Volume 18 • Issue 46 | March 31 - April 6, 2006

Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel

Jim Kushner, a member of Battery Park City’s Community Emergency Response Team, with Katrina, a dog he found in New Orleans while he and his neighbors helped the city recover from the hurricane.

Anchors aweigh! B.P.C. emergency team to get a boat

By Jefferson Siegel

Battery Park City’s neighborhood response team will soon have what many countries don’t: land and sea capabilities.

The neighborhood’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) expects to have a 27-foot Seastrike this spring.

“We’re getting a boat that’s been donated,” Sidney Baumgarten, founder and team chief of the B.P.C. CERT, said at a graduation ceremony Monday for the 49 newest members to the volunteer team. The boat is being donated by the manufacturer and will be operated as a joint effort with the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“They’ll operate the boat, we’ll have our rescue people on board,” Baumgarten said. “And, hopefully, we’ll be able to keep it near Battery Park City in the event of an emergency.”

The boat would be used for river rescue. “Don’t forget that we’re surrounded by water,” Baumgarten said of the neighborhood across the street from the World Trade Center site. “The plan is to keep it in the North Cove. We’re trying to work this out with the B.P.C. Authority and the [dock] owners.”

Of the other CERTs in the city, he said, “I don’t know of any that have water rescue, so we’re very unique.”

The CERT may soon float its own navy with the addition of a second, inflatable Zodiac boat.  And, they’ve already applied to the Zodiac company for a grant for a third boat. “We all hearken back to 9/11 and people jumping helter-skelter into the water,” Baumgarten recalled of his neighbors. “To have a couple of emergency boats will certainly be beneficial. We have twelve of our people who are certified in water rescue.”

Thousands of B.P.C. residents fled the neighborhood on ferries and other boats the day of the attack.

The graduating class celebrated completion of 27 hours of training in disciplines ranging from search and rescue to medical triage, traffic and crowd control and high-rise evacuations. Each received a certificate from the Federal Emergency Management Agency noting they were qualified to join the B.P.C. CERT.

The new CERT members join others in their ability to provide the first on-scene response in the community for up to 72 hours until first responders are able to arrive. They also have the training to augment the work done by emergency services.

Two of the newest members of the B.P.C. CERT with their certificates: Kalpa and Giuseppe Marchese.

“My husband and I had been looking out for something to do in the community,” Kalpa Marchese said after receiving her certificate. “I want to be part of the medical team. My husband is going to be part of the marine detail.”

Marchese and her husband, Giuseppe, also work in Lower Manhattan.

Another graduate, Elain Effren, a Financial District resident, said, “My motivation was from being a resident during 9/11 and just wanting to be involved in a community organization that could help disseminate information so that people won’t feel helpless after a disaster.”

The expansion of the B.P.C. CERT team comes at a crucial time for Downtown.

With the imminent deconstruction of the former Deutsche Bank building at 130 Liberty St., there is heightened concern for potential dangers such as contamination from toxic debris, collapse and personal injury as the shrouded structure is dismantled.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns the building that was damaged during the 9/11 attacks, plans to notify the B.P.C. CERT in the event of an emergency. The CERT, in turn, would aid emergency responders and keep the community informed. The L.M.D.C. paid for the latest CERT training and expansion to include residents living near the Deutsche building.

Just recently, Baumgarten noted, a construction worker was seriously injured in a fall at the site. “Within five minutes of the incident, we got a call from L.M.D.C.,” he told the graduates. “The fact that we have the CERT team available, and now have people virtually ringing the Deutsche Bank building, will be a great asset to the community,” he added.

The L.M.D.C. will also provide additional support and equipment, including 40 hi-tech two-way radios, a laptop computer and medical supplies. There are six sites throughout Downtown where equipment is stored and kept ready for immediate use. Additional equipment includes cots, fire extinguishers and carbon dioxide detectors.

Joseph Bruno, commissioner of the city’s Office of Emergency Management joined in congratulating the new class. “I’m a big supporter. I believe in the program,” he told Downtown Express before presenting certificates to the 49 new members. “I think CERT teams now — not only are they ancillary to our response — but they also provide us an opportunity to get out and educate the public.” Bruno added that under any activation of the city’s Emergency Operations Center, the CERT would be included in the response. “We’re very proud of them.”

Stefan Pryor, L.M.D.C. president, told the graduates, “We’re extraordinarily grateful that you’re in place and that you are training to be able to respond to an incident in our jurisdiction. We need more people like you to continue to spread the word about how Lower Manhattan is on the rise.”

CERT member Jim Kushner was at the ceremony with “Katrina,” an abandoned dog he picked up off the street in New Orleans when B.P.C. CERT members helped in the hurricane’s relief effort.

Baumgarten hopes to have another class in April and is looking to attract more neighborhood workers.

The team has grown to 230 with the current graduates, whereas most CERTs have between 30 and 50 members, Baumgarten said. “When we started this three years ago, it was just a shot in the dark,” he added. “Within 30 days, we had 101 applications.”


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