Everywhere you go in South Queens you hear the same complaint: The Red Cross hasn’t done enough for us. And it’s not just coming from random residents who might very well be impatient and edgy as the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to wreak havoc on their lives. It’s also coming from elected officials well versed in the operations of nonprofit groups and their mandate to serve the public, which they voluntarily take on in exchange for tax benefits that make them, in essence, subsidized by the rest of us.
“I wouldn’t give them a dime,” Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich of Ozone Park said. Democratic state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder of the Rockaways called the Red Cross response to the hurricane “an utter failure.”
The agency has reportedly taken in $145 million in what it touts as fundraising for Hurricane Sandy relief. But if history is any guide, it won’t spend all that money on our storm-battered region. Instead it will bank a lot of it for the next crisis — which may not be a bad idea in theory, but sounds a lot like false advertising directed toward those donors who want to help these victims of this storm.
What did South Queens get out of that money? As far as we can tell, some blankets and food while Red Cross staffers stayed in a fancy Manhattan hotel. What the agency gave out was appreciated but way below expectations. And, we’ll note, the Red Cross failed to take questions on this from the Chronicle, despite a PR man’s promise it would.
Contrast the agency’s response with say, the city sanitation, police and fire departments. All performed superbly. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has written $46 million in checks to Howard Beach residents alone so far, an amount expected to double. Even Walmart, denied the chance to do business in the city by its enemies, gave out tons of supplies and let its trucks be used to move generators to schools and hospitals. Then there are the countless local volunteers who’ve been giving their all since day one. The Red Cross, a venerable agency but one that apparently needs a shakeup, could take a lesson from any of them.