Tag Archives: superstorm sandy

In 83 speeches, U.S. senator warns of climate change

Like he did 82 times before, Sheldon Whitehouse stood on the U.S. Senate floor and preached the dangers of climate change.

In his last speech before Congress adjourned, the senator from Rhode Island warned that 2014 is on track to be the hottest year on record.

It was a familiar sight: Whitehouse has given a speech about climate change each of the last 83 weeks Congress has been in session.

He never has to give the same speech twice, he says — there are plenty of new angles to take on such a big problem.

The Democrat’s ever-changing, ever-present floor speeches — warnings over rising sea levels, warmer oceans, eroding coastlines and more — make him the Senate’s loudest, most persistent voice on the dangers of climate change.

Whitehouse is still haunted by what he saw after Superstorm Sandy: oceanfront houses in Rhode Island teetering into the sea. He fears future storms will be more catastrophic as sea level rises.  

“We’re not a very big state so we don’t have a lot of land to give away to the sea,” he said. He noted that Rhode Island finds itself “on the receiving end” of the climate change problem because it doesn’t have coal mines or oil drilling.

Whitehouse, now in his second term, is a former federal prosecutor and Rhode Island attorney general. His wife, Sandra Thornton Whitehouse, is a marine scientist who helped him see the importance of the oceans in everyone’s lives, he said.

“On a personal level, I have a deep fear of being ashamed,” he said. “I don’t want, 20 years from now, when this is way past our current discussion, to be ashamed that I didn’t do my best when we still had a chance to fix this problem.”

Whitehouse co-chairs the Senate Oceans Caucus and a congressional climate change task force. The caucus is working to get bipartisan legislation passed on fishing issues, ocean data monitoring and marine debris.

As the Senate switches to a Republican majority, however, Whitehouse faces significant hurdles in getting meaningful climate change legislation passed.

The oil and gas industry spent $53 million on the 2014 elections and nearly $75 million in 2012, with close to 90 percent of the contributions going to Republicans, according to the political money-tracking website OpenSecrets.org.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his top priority will be to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency, which is trying to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. He has said their “overreaching efforts” are strangling the economy. New environmental regulations have hampered U.S. job growth and caused a depression in eastern Kentucky coalfields, according to McConnell.

But Whitehouse is hopeful. In his speeches, he has candidly described how climate change will affect individual states — particularly ones with Republican leaders who he thinks might support new environmental policies.

And Whitehouse thinks Republicans will have to take more responsibility for solving problems when they’re in charge, and it will become a “colossal liability” for them to continue denying climate change as the 2016 elections near, he said.

Whitehouse thinks there’s a chance his latest proposal, to impose a carbon fee on industries that emit carbon pollution into the atmosphere, can gain some traction.

Prominent Republicans outside of government have endorsed a revenue-neutral fee on carbon, including Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state George Shultz, Reagan’s economic adviser Arthur Laffer and former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis. To make it palatable to conservatives, Laffer and Inglis say the fee should be offset by a cut to the income tax.

“What conservative wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to reduce the tax on income and put a tax on anything else?” said Inglis, a former South Carolina congressman.

Shultz, now a distinguished fellow at Stanford University, said the party is more concerned about climate change than it appears. Today’s highly partisan atmosphere, he said, “causes people to get on opposite sides of everything.”

“They’re sensible people and given the chance, they’ll do sensible things,” Shultz said. “I’m sure of it.”

Whitehouse has formed an unlikely energy alliance with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia. Manchin visited Rhode Island in October to see the effect of climate change firsthand and Whitehouse toured coal and energy resources in West Virginia. They plan to work on crafting legislation to invest in technology for cleaner fossil fuel energy.

In the new Congress, Whitehouse said, he’ll keep making speeches about climate change until there is “serious action” to address it.

Another environmental advocate, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, said Whitehouse’s climate change speeches present a “compelling, absolutely riveting case for action.”

“I consider myself vocal, but nobody is more vocal than Sheldon Whitehouse,” the Connecticut Democrat said. “He’s in a league of his own.”

Coldest Super Bowl could be the greenest

Think of the Super Bowl and you think of excess: Big money, big parties, big crowds and an even bigger mess left behind when the circus leaves town.

