Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A blizzard of unselfishness

New York City is sometimes called unfriendly, almost uncaring, but that wasn't true during the recent snowstorm named Juno. Warmth is the best defense against an icy storm, and folks in the Big Apple proved it. How?

First of all, it's really hard to hail a cab in a snow storm, so members of the Greater New York Taxi Association chose to give free rides to the elderly, people with disabilities, and emergency responders during the blizzard. Eligible passengers called 311 and a free cab showed up as soon as one was available.

The New York City fire department asked residents to be sure hydrants were cleared of snow and ready for hose hookup in an emergency. Volunteers answered this call, using social media to share and coordinate their efforts.

Everyone knew police and firemen would be working long shifts with little access to food since restaurants were closed. So staff at the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel opened their employees cafeteria to law enforcement, offering free meals to anyone on duty during the storm.

The Bowery Mission provided free emergency shelter for almost 200 homeless during the blizzard, plus free breakfast to hundreds the next morning. The mission chapel remains open for anyone needing protection from frigid weather.

Members of the Coalition for the Homeless hiked through the Bronx and uptown and downtown Manhattan, bringing food, water, sleeping bags, socks and coats to people living on the streets. "Regardless of the weather, we're out and about," said Juan De La Cruz, program manager of the coalition's Grand Central Food Program.

Finally, my personal favorite. "Today Show" correspondent Jeff Rossen has worked the bad weather beat for years. Usually he goes out with a cameraman and points a microphone at the face of some tired New Yorkers and asks how they plan to shovel their snow. For this storm, he quit asking that question. Instead (along with workers from Expectation Snow Plowing), he rang the doorbells of unsuspecting Long Island residents and offered to plow their driveways for free. Now that's what I call "breaking news."

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