Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern seaboard the evening of Monday October 29, and the aftermath is well-reported in the media. But how exactly did it affect GTS? Currently GTS is operational with heat, power and hot water, but that was not always so. At 8:30 p.m. on October 29, power was knocked out to all of lower Manhattan, including GTS. This meant the loss of not only electricity, but also of heat, hot water, and cell phone service. The lower areas of some buildings in the west campus also flooded from the storm surge. Part of the damage was to the main boiler which provides heat to much of the campus. Once power was restored on November 2, it still took a few days to restart the geothermal wells that heat a some of the buildings on campus. And even today the main boiler is still not in working order and is undergoing an assessment at to the extent of the damage. In the meantime heat is being provided by a temporary boiler parked on 21st Street outside the Seminary.
The storm may have hit on Monday, but preparations were already underway at GTS the previous week. The Friday before the storm, a team assembled and decided that a special area of the website would be designated for storm updates and a link would be placed on the front page of the GTS website. This would be a central place where community members could get updates about the status of GTS. Indeed, the link was activated on Sunday, October 28 to indicate that GTS would close in preparation for the storm, and it was updated on a regular basis. Beginning the day after the storm Associate Dean Patrick Malloy also sent daily pastoral letters to the community via email with important information. These letters and updates were republished on the GTS News web site (news.gts.edu) and on our Facebook page (facebook.com/TheGeneralSeminary). Headlines from GTS News are also automatically posted to the front page of the GTS website. Throughout the power outage the Keller Library stayed open as a resource for the GTS Community, and the IT Department worked diligently to assess, protect and restore equipment on-campus. GTS staff members, some without power in their own homes, stepped up to the plate, whether to reestablish on-campus communications, to keep the library open, or to post GTS News updates from public wifi hotspots.
On November 5, staff who could safely come to work returned and a community meeting was called to discuss the way forward. Dean Malloy remarked that it was the most well-attended meeting he had seen since his arrival at GTS. At the meeting a plan was presented and revised about where to hold classes, whether to worship in an unheated chapel (yes), and how the community would move forward as things returned to normal. Classes resumed on November 6, and centralized heat was connected to the rest of the campus on November 9 using a portable boiler.
As the recovery continues, GTS students, faculty, staff, and alumni/ae have all came together to help each other and the surrounding communities. GTS alums ministered to those affected by the storm and GTS and VTS postponed the annual flag football game to participate in a day of service at low-income housing near General Seminary.