Well, at least the messy part is getting smaller. Beginning in the 1990s, the National Football League has sought to gradually reduce the footprint left behind by the Big Game, and the league is taking steps to make the Feb. 2 Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium the most environmentally friendly yet, from planting trees to offset carbon emissions to composting food waste to using biodiesel to power generators.

“We try and stay ahead of the curve,” said Jack Groh, a consultant who directs the NFL’s environmental programs. “We try and push the envelope every year.”

Most of the attention focused on this year’s Super Bowl is, understandably, on the challenges of holding it outdoors in the Northeast for the first time. Another, less-celebrated first: MetLife Stadium will compost food waste on game day, the first time that’s happened at a Super Bowl.

It’s not new for the stadium. Dave Duernberger, MetLife Stadium’s vice president of facilities, said the stadium produced 195 tons of food waste for composting last year, up from 153 tons the year before. Duernberger expects about seven or eight tons to be generated during the Super Bowl, which will go into a giant compactor and then be trucked to a local facility for processing. The end product can be used for landscaping.

Another innovation is the use of biodiesel fuel processed from waste cooking oil. According to Groh, a biodiesel mix will be used in generators that will power Super Bowl Boulevard, the 13-block party on Broadway that will feature entertainment and a giant toboggan slide, as well as generators that are augmenting the power supply on the MetLife Stadium grounds.

The head of Public Service Electric & Gas, the utility that provides power to the complex, has estimated that it will take about 18 megawatts of electricity to power the entire complex for the game, or what would be needed to power 12,000 homes. Of that, PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa said as much as six megawatts could be provided by the generators.

Greening the Super Bowl has been a passion project for Groh, who started out as a journalist before forming an environmental communications firm with his wife. He did his first work for the NFL at the 1994 Super Bowl in Atlanta, at a time when the simple recycling of plastic bottles and cans at stadiums was a significant step forward. He continuously seeks out new ways to wring as much value out of things that normally would be discarded.

For example, in the weeks leading up to this year’s Super Bowl, the NFL sponsored e-waste recycling events in New York and New Jersey that collected 9,000 pounds of old phones, computers and other gadgets, according to Verizon, which partnered in the program. Tens of thousands of trees have been planted in the metropolitan area to offset carbon emissions created by the game, Groh said.

After the game, the league will donate several miles of fabric signage to nonprofits or other groups for repurposing. In New Orleans, Groh said, local designers took the fabric and used it to make purses, dresses, shower curtains, beanbag chairs, tote bags and wallets.

“Our primary objective is to see that it doesn’t go to a landfill,” he said.

The efforts have drawn a thumbs-up from the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, whose president, Jeff Tittel, called the programs “good for the environment and good for the NFL’s image.”

“The NFL is doing a better job reducing greenhouse gases and offsetting carbon than the state of New Jersey is,” said Tittel, a consistent critic of Gov. Chris Christie’s environmental policies. “That’s the irony, they understand climate change better than our governor does.”

NOAA study links global warming, wild weather events in 2012

A study of a dozen of 2012’s wildest weather events found that man-made global warming increased the likelihood of about half of them, including Superstorm Sandy’s devastating surge and shrinking Arctic sea ice.

The other half – including a record wet British summer and the U.S. drought last year – simply reflected the random freakiness of weather, researchers with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British meteorological office concluded in a report issued this week.

The scientists conducted thousands of runs of different computer simulations that looked at various factors, such as moisture in the air, atmospheric flow, and sea temperature and level.

The approach represents an evolution in the field. Scientists used to say that individual weather events –a specific hurricane or flood, for example – cannot be attributed to climate change. But recently, researchers have used computer simulations to look at extreme events in a more nuanced way and measure the influence of climate change on their likelihood and magnitude.

This is the second year that NOAA and the British meteorology office have teamed up to look at the greenhouse gas connection to the previous year’s unusual events.

“We’ve got some new evidence that human influence has changed the risk and has changed it enough that we can detect it,” study lead author Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution for the British meteorological office, said at a news conference.

The researchers said climate change had made these 2012 events more likely: U.S. heat waves, Superstorm Sandy flooding, the changing Arctic sea ice, drought in Europe’s Iberian peninsula, and extreme rainfall in Australia and New Zealand.

The 78 international researchers, however, found no global warming connection for the U.S. drought, Europe’s summer extremes, a cold spell in the Netherlands, drought in eastern Kenya and Somalia, floods in northern China and heavy rain in southwestern Japan.

That does not mean that there weren’t climate change factors involved, just that researchers couldn’t find or prove them, said the authors of the 84-page study, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society

All 12 events – chosen in part because of their location and the effect they had on society – would have happened anyway, but their magnitude and likelihood were boosted in some cases by global warming, the researchers said.

The two events where scientists found the biggest climate change connection both hit the United States.

The likelihood of the record July U.S. heat wave that hit the Northeast and north-central region is four times greater now than in preindustrial times because of greenhouse gases, Stanford University climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh found in his analysis.

The kind of surge-related flooding that Superstorm Sandy brought to parts of New York City is about 50 percent more likely than it was in 1950, said study co-author William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer.

Stott said one of the hardest connections to make is for rainfall. The researchers were able to connect three of the eight instances of too much or too little rain to climate change; the five other instances were attributed to natural variability.

The different authors of the 21 chapters used differing techniques to look at climate change connections, and in some instances came to conflicting and confusing conclusions.

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Judith Curry, who often disagrees with mainstream scientists, said connecting shrinking sea ice to human activity was obvious, but as for Sandy and the rest: “I’m not buying it at all.”

Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, said the study provides “compelling evidence that human-caused change was a factor contributing to the extreme events.”

Island of seduction | Architecture, lifestyle of New York’s Fire Island celebrated in two new books

The way a kid feels that day before the last day of school before summer vacation? That’s the way Fire Island fans feel before the long Memorial Day weekend. The way a kid feels that day before the first day of the new school year? That’s the way Fire Island fans feel about Labor Day weekend.

You can read it in the tweets city-dwellers broadcast before Memorial Day weekend – the longing messages about catching the ferry to Fire Island, slipping into flip-flops, soaking up some sun, welcoming summer.

“Beach-bound, baby,” read one tweet.

“I heart Fire Island,” read another.

And then “Missed you. #FireIsland,” “Can’t wait to get to #FireIsland,” “Tingling thinking about #FireIslandPines,” “Escape to #FireIsland.”

The barrier island is about 5.5 miles across Great South Bay from Long Island and reached mostly by ferry. In the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 292 permanent residents, but the population swells in the summer, especially on the weekends, when thousands step off the ferry and head for a favorite spot on the seashore, a rendezvous at the lighthouse, a room at the Belvedere, an underwear party at The Ice Palace, a drag show at Cherries on the Bay, a Blanche Devereaux cocktail at the Blue Whale or a slice of cheese and pepperoni at Cherry Grove Pizza.

The island is a summer retreat from NYC for many. And it has long been a paradise for the gay community, particularly in Cherry Grove and the Pines.

In late May, after thousands of LGBT activists marched on Manhattan streets to protest a series of hate crimes, including the fatal shooting of a gay man on May 18, the serene seashore and peaceful pines beckoned with refuge and recreation.

Visitors on Memorial Day saw how much the island – largely through the Fire Island Revive campaign – has rebounded after Superstorm Sandy’s high tides and strong surge damaged buildings and washed away much of the shore in October 2012.

Visitors also saw the progress at the muscular Pavilion nightclub, the legendary Fire Island Pines dance club destroyed by fire in November 2011 and rebuilt for “high tea,” cabaret, theater, art exhibits and weddings.

“Although the new building has the same envelope and mix of uses as its predecessor, the similarities end there,” said developer Matthew Blesso of FIP Ventures. “The new structure is modern and casual, bold and iconic. It is the first thing visitors seen when getting off the ferry, and we envision it to once again be the heart of the Pines community.”

The Pavilion’s resurrection comes as the Pines marks its 60th anniversary, which explains why the island’s summer calendar is so crowded with events.

Examining the island’s past

Two newly published books explore the history and the culture of the community.

