The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal areas in New York City and the surrounding region. While power is back on and life is returning to normal in most neighborhoods, hard hit areas are still in need of assistance as they struggle with a continued lack of electricity, serious damage to buildings, and, in many cases, the loss of friends and neighbors.

Congregations throughout the region were profoundly affected, with many houses of worship experiencing flooding or wind damage, or extended periods with electricity. And faith communities have responded to the disaster by opening their doors to storm victims, coordinating relief efforts to get supplies and volunteers to stricken areas, and making sure that people displaced by the storm had somewhere to go for prayer and comfort.

NYIPL member congregations in New York City have experienced the storm’s impact in a very immediate way. Below are some of their stories:

  • The Cathedral of St. John the Divine suffered significant damage to trees on the grounds, but no serious damage to the building. The Cathedral Community Cares program has been coordinating volunteers to aid in relief efforts both at the Cathedral and in damaged areas. They are assembling a guide for people who want to help out that will be posted on their website shortly. For more information, visit and the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

    One of the Cathedral of St. John Divine’s famous peacocks in front of downed tree limbs. Photo credit: Isadora Wilkenfeld.
  • St. James’ Church is working closely with the Episcopal Diocese of New York to coordinate relief efforts, including food drives and housing for displaced families. They are encouraging their congregants to work through establish relief agencies like Episcopal Relief and Development. For more information, visit and the Church’s Facebook page.
  • St. Michael’s Church is also working with the Episcopal Diocese of New York’s storm relief efforts.  The Church has coordinated with congregations in the most affected areas to bring supplies and volunteers to where they are needed. St. Michael’s congregants made thousands of sandwiches at the Church and transported them to Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, which had lost power after the storm. For more information, visit and the Church’s Facebook page.
  • Sisters of Charity of New York collected more than $10,000 for storm relief efforts, and has been transporting vanloads of much-needed supplies to Mount Loretto, which is serving as the Archdiocese of New York’s primary receiving center for Sandy aid on Staten Island. Sisters of Charity has also helped direct supplies to Queens Congregations for United Action, an interfaith coalition, which is coordinating relief efforts in the Rockaways, Howard Beach, and Broad Channel. For more information, visit
  • Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Church’s basement flooded, destroying food supplies for Trinity’s Services and Food for the Homeless program, which serves hundreds of people a day through its soup kitchen and food pantry.


My (More or Less) Green Kitchen, Part II

Green KitchenPatricia K. Townsend – NYIPL Board Member
(Continued from Part 1)

As I mentioned in last month’s column, when building our new kitchen our principle #1 was:  Investigate all the materials. Principle #2 was Buy things made as close to home as possible.

Investigating where things were made turned me into a detective and a devotee of googling. I became obsessed with finding unfinished wood bar stools that we could paint with bright colors, in the 24” height suitable for our new island. I believe that we may now own the last two such stools made in the United States. I found them in the basement of a store in Rochester, New York. The manufacturer of one was a company in the Adirondacks that went out of business. The Oregon manufacturer of the other has now started to sell stools made in Vietnam out of timber shipped from Oregon!

Principle #3 was Minimize energy use.

We left the decisions about insulation to the experts but we were actively involved in the search for lighting, most of which is now made in China. (There goes Principle #2 again.)

We are happy with our tankless hot water heater, which quickly makes enough hot water for a houseful of guests to shower but doesn’t keep a tank of water hot when we are away from home.

We used a Kill A Watt meter to monitor electricity use.  That helped us decide that we should replace our 35-year-old working freezer with a new one.  Careful analysis showed us that the new freezer that needs defrosting is more energy efficient than a frost-free model with the Energy Star label. Thirty-five years of experience in defrosting the old one taught me that the task is easy and gets me into a routine of sorting things out to make sure that I haven’t overlooked any of last year’s crop of strawberries or green beans.

Principle #4 was ReUse and Recycle.

We moved the appliances from the old kitchen if they passed the energy-efficiency test. We also saved money when our contractor let my husband Bill salvage the cedar siding and shingles from the old north wall that is now an inside wall for the carpenters to use on part of the new construction. Bill is a master at re-using– building a spiral herb garden and a patio from brick salvaged from the old chimney.

We enjoy cooking and eating in the new kitchen, especially when the produce is from our own backyard vegetable and herb garden.  We don’t have any chickens in the back yard (yet), though we’ve found a farmer who sells us free-range chickens to keep in that energy-efficient freezer.

My (More or Less) Green Kitchen, Part I

By Patricia K. Townsend, NYIPL Board Member

When we retired, it was clear that the old kitchen simply would not do. It was so small that two people couldn’t work on dinner together nor could we eat lunch and breakfast in it. Family dinners in the dining room had been elegant; carrying everything back and forth three times a day was another matter.  Besides, the dining room table was great space for spreading out big projects.

We had always hoped to build a state-of-the-art environmentally sound new house, but when we considered doing that in Buffalo-Niagara, a metropolitan area with more than enough existing housing, that seemed foolish. What spot could we find anywhere where we would still be within walking distance of groceries, drugstore, library, churches, post office, bank, and great restaurants?

At the same time, we realized that opening up the north wall of our house to add a new kitchen would give us access to the “guts” of our house to add more insulation and a more efficient heating and cooling system than our outsized 1923 steam radiators. The old kitchen could become a utility room, bringing the washer, dryer, and freezer up from the deep dark cellar and making space down there for woodworking tools.

We hired a green architect, Kevin Connors, whose design picked up all the 1920s arts and crafts details of the old house so that you can’t even tell where the addition starts and leaves off.  This despite the fact that the new siding is a composite of cement and sawdust where the old is cedar.  Our principle #1 was: Investigate all the materials! That meant we chose linoleum and ceramic tile over vinyl flooring.  We were shocked that many of our friends and even flooring salesmen didn’t know that vinyl is not the same thing as linoleum: one being made of petroleum by an extremely polluting industry and the other of linseed oil and wood.

Principle #1 often enough came into conflict with our Principle # 2: Buy things made as close to home as possible.  Linoleum is made in Europe. That bothered us for a while, until we decided that there was absolutely no reason why it couldn’t be made in the U.S. again, as it used to be, if there were sufficient demand. We weren’t only considering shipping (though ocean shipping is more fuel efficient than trucking). We also wanted to give a boost to local manufacturing in our depressed Western New York economy, so we were delighted to find gorgeous cabinets of Northeastern hickory assembled in nearby Lockport.

Aware that granite countertops were all the rage and would make our house more saleable down the line, we considered granite for about two minutes before learning just how crazy that fashion is. What were they thinking?  Granite is not approved for food preparation (too porous and not resistant to bacteria and fungus).  Massive chunks of granite are shipped here from Brazil and China. Principles 1 and 2 checked off before we even decided on a color. We chose engineered quartz instead and we love it. That too could have come from Israel or Italy, but we held out for Minnesota or Quebec.

(to be continued…)