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Entries in Sandy (7)

Tuesday
Nov132012

SBA, IRS Helping Businesses Hurt by Sandy

Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Beleaguered businesses in and around New York City, still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, are beginning to get relief in the form of government loans and tax breaks.

In communities like Red Hook in Brooklyn, the storm surge affected enterprises big and small: The sprawling Fairway Market chain saw the ground floor of its Red Hook market -- located in a 19th Century brick warehouse -- destroyed by the same wall of water that flooded out the basement of tiny textile and stationery boutique Foxy & Winston a few blocks away.

At the Brooklyn Navy Yard Industrial Park, Dal LaMagna, CEO and president of IceStone USA, has applied for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan of $1.9 million.  The company, which turns recycled glass into counter-tops, employs 39.  After years of losses, it was just starting to turn the corner into profitability when Sandy knocked it for a loop.

"Sandy slammed the door shut in our face," says LaMagna.  "Our inventory was completely submerged.  All our marketing materials were under water."

So, too, were 60 electric motors and 70 electrical outlets.  Five forklift trucks will have to be replaced.  His insurer, he says, told him he was out of luck because IceStone's coverage did not include coastal flooding.

"We can't afford to replace the equipment," he says.  "The only good news: We may get an SBA loan.  We applied for one immediately.  We wanted to make sure we were at the head of the line.  I can't imagine how many will apply."

And if he doesn't get it, "We're done," LaMagna says.  "We'll have to close.  My goal is to save 39 people's jobs."

Bill Sanford, CEO of Fairway, tells ABC News his Red Hook inventory is "a total loss."  Though Fairway was "very well insured" against a catastrophe, he does not rule out the possibility that the company may eventually seek assistance from the SBA, which is making loans of up to $2 million to companies struggling to get back on their feet.

Over at Foxy & Winston, owner and artist Jane Buck says, "Our basement is a mess."  Her losses include a box of children's T-shirts ($600), which she accidently dropped during the storm, only to see it swept away by floodwaters.  

Though business is slow, she's managed to reopen.  

"I'm one of the lucky ones," she tells ABC News.  It may take a month, she thinks, for neighboring businesses to be up and running again.

Buck says she's aware of the loans being offered by the SBA and is thinking of applying -- in her case, for $25,000.

"Part of me says the money ought to go to someone more in need than me," she says.  "But maybe three months from now I'll wish I'd borrowed.  The interest rate is just 1 percent.  Part of me thinks I should get in line."

Carol Chastang, press liaison for the SBA, says anyone can apply for these loans -- you don't have to be a small business owner, nor do you have to own a building or a home.  Renters are eligible, so, too, are non-profits.  Of the several kinds of loans available, some cover damages to structures and property, others are meant to supply funds for payroll and other operating costs.

Borrowers, depending on their financial health, can get up to 30 years to repay.  The loans are the same kind as were offered after hurricanes Irene and Katrina.

The IRS also is offering relief.  Under certain circumstances, affected business owners will be given additional time to file returns and pay taxes.  The service also provides advice on reconstructing lost or damaged business records.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov052012

Instagram CEO: Sandy Our Most Documented Event Ever

Andres Betancur/ABC News(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The smartphone photo sharing app Instagram was an instant hit when it debuted in 2010. Now, two years later, the app has quickly become the most popular way that phone users share pictures, and may soon become the most popular means to share photos in any way.

When superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast last week, many people reached for their phones to document the aftermath. Most of them, it seems, used Instagram to snap the photo.

“Sandy was a really interesting event for us,” Systrom said at the Nov. 5 GigaOM conference in San Francisco. “Sandy was the single largest event captured on Instagram — and the largest event captured on cellphones ever.”

According to Systrom, nearly one million Instagram photos were uploaded with the hashtag #Sandy.

That means Instagram is much more than just a way to show off to your friends. Users, Systrom says, are now updating their accounts to document important events like Sandy in what amounts to participation in the event. Instead of passive documentation, Instagram users are communicating with photos and making their Instagram experience more than just about consumption.

That conversation with photos is also about to get even easier, as the smartphone-based app expands onto the Web. The company, which was purchased by Facebook in the spring of 2012 for nearly $1 billion, is rolling out Instagram profiles, complete with user bios and photo streams of recent uploads.

According to a post on the Instagram blog, Web profiles will be rolled out “over the next few days” in a move that is sure to open the platform up to even more users.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov052012

New Jersey Couple Aids Hunt for Gas with Twitter

iStockphoto/KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(CHERRY HILL, N.J.) -- Anna Sandler and and husband Michael started the Twitter handle @njgas earlier this year to alert fellow New Jersey residents to cheap gas they spotted in their travels. But after finding they were broadcasting to less than 50 people, the couple gave up.

Fast forward to this past Thursday when it was clear that the lack of power caused by Hurricane Sandy was contributing to a gas shortage in New York and New Jersey. That's when the Sandlers noticed people started following their handle.

"We picked up, like, 500 followers," Anna said. "People wanted to know about gas, but this time it was about where it was and the lines, not how cheap it was."

It was their calling.

Since then, the two, who live in Maplewood but have been headquartered out of Michael's parents house near Cherry Hill with their three kids since they lost power, have been taking turns manning the Twitter handle. They have helped clarify the New Jersey gas rationing rules, they have retweeted intelligence about lines at certain gas stations and they've warned those looking to fill up cans that gas stations might turn them away if they don't bring a red canister.

As some in the state have panicked, scrambling around for gas stations with lights on before their tanks hit empty, the Sandlers have been an unexpected comfort to those inconvenienced by the effect of the storm.