In “Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction” from Metropolis Books, Christopher Bascom Rawlins writes how the overlooked gay architect’s beach houses transformed the landscape and the culture of Fire Island.

Gifford grew up on the beaches of Florida and, in Rawlins’ telling, the architect’s deep connection to nature shows in the buildings he created for the shore just 50 minutes from the skyscrapers of New York.

Rawlins was exploring the Pines – “an urban invention, possessing a rustic-chic aesthetic that only a city-dweller could conjure” – when he caught a glimpse of a seductive home through a tangle of holly trees, then saw another intriguing home and another.

He began knocking on doors to inquire about the architect and, in each case, was told the designer was Gifford. Soon Rawlins rented what turned out to be Gifford’s residence and delved into a study of the architect’s life and work, which were so evocative of the Stonewall era – seductive, liberating, modern. The author describes seeing a slideshow of Gifford’s “ingenious homes flashed before me, tucked into lightly settled, utopian dunescapes. I was smitten, and determined to introduce this work to a broader public.”

“Tom Bianchi: Fire Island Pines, Polaroids 1975-1983” from Damiani could serve as a companion to “Fire Island Modernist.” Bianchi photographs even appear in “Modernist” to strengthen the ties.

Bianchi’s book – he provided the text and never-before published images, while Edmund White wrote the introduction – tells the story of sun, sex, camaraderie and reverie in the Pines.

Bianchi first heard of Fire Island in the 1950s, when he purchased a 25-cent “physique” magazine at a newsstand in downtown Chicago that contained a photograph of bodybuilder Glenn Bishop on Fire Island. “Fire Island sounded exotic, perhaps a name made up by the photographer,” wrote Bianchi. “I had no idea it was a real place. Certainly I had no idea then that it was a place I would one day call home.”

In 1970, Bianchi spent a weekend at Fire Island Pines, where he became a regular, got a beach house, found a community and made friends. He used an SX-70 Polaroid camera to lovingly celebrate the people – men mostly, bronzed and buff, in Speedos or faded Levi’s – in the Pines.

The sunny Polaroids end in 1983, as HIV brought disaster. Bianchi boxed the photographs and stored them at his Palm Springs, Calif., home for decades. He said the Polaroids became a record of a lost time and a lost world too painful to visit.

But when he opened the box years later, he found the lovers and friends, alive again, back on Fire Island.

2016 politics on display as Congress ends term

Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, voted for the “fiscal cliff” compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul voted against it. And Vice President Joe Biden helped broker the deal with GOP leaders in the Senate.

As Congress closed out its term this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused fellow Republicans of showing “callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state” by not holding a vote on Superstorm Sandy aid. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined him in the rebuke.

And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew headlines for a different reason after being hospitalized for a blood clot in her head, an illness that raised questions about the Democrat’s political future.

While the next presidential primary voting is still three years away, the political implications of the actions and whereabouts of the potential field of 2016 candidates hung over extraordinary year-end Washington drama.

The fiscal cliff vote forced those in Congress who are eyeing presidential runs to stake out early positions which signal how they may be aligning themselves – and which could come back to haunt them should they move forward.

The intense legislative debate also gave would-be candidates involved in them an opportunity to command the spotlight while rivals were on the sidelines. And the weeks of gridlock over the looming fiscal cliff of big tax increases and spending cuts provided governors weighing bids a chance to cast themselves as outsiders and, perhaps, start building a case for taming Washington paralysis.

For Republican White House hopefuls in Congress, the votes on the compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans could help frame future presidential primary debates over the debt ceiling, tax code reforms and how to fund government and entitlement programs. The party has rejected tax increases for more than two decades but now finds itself trying to regroup after President Barack Obama’s re-election and dealing with a struggle between Republicans who want to take a more pragmatic tax approach and tea party loyalists advocating a firm anti-tax position.

“The American people chose divided government. As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing,” Ryan said after joining with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in support of the bill, putting him in the minority of the GOP caucus and against the tea party.

Ryan may be spared some political fallout from the right, given that Republican activist Grover Norquist, who for years has pushed GOP lawmakers to pledge not to raise taxes, and several other conservative heavyweights supported the bill, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the former head of the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Two other potential 2016 presidential candidates drew praise from conservative opponents of the measure for voting to refuse tax increases.

Rubio, a prominent Hispanic lawmaker in a party trying to connect with Latino voters, called the legislation an impediment to “rapid economic growth and job creation.” The Florida senator also said it failed to control runaway debt. Paul, the son of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, opposed the bill because of the combination of spending and tax increases. The Kentucky senator said: “We’re going to raise taxes and we’re going to raise spending. Tell me what’s good about that?”

On the Democratic side, Biden played a major role in the deal-making, with his late-night talks with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell leading to the compromise plan. It was a reminder of the former Delaware senator’s legislative skills, which could either impress Democratic primary voters or anger liberals who may view the deal as too much of a compromise with Republicans.

As the vice president helped broker a deal, it was hard for Democrats to overlook where Clinton, the party’s formidable potential contender, was: She revealed she was being treated in a New York hospital for a blood clot in her head that formed after she suffered a concussion during a fainting spell in early December. She was released from the hospital Jan. 3 and doctors said they were confident she would make a full recovery. But the extended illness made it more likely that Clinton, 65, would face scrutiny over her health should she run.

Beyond Washington, two prominent Northeast governors weighed in on Congress’ year-end wrangling, and wasted little time assailing the House GOP leadership over hurricane relief.

Christie said his state had been betrayed by his fellow Republicans in the House, who refused to bring a Superstorm Sandy aid package to a vote, adding, “America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why.”

Cuomo, a Democrat long considered by party insiders to be a possible White House candidate, issued a joint statement with Christie condemning the “inaction and indifference” by the House. “The people of our states can no longer afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games,” they said. House Republicans said after Christie’s blistering news conference that they would hold a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the relief package.

It’s impossible to say whether this week’s votes and comments will become 2016 campaign fodder. But they certainly give hints about how possible candidates are testing the waters – and how their positions are faring with certain parts of the electorate.

“It strikes me that Ryan is thinking he wants to be the establishment candidate,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican who chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in the state. Conservatives may agree – and not look kindly on that. As Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and the editor of RedState.com, put it on Twitter, “Thus ends the Paul Ryan 2016 Presidential Exploratory Committee.”

Still, some Republicans dismissed any fallout from their candidates’ votes.

“I don’t ultimately think this one vote will hurt any of them,” said Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist. “But to some degree it probably forecasts their voting patterns for the future.”

NY assesses Fire Island post-Sandy

New Yorkers who cherish Fire Island as an idyllic summertime getaway feared the worst when the 32-mile-long barrier island took a direct hit from Superstorm Sandy’s powerful surge. The wall of water swamped nearly the entire island, destroyed or washed away about 200 homes and scraped sand dunes down to nothing.

Still, residents are counting their blessings.

That’s because more than 4,000 structures survived, at least enough to be repaired. And some are crediting the carefully maintained wall of dunes, ranging from 10 to 20 feet tall, with taking the brunt of the storm’s fury.

“The dunes were demolished, but without their protection it would have been much worse,” said Malcolm Bowman, a professor of physical oceanography at Stony Brook University.

Evidence of the hit the dunes absorbed is everywhere. A half-mile from the ocean, a blizzard of sand covers bicycles up to the handlebars. Wooden pilings are all that remain of stairs and walkways that passed over dunes and led down to the beach. A football-field-size network of concrete blocks that once sat under 6 feet of sand lay bare in the autumn sunshine. Houses on stilts that once peeked over sand berms now sit naked to the surf.

New Yorkers know Fire Island as their own private paradise, a close-to-home getaway that’s accessible only by ferry and feels like a different country. The strip of beaches five miles off the south shore of Long Island is three-fourths undeveloped and includes a national wilderness area.

It has just 300 permanent residents, but on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the population is swelled by 75,000 visitors who rent homes ranging in size from multilevel palaces to rustic bungalows. A couple of communities are favorite destinations of gay and lesbian visitors. Cars are banned in the summertime; denizens get around on bikes and boardwalks and tote their gear in red toy wagons.

Because of its remoteness, officials have only begun in the past week or so to allow the residents, and the others who own vacation homes and businesses, to return and assess the damage.

