Tonight (Monday, September 25), Lower Manhattan’s homegrown humanitarian organization, Battery Park City Cares, will host a fund raiser at Treadwell Park (301 South Avenue, at the corner of Albany Street), from 6:30 to 9:00 pm, to aid communities devastated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The organization was founded in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, aiming to help other communities afflicted by disaster, and thus reciprocate the generosity that flowed into Lower Manhattan 16 years ago. It began raising funds in earnest in 2004, after the Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 200,000 people and left many already-impoverished communities in desperate straits. In what would became part of the group’s signature approach, board member Craig Hall conducted a series of online searches until he identified one of the worst-hit towns, the Sri Lankan village of Peraliya, and also made direct contact with an aid worker who was already on the scene, New York resident Alison Thompson. “Everybody was describing Peraliya as the tsunami’s Ground Zero,” recalled Mr. Hall. “So we knew this was the place we wanted to help.”
When they connected via e-mail, Ms. Thompson remembered, “Battery Park City Cares was clearly different. All these other huge organizations and government groups wanted me to fill out forms and jump through bureaucratic hoops before they would send us anything. I didn’t have time for that. There were more than 2,000 bodies in the streets of Peraliya and people still dying all around me. But Battery Park City Cares had only one question: ‘What do you need?'”
“What she needed most,” recalled Mr. Hall, “was bicycles.” Because the tsunami had wrecked roads, rail lines, and every kind of vehicle, bicycles were just about the only way to cover long distances on Sri Lanka in the first months after the tsunami. To farmers and fisherman trying both to feed their own families and move their goods to local markets, bicycles proved to be a lifeline. Battery Park City Cares raised several thousand dollars, which went to buying bicycles, along with other supplies, for Peraliya’s tsunami victims. (Ms. Thompson’s work was later chronicled in a documentary, “The Third Wave,” in which the role played by Battery Park City Cares was credited.)
This campaign was reprised the following year, when Hurricane Katrina laid waste to much of the Gulf Coast. Once more, Battery Park City Cares raised funds while also identifying and making contact with local recipients who could make an outsized impact on the ground. The ongoing effort to aid Louisiana continued in 2007 with, “A Toast to the Gulf Coast,” a gala fund raiser held in the atrium of what is now the Conrad New York Hotel, which aided the continuing recovery in the Gulf region. That same year, Battery Park City Cares also raised funds for First Day New York, which provides a book bag full of clothing and school supplies to children living in the New York City homeless shelter system as they begin classes in the fall.
In 2010, the group mobilized resources to aid Haiti, after the cataclysmic earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people. And when a series of deadly tornados ravage Oklahoma in 2013, Battery Park City Cares hosted the fund raiser, “Make OK Okay Again.”
The $25 admission charge for tonight’s event includes one free glass of wine or beer, and discounted bar drinks, as well as raffles, fun games, silly prizes, and light bites from the kitchen of Treadwell Park. All funds raised will go to humanitarian relief in communities affected by the recent hurricanes.