At a time when Lower Manhattan is weighing plans for resiliency in the face of extreme weather events, one local leader stood up to last week’s storm and made a difference in the lives of dozens of local families.
As a snow-bearing nimbostratus bore down on the City on the evening of February 8, and government officials declared that schools would be closed the following day, Bob Townley, founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth, quickly hatched a plan.
“I was thinking about all the parents who have kids in local schools, and who could not take the day off,” he recalls. “First responders, health professionals and financial institutions were all going to be open that day, regardless of what the school system did. These parents were going to need to get to work, but would also need a safe place for their kids to spend the day.”
Working the phones, Mr. Townley juggled staff assignments and shifts at the Manhattan Youth Community Center, located on Warren Street, to make certain that there would be enough educators and childcare professionals at the facility to host however many children might need their services throughout the day.
Once the resources were in place, Mr. Townley sent out an email blast on Wednesday evening, inviting parents whose children are enrolled in the after school programs that Manhattan Youth manages at multiple Lower Manhattan elementary and middle schools to drop their kids at the Community Center on their way to work on Thursday morning, and then to pick them up that evening.
“Fortunately,” Mr. Townley recalls, “much of our staff lives nearby and collectively we decided we could open and be a big help to the community of parents who needed to trudge off to work, by letting them know they could bring their kids to the Downtown Community Center.”
More than 80 grateful (and greatly relieved) parents responded immediately that they would be bringing their children. What followed was perhaps the best snow day ever: “We had swimming, art, creative games, and homework help,” Mr. Townley recalls. “Plus, we got to throw a few snowballs around.”