stated that we will not be deployed unless we are credentialed. As for the credentialing itself, many of our members did not want to give up the personal information requested. While we had no specific instances of rejection because we never followed up — OEM lost about 75 of our applications — I saw no reason why CERT members have to be cleared for criminal records or anything else negative.(I don’t care if Al Capone comes to rescue me in an emergency!)”
Baumgarten concluded by saying, “Finally, there is an over-riding issue of the mission for CERT teams. Under the FEMA guidelines, the CERT teams are to be able to respond and provide help until the first responders arrive (up to 72 hours usually), and then augment them after they arrive at a scene. That help, in our view, includes the basic skills that are part of the CERT curriculum and mission: Search and rescue, medical triage, traffic and crowd control, fire suppression, etc. In New York City there is resistance to our using those skills at any time and the OEM, NYPD and FDNY simply want us to be pamphleteers for them. Well, our people did not sign up and spend hours and hours of training to become handmaidens for OEM’s public relations efforts. If that is the perception of CERT held by OEM, we aren’t signing on to it. They cannot tell me that our medical team of MD’s, RN’s and EMT’s are not capable of performing and assisting the first responders, or that our military and retired NYPD members cannot perform light search-and-rescue or do the myriad of other jobs that an emergency entails. We are well-equipped, well-trained, and can serve the community, but if there is ‘no room at the inn’ for us, then it all becomes a waste of time and energy and money.”
CERT member Hank Wisner said the OEM was “good at some stuff and bad at others. I don’t want to pat ourselves on the back too much as we are the largest team in the country because of 911. It doesn’t take much talent to recruit at the biggest target in the country…It doesn’t matter if OEM approves or certifies BPC- CERT or not. We are not a government organization and don’t need approval to help our community when the government is not functional. When they are functional, I’m more than happy to have them do the work. That’s why we pay taxes.”
Art for 9/11:
An exhibit of artwork by two Battery Park City residents opens at the Kim Foster Gallery, 529 W. 20th St., on Sept. 8 reflecting their 9/11 experiences and their views of Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center site. Antonio Petracca’s photo-based oil paintings and photo-montages express his initial sense of horror and progress to meditations on the geometries of the World Trade Center as the new buildings emerge. Jay Fine is exhibiting photographs of the harbor and the neighborhoods surrounding the W.T.C. under the title “The End of Manhattan.”
“Petracca’s work became much more personal after 9/11,” said Foster, who is the artist’s wife as well as the gallery owner. She said that she thought it was important to exhibit the work of Battery Park City residents for the 10th anniversary of the W.T.C. attack.
Petracca has exhibited at the Italian American Museum in New York City and the Garibaldi Meucci Museum. His artwork is in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Historical Society, George Eastman House, and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Jay Fine’s photographs have appeared in newspapers, magazines, websites, and television in New York City, the U.K. and Italy. One of his photos of New York harbor appeared in the August 2011 issue of National Geographic Magazine.
The exhibit runs through Oct. 15. The gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information go to www.kimfostergallery.com.
National September 11 Memorial seeks volunteers:
The 9/11 Memorial is currently developing a volunteer program to support the Visitor Services staff. After the Memorial opens to the public on Sept. 12, construction will continue on surrounding World Trade Center site projects for several years. During this period, the Memorial’s visitor capacity has to be closely managed. Volunteers will support the Visitor Services staff in all areas, including helping with site access and escorting groups and people with special needs, as well as guiding visitors in finding 9/11 victims’ names on the Memorial. Every effort will be made to match each volunteer with an appropriate and satisfying schedule and assignment. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and willing to commit to work at least 12 hours a month for a minimum of three months. Foreign-language abilities in all languages are greatly desired. For more information, go to http://www.911memorial.org/volunteer
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