Retired electrical contractor Hyman Portnoy, whose two-story oceanfront home in the village of Ocean Beach suffered damage to its large deck, said rebuilding the dunes is a major concern.

“We haven’t got any protection now,” he said. “I’d be satisfied with anything. I’d be satisfied with a pile.”

Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association, which represents businesses and homeowners, noted that homeowners in many Fire Island communities – there are 17 different villages and hamlets – pay part of their property taxes to maintain the dunes.

But she expects the federal government will be asked to fund some of the dune restoration, arguing that maintaining the barrier island serves to protect not just Fire Island, but also the homes of the 3 million Long Islanders on the mainland.

Critics of federal funding of beach and dune replenishment say U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t pick up the tab for beaches enjoyed by only a fraction of the population. Replenishment backers counter that Congress has approved recovery funds for other disasters including Hurricane Katrina and last year’s tornadoes in Missouri.

The work of replacing sand dunes that washed away in the storm is already under way. Workers are scooping up sand from the streets, putting it in bags and piling it up where the dunes once stood.

Ocean waves demolished at least nine houses, left in splinters on the oceanfront, and about 200 others are severely damaged and likely to be condemned. Dozens of other homes appear uninhabitable without major repairs. Others are covered in muck several inches deep.

“Decimated,” Ocean Beach artist Kenny Goodman said last week as he returned to the shop he has owned for a quarter-century. When he first saw the damage from flooding in his store, he said, he was “really overwhelmed and sad – it’s just a gigantic loss.”

Goodman, a New Yorker who has been coming to Fire Island for 40 years, said he plans to rebuild his shop. “It will be different. Maybe by my grandchildren’s time it will be back,” but he also lamented, “It won’t be like it was.”

The Atlantic Ocean breached the narrow island in three places. Two of the breaches are being closed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; the National Park Service is evaluating whether a third breach should be closed by the Army Corps or allowed to close naturally.

As far as rebuilding, many jurisdictions – federal, state, county, town and local – will have a say in what can and can’t be rebuilt, said Fire Island National Seashore Superintendent Chris Soller. New York state has regulations about who can rebuild in some designated coastal erosion zones, although an official with the town of Brookhaven, which oversees some of the westernmost communities of the island’s 17 hamlets and villages, said special variances could be issued in some cases to allow rebuilding in those zones.

Fire Island, like many Northeast communities harmed by Sandy, is beginning to reassess where and how to rebuild, Goldhirsch said.

“It’s part of a new national dialogue,” she said. “The governor has said he wants to rebuild smarter and better, and I think we have to think about how we are going to do this so it’s better in the future. We have a lot to think about; there are no easy answers, no one answer.”

Political leaders need to come up with a long-term plan for future development on the island, said Bowman, the Stony Brook professor.

“Not just a rapid-fire reaction to a catastrophe; this is going to happen again,” he said. “Some of these things are going to be very expensive decisions, and we need a longer perspective.”

Storm-ravaged gay youth center in New York gets surge of support

It took only hours for Superstorm Sandy’s surging waters to destroy an emergency drop-in center for homeless gay youths in Manhattan. Four feet of water swamped the hallways and rooms, buckling the linoleum floors and caking the electrical outlets with sea salt.

But almost as quickly, a social media outpouring helped raise money for a new, bigger Ali Forney Center to keep helping dozens of young people a day with medical care, counseling and a safe place to sleep.

“I wish every day thousands of people would help get homeless kids off the street,” said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the last-ditch refuge for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths. “Too bad it takes a storm to get people to see how bad they have it.”

Siciliano founded the drop-in center in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood 10 years ago, naming it after Ali Forney, a gay 22-year-old who was shot to death on a Harlem street in 1997. He had been homeless since age 13, when his mother threw him out.

City officials estimate LGBT youths represent about half the city’s nearly 4,000 homeless young people, who sleep outdoors or in city subways, abandoned houses and even on rooftops. More than 100 would arrive at the center daily looking for support. The city reserves about 250 shelter beds for them, and Ali Forney offers 77 in various places, about 30 of them city-funded.

