As memories of Hurricane Sandy recede like the floodwaters, let’s pause to note the valiant efforts of the small business community. Whether donating money, time—or both—or just going above and beyond to help their clients and their community, businesses across the New York City metro area didn’t hesitate to help each other get back on their feet.
NY Tech Responds, created just a day after the hurricane by NY Tech Meetup and coworking community New Work City, helped to connect organizations with volunteers who could provide technical assistance. One of their accomplishments was a coworking crowdmap, which helped people and businesses find office space that had power and internet. The movement helped provide assistance to the Department of Education and relief agencies such as FEMA, and Sparkrelief. NY Tech Responds also organized a hackathon, conference, and fundraiser at the beginning of December. “One of the most successful aspects of NY Tech Responds has been the conversations that it has started and the collaborations it has built,” says organizer Jessica Lawrence. “We were able to bring together people from a variety of different relief agencies—from the Red Cross to Occupy Sandy—to work together with developers and designers to think through better disaster recovery solutions.” The organization had a total of 900 volunteers who registered to help.
Akiva Goldstein, owner of tech support company Onsite In 60, says, “We have a lot of clients downtown, and it was chaos.” One client in particular, a lawyer in his 70s, was concerned that the outages downtown would put him out of business. “I took a 4:58am train into the city. I went downtown and one of my guys and I went up 19 flights of stairs with only a flashlight, and we carried down this big server,” he says. The client was up and running again by noon. Onsite In 60 also set up a hotline with free tech support chat. “We got a ton of calls and chats from companies that said, ‘The internet is down and I don’t even know where to start.’”
IT company Lloyd Group also found themselves climbing down more than a dozen flights of stairs with their clients’ servers. And, well after the hurricane has passed, the company is still helping its clients: “We have up to 20 employees from a valued Lloyd client in our office today, a month later,” says COO Brian David. The company has also helped another non-client business in New York City. “They were displaced from their office and needed help coming up with a business continuity plan from both a business and technical perspective. Our team placed this company’s employees in temporary office space and provided guidance in getting their employees back up and running with critical data access,” says David.
Of course, non-technical companies also pitched in to help other businesses when they could. Patricia Pfleger, co-owner of Jersey Printing in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey, had available rental space on her company’s property at the time of Sandy. When she heard that one of her clients, a nonprofit based in Sandy Hook, could no longer use their office space, she invited them to move in with her business. “They had no place to go to, so we put them into the empty space that we had. They’ve set up folding tables, we’ve hooked them into our internet, they’re working off their cell phones, and they forwarded all their phone calls here,” she says. “It’s actually fun having them here. We get a little lift from knowing we helped.”
Michelle Court is the managing editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at email@example.com.