The Law School’s Response to the Storm (and more volunteer opportunities)

Below is the text of a message that I sent to our alumni yesterday:

Two weeks after Hurricane Sandy upended our lives, I write to update you on the Law School’s response to the storm.

Here on campus, both our building and our educational program have emerged intact. Like almost all schools in the area, St. John’s University was closed for the entire week following the storm. Throughout that week, the University’s Emergency Operations Team and many Law school employees worked tirelessly to restore power to our building and to get our students back in the classroom. Running on a generator, we were able to open for classes on Monday, November 5, 2012. (You can read my message to our students announcing the opening and explaining our recovery efforts.) Our faculty, students, and employees have responded to the disruptions caused by the storm with patience, flexibility, and perseverance. We have crafted a make-up schedule – using weekends and other open dates on the calendar – that will enable us to make up all the missed classes.

Everyone in our community was affected by the storm in one way or another. Most of the temporary inconveniences – power outages and gasoline shortages – are easing. But for some members of the Law School family, especially those who have lost their homes and cars, the storm has been life altering. Many students, employees, and alumni live in Long Beach, the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Staten Island, and other severely affected neighborhoods. The University community will be gathering on Thursday, November 15, at 12:15 p.m. for a Mass of Remembrance and Thanksgiving to pray together for all victims of the storm.

In the spirit of St. Vincent, we now turn our attention to helping those most in need. The Law School has formed two separate committees of students, faculty, staff and alumni to begin work on assistance projects. The Pro Bono Hurricane Committee, under the leadership of Professor Jennifer Baum, is organizing pro bono and other volunteer efforts to help victims of the storm. This past Sunday, Professor Baum, herself a Staten Island resident, led a group of law students to the Midland Beach section of Staten Island to assist with clean-up efforts. (You can read about and see a video of that trip on my blog.) Another Staten Island service trip is planned for this coming Sunday. The Pro Bono Committee is also organizing efforts to help storm victims with their legal problems. One of our first projects will be to provide disaster-related information sessions to senior citizens in Queens through our Elder Law Clinic (now known as the Consumer Justice for the Elderly: Litigation Clinic). We are also establishing a network to link student volunteers with attorney volunteers who are assisting storm victims. Alumni who are interested in helping with this project should contact the Pro Bono Hurricane Committee at

We have also established a Hurricane Assistance Committee to provide financial assistance to law students and their families who are experiencing financial burdens as a result of the storm. Under the leadership of Vice Dean Emeritus Andrew Simons, this Committee will oversee a Hurricane Assistance Fund, which is already growing with gifts from generous alumni and faculty. We invite you to contribute to the Fund by contacting Associate Director of Development Philip Maroney at or (718) 990-7991.

In many ways, this storm has exposed the fragility of our local civic infrastructure. But in other ways, the storm has revealed the strength of our civic bonds and the resiliency of our community spirit. I am proud of how the Law School family has unified to respond to the storm with compassion, with fortitude, and with determination. I look forward to working together as we continue our recovery.

UPDATE: Our Pro Bono Hurricane Committee is organizing two additional volunteer opportunities this weekend —

  • Broad Channel, Saturday, Nov. 17 (legal work):  Please join students, alumni, faculty, and friends this Saturday, November 17th, at the American Legion Hall in Queens (a FEMA distribution center), to provide legal assistance to Hurricane Sandy victims.  Volunteers must certify that they have watched a one-hour long training video, which will be screened at the Law School Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. (and can also be accessed remotely at any time online; email for the link). Transportation to and from the American Legion Hall will be provided – a van is leaving the law school at 11:00 AM and returning at 4:00 PM. Please email ASAP (but no later than Friday 12:00 noon) to reserve an outreach spot.  This opportunity qualifies for pro bono hours toward NYS bar admission requirements.
  • Midland Beach (Staten Island), Sunday, Nov. 18 (humanitarian work): A Staten Island humanitarian service trip has been scheduled for this coming Sunday, 11/18. Transportation will be provided: the van will leave the law school at 8:00 am and return to campus by 1:00 pm. Shovels, gloves, water, cliff bars provided – you just need to show up, sign the waiver, and wear hard-soled shoes. Email to reserve your seat or get meet-up time/location.

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