November 09, 2012
When Hurricane Sandy hit the mid-Atlantic coast on Monday,
October 29, it flooded communities, toppled trees and wrecked power
lines throughout the New York metropolitan area.
At St. John’s University’s residential Queens, NY,
campus, however, more than 3,200 students were safe, warm and
well-fed thanks to extensive planning and hard work by
administrators and staff in virtually all departments.
“When we turned on the television or went online, we learned about
the terrible problems the hurricane caused for so many people,”
said Khadijah Lyons ’16P, a freshman who resides in Hollis Hall.
“But in the dorms, everyone was really comfortable. When our
parents called, we told them things were totally fine.”
“Successfully ensuring the well-being of our students during and
following the storm was a coordinated effort by the University’s
entire Emergency Management Team,” said Thomas
J. Lawrence, Vice President for Public Safety. “We began
preparing the Thursday before the storm hit, and we covered every
angle — food, power, activities, making sure the outdoor areas
would remain safe.”
The Emergency Management Team at St. John’s includes
representatives of every academic and administrative unit. During
and after Hurricane Sandy, they held at least two conference calls
a day. Administrators and staff from Public Safety, Facilities and
Residence Life remained on campus throughout the crisis.
Chartwells, the University’s food service, was on hand to provide
meals at Montgoris
Ultimately, the campus sustained almost no damage. Two oak trees
fell on the Great Lawn. Off campus, a fallen tree destroyed a power
line that provided electricity to St. Vincent and St. Albert Halls,
and some outages occurred elsewhere. Thanks to planning, the
University was well-prepared.
“The safety of students and the St. John’s community is always our
paramount objective — and it continued to be the main driver when
Sandy was reported coming our way,” said Brij
Anand, Vice President for Facilities Services.
Six portable generators were brought in to complement those already
on campus. St. John’s electricians worked around the clock with 20
outside electricians to keep the equipment running. Grounds crews
also were on hand to keep the lawns, walkways and paths free from
damage and debris. “It was a herculean effort,” said Anand. “Our
maintenance crew continues to monitor the generators so power is
sustained until the utilities are fully restored.”
Power outages resulted in 116 students from Manhattan and 79 from
Staten Island being relocated to Queens. Due to flood-related
damage, the Manhattan students will remain at Queens for the
remainder of the semester.
In the residence halls, students were engaged as well as
comfortable. Staff provided a wide range of activities, including
movies, a pool tournament and a Halloween costume party. “We were
definitely proactive in making sure the students were never bored,”
said Eric Finkelstein, Director of Residence Life. In addition,
staff used sign-in sheets and other ways of keeping track of every
student. “When parents called, we made sure they knew where their
“There was always something to do, during the storm and
after,” said Ryan Moskowitz ’16CPS, a freshman from New City, NY.
“The cafeteria was open. We saw a movie at the Little Theater. And
I got to work out at the Fitness Center. I think we were better off
here than at home.”
“The students’ response to the challenges presented by Hurricane
Sandy was really terrific,” said Kathryn
Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs. “We also
saw a great deal of collaboration among administrative departments,
which has carried over into the University’s re-opening. These past
two weeks have served as a tangible illustration of the true spirit
of St. John’s.”