Even before Sandy, the center had planned to relocate to the 8,600-square-foot Harlem space, which is six times bigger than the original one and will be open 24 hours a day. Paying for the move and renovation was a big challenge – until Sandy came along.

The center, which was evacuated ahead of the Oct. 29 storm, was hit by the same surge of water along the Hudson River that swamped a power substation and flooded commuter tunnels.

A blogger picked up Siciliano’s Facebook posting about damage to the center, and it quickly went viral, tweeted to hundreds of thousands of followers by actors Pam Grier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

In the first three days, the center received almost 1,000 donations totaling more than $100,000. That total has grown to more than $250,000 – and counting – with contributions coming from around the world, including England, France, Sweden, Canada and Mexico.

“This shows the power of social media, when prominent people link digitally with a healthy network of people who connect emotionally,” said Ryan Davis, a pioneer in using social media in politics and activism who is on Ali Forney’s board.

About $400,000 is needed to replace what the center lost and prepare the Harlem site, which Siciliano hopes will be up and running by Christmas.

In the meantime, Ali Forney services have been temporarily set up at a nearby community center.

The day before Thanksgiving, Giovanni Stanley was waiting for a counselor who could help him find a bed so he wouldn’t have to stay with a friend in storm-ravaged Staten Island.

He said he was saddened after hearing that the original center was gone.

“They did so much for me; they helped me with Medicaid, food stamps, housing,” said Stanley, 20, who became homeless and dropped out of school about four years ago.

He is now working on getting his high-school equivalency diploma.

Storm-wrecked NY gay youth shelter gets quick help

It took only hours for Superstorm Sandy’s surging waters to destroy an emergency drop-in center for homeless gay youths. Four feet of water swamped the hallways and rooms, buckling the linoleum floors and caking the electrical outlets with sea salt.

But almost as quickly, a social media outpouring helped raise money for a new, bigger Ali Forney Center to keep helping dozens of young people a day with medical care, counseling and a safe place to sleep.

“I wish every day thousands of people would help get homeless kids off the street,” said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the last-ditch refuge for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths. “Too bad it takes a storm to get people to see how bad they have it.”

Siciliano founded the drop-in center in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood 10 years ago, naming it after Ali Forney, a gay 22-year-old who was shot to death on a Harlem street in 1997. He had been homeless since age 13, when his mother threw him out.

City officials estimate LGBT youths represent about half the city’s nearly 4,000 homeless young people, who sleep outdoors or in city subways, abandoned houses and even on rooftops. More than 100 would arrive at the center daily looking for support. The city reserves about 250 shelter beds for them, and Ali Forney offers 77 in various places, about 30 of them city-funded.

Even before Sandy, the center had planned to relocate to the 8,600-square-foot Harlem space, which is six times bigger than the original one and will be open 24 hours a day. Paying for the move and renovation was a big challenge – until Sandy came along.

The center, which was evacuated ahead of the Oct. 29 storm, was hit by the same surge of water along the Hudson River that swamped a power substation and flooded commuter tunnels.

A blogger picked up Siciliano’s Facebook posting about damage to the center, and it quickly went viral, tweeted to hundreds of thousands of followers by actors Pam Grier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

In the first three days, the center received almost 1,000 donations totaling more than $100,000. That total has grown to more than $250,000 – and counting – with contributions coming from around the world, including England, France, Sweden, Canada and Mexico.

“This shows the power of social media, when prominent people link digitally with a healthy network of people who connect emotionally,” said Ryan Davis, a pioneer in using social media in politics and activism who is on Ali Forney’s board.

About $400,000 is needed to replace what the center lost and prepare the Harlem site, which Siciliano hopes will be up and running by Christmas.

In the meantime, Ali Forney services have been temporarily set up at a nearby community center.

On Wednesday, Giovanni Stanley was waiting for a counselor who could help him find a bed so he wouldn’t have to stay with a friend in storm-ravaged Staten Island.

He said he was saddened after hearing that the original center was gone.

“They did so much for me; they helped me with Medicaid, food stamps, housing,” said Stanley, 20, who became homeless and dropped out of school about four years ago.

He is now working on getting his high-school equivalency diploma.

On the Web…

Ali Forney Center: http://www.aliforneycenter.org