Ulrich slams Red Cross slow Sandy response

A Red Cross van drops off supplies at Beach 113th Street. Photo by Christina Santucci
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The American Red Cross has come under fire by frustrated storm victims and elected officials in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, with many charging the organization’s relief effort in southern Queens started far too late and has not been nearly strong enough.

“I’ve seen just a lethargic, slow response from the Red Cross,” City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said. “Embarrassi­ngly minimal.”

Ulrich said he has been on the ground in some of the harder hit regions of Queens daily since the day before the storm and that the organization was nowhere to be found in the first few days after the hurricane. He also said his experience trying to work with the Red Cross to bring a mobile Tide Laundromat truck to Queens has been frustrating, with Tide and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office saying the relief organization should ask Tide to respond, but the Red Cross telling Ulrich that was not the case. Ulrich said he is still waiting for an answer from the Red Cross.

On Sunday, he took to Twitter to express his anger, writing, “Maybe instead of running TV ads asking for money, American Red Cross should be helping my constituents. I wouldn’t give them a dime.”

A spokesman for the Red Cross, Michael Devulpillieres, acknowledged criticism of the organization’s response to Sandy.

“We always wish that we could get there quicker and we understand that people are frustrated and people had difficulty finding us early on,” he said.

He said the Red Cross’s efforts were hampered in the first few days after the storm due to unsafe conditions and impassible roads and bridges. But he said the organization is working hard to identify areas that need the most help and send aid volunteers there.

The Red Cross has two mobile kitchens set up at the Aqueduct Racetrack in South Ozone Park and Fort Tilden in the Rockaways and has sent out relief vehicles for other affected areas. So far the Red Cross has distributed 200,000 meals and 150,000 bags of emergency supplies in Queens, Devulpillieres said.

But many residents of Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways levied sharp criticism against the organization, saying that within the week after the storm they had yet to see a Red Cross truck or that the organization had only just shown up.

On Nov. 5 a Red Cross disaster relief truck sat outside the American Legion post in Broad Channel, which has become the de facto aid center for the island, but residents said it was only the second day the truck had been there and the previous day Red Cross volunteers left before it got dark.

One resident and American Legion organizer said the Red Cross had given them a bag of soup to distribute to residents, but no way to serve or heat it.

In the Rockaways Friday, some volunteers working with Occupy Sandy, a grassroots hurricane relief organization with ties to Occupy Wall Street, openly grumbled when they were told the Red Cross would be out in force in the area over Veterans Day weekend.

“It takes two weeks to surge for the Red Cross,” one woman said.

State Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) also blasted the Red Cross for suspending its operations during the nor’easter that swept through the area Nov. 7, causing fierce winds and blanketing the city with snow.

“FYI, people need you more when conditions get worse!” Goldfeder tweeted at the New York Red Cross last Thursday.

Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Posted 6:56 pm, November 14, 2012
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Reader feedback

terry says:
If you and more of your friends would become Red Cross volunteers, you wouldn't have to wait for volunteers from Texas, Mexico, California, etc to come help you. Red Cross does not allow their Emergency Response Vehicles on the road after dark and why in the heck would they place their volunteers in danger during a northeaster? Many of those volunteers left warm cozy 75 degree weather to come help you-- and all you want to do is gripe! It seems that we are griped at no matter what we do. If we cut in line to get gas to get to someplace faster, we get griped at. If we get in line to get gas and don't get where we need to be, we get griped at. At the moment, I'm trying really hard to remember why I became a volunteer.
Nov. 15, 2012, 9:49 am
ty from yoo says:
Nov. 15, 2012, 11:48 am
ty from yoo says:
Nov. 15, 2012, 11:50 am
Lucy from Middle Village says:
Hey Terry:

Maybe you should shut up & get off your butt to come to NYC before defending the Red Cross. Clearly you don't live in the areas affected in Queens. If you did you'd see exactly where the officials and people in these areas are coming from.
Nov. 17, 2012, 3:29 pm
D from Ozone park says:
The roads were impassable? Really, I had no problem running to bjs spending hundreds of my own dollars on supplies and bringing them to Howard beach, broad channel and breezy after the storm! Oh and I have a very old car! Unreal! They need to be shut down! Thank god for volunteers and people do acting items directly to these people and churches/ offices !
Nov. 17, 2012, 4:24 pm
Kelli from Broad Channel says:
Red Cross didn't do too little not late, they did nothing too late! I would have froze and starved to death waiting for help from the Red Cross. We had tons of amatuer volunteers doing a FABULOUS job while the professional Red Cross couldnt figure how to get help to us! Please, no thanks. My money will NEVER go to the Red Cross.
Nov. 17, 2012, 5:56 pm
BJ Kelly from Rockaway says:
Being given soup that needs to have water and be heated is like CM Ulrich stating that he was giving information via social media three days after the storm. When I confronted him in person outside St Francis (looking dapper and free of the dust all volunteers were shrouded in) about HOW information was being provided to those affected, he told me to check Twitter although no one had internet, phone or electric service. When asked what the last info tweeted was, he said that was unavailable. Why not bullhorns to spread the word? He answered that it was time people started 'calming down'. CM Ulrich epitomized the thorough lack of coordination, communication and concern from our electeds throughout this ordeal.
Nov. 19, 2012, 7:34 am
Margaret Wagner from Broad Channel says:
Thank You City Councilman Eric Ulrich for speaking the truth when it comes to the slow response we received from the Red Cross. What is insulting to me and many other victims of Hurricans Sandy is that their spokesperson keeps making reference to the 200,000 meals and 150,000 emergency bags that were handed out..... If we do the math it does not add up to the Millions of Dollars that people donated to the Red Cross for the relief effort of Hurricane Sandy. One of the better organization that came to Broad Channel was the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation. They served hot meals within the first week following the Hurricane. They also gave Homeowners $600 in gift cards to help rebuild. One of the first things we did was to go to Home Depot to buy tools for the Rebuilding process.
Nov. 20, 2012, 4:51 pm
D from Long Island says:
I tried to volunteer at the Red Cross. I had to file for a background checkp and fill out paperwork. I did it and submitted everything 2-3 weeks ago. I have heard nothing from the Red Cross! I wonder how many others are willing to help but have not been called?
Nov. 21, 2012, 7:47 am

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