"I think we've proven that you don't have to go to Staten Island and other hard hit areas to help out," Anna Sandler said. "We're hoping to make a difference from the warmth of the home we're in."

In just a couple days, the @njgas handle has accumulated more than 6,000 followers, partly because Anna Sandler is good at what she does. She co-owns a social media firm called Sandler Wald that helps out small businesses in New Jersey.

The Sandlers quickly became experts at the science of finding gas and spreading the information. Stop at gas stations in-town instead of at highly trafficked rest stops. Be wary of information, especially supposed news of gas truck deliveries, many of which don't pan out. And don't be afraid to do what most never do, tip the attendants.

The Twitter handle quickly filled a niche.

Besides Hess, which tweeted out gas inventory volume at its locations every two hours, the big brands weren't doing anything to help and clarification about the gas rationing rules in New Jersey wasn't easy to find.

Anyone following @njgas realized that if they had an odd number license plate and gas was allowed that day for odd numbers, they had to make sure they got to the front of the line before the clock struck midnight.

"We tried to make sure that people knew the rules before they waited for hours in line," Anna Sandler said. "A lot of people got on line and didn't realize that they could only pay cash."

The handle also served individual requests by retweeting people looking for help.

"I would follow the thread and sometimes you'd see 10 or 12 people help give that person some information," she said.

After a tense weekend filled with hour-long or longer lines at gas stations across the state, more areas are having their power restored and the gas is becoming more plentiful.

It's possible that there will be no need for @njgas by this Wednesday or Thursday.

Said Anna Sandler: "I'd be thrilled. I don't have time to do this all day."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Nov042012

Superstorm Sandy Relief: Anheuser-Busch Turns Beer Into Water

ABC News (NEW YORK) -- They’re not turning water into wine but it’s almost as miraculous.

They are turning beer into water.

About 44 thousand cases of water instead of brew are heading to the New York/New Jersey area free of charge.

“Personally, for me it does mean a little bit more because I do have family affected by it,” said Anheuser-Busch Plant Manager Scott Vail, who is originally from New Jersey.

It sounds novel, but Anheuser-Busch has been converting beer lines to water lines for disaster relief dating back to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Since 1988, the company has donated 71 million cans of water.

“(It) makes us feel great, a lot of people don’t have opportunities to help, so we look at this actually as an opportunity to help,” said Anheuser-Busch employee Sam McElveen.

Anheuser-Busch is not the only company stepping out their box to help in Sandy relief efforts.

Victoria’s Secret known for sexy ladies wear generated attention for loaning their generators to the National Guard during the storm.

Hess is delivering their gasoline to rival gas stations in need.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

What You Should Know Before Donating to a Disaster Charity or Paying a Contractor

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Department of Justice has warned of the potential for disaster fraud in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, which ravaged millions of homes and businesses along the Atlantic Coast, and as of Friday morning, had left more than 3.6 million people in 11 states without power.

Suspected fraudulent activity relating to storm relief efforts should be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud's toll-free hot line at 866-720-5721, which is available 24-hours a day, seven-days a week .

Located in Baton Rouge, La., the fraud center was established by the Justice Department in the fall of 2005 following Hurricane Katrina. Its task force has prosecuted 1,439 individuals throughout the country related to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, according to the center. Those prosecutions included charity scams, government and private-sector benefit fraud, identity theft, contract and procurement fraud and public corruption.

The Federal Trade Commission has stepped in too with help on how home and business owners who need to hire contractors can avoid scammers.

First, said the FTC, ask for copies of a contractor's general liability and worker's compensation insurance. Homeowners are advised to check the contractor's identification and references.

"Deal with reputable people in your community," the FTC advises.

Next, if a down payment is required, pay only the minimum.

If you suspect a contractor is committing fraud, contact local law enforcement authorities and the Better Business Bureau.

The FTC offers the following tips for donating to charities:

1. Donate only to charities you know and trust.

Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight. Conduct due diligence on a charity. One way is to contact the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org.
 
2. Ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser.

The FTC advises that consumers ask fundraisers who they work for, and what percentage of a donation goes to the charity and what percentage to the fundraiser. "If you don't get a clear answer, or if you don't like the answer you get, consider donating to a different organization," the FTC states.

3. Do not give out personal or financial information.

Your personal information includes your credit card or bank account number. The FTC says don't give that out unless you know the charity is reputable.

4. Never send cash.

If you give in cash, you won't know for sure if the organization will ever receive your donation, nor will you have a record for tax purposes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Hurricane Sandy Takes Down Gawker, Huffington Post and Other Websites

Photos.com/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It was inevitable. With power out along the Eastern Seaboard for millions of people, the data centers and servers powering many websites were also hit, knocking popular websites offline for hours.

The biggest casualty? Datagram, the Internet service provider based in New York City that powers news sites like Gawker.com, Huffingtonpost.com and Buzzfeed.com. When its servers went down on Monday night due to flooding, the sites it powered went down with it.

"Unfortunately, within a couple hours of the storm hitting Manhattan's shores, the building's entire basement, which houses the building's fuel tank pumps and sump pumps, was completely filled with water and a few feet into the lobby," Datagram said in a statement on its site. "Due to electrical systems being underwater the building was forced to shut down to avoid fire and permanent damage."

As a result Gawker, owner of sites such as Gawker.com, Gizmodo, and Jezebel, also went down late Monday night. "We're continuing to work on our servers and will be back online as soon as is possible. We miss you already. Stay dry," Gawker tweeted from its account last night.

Gawker switched to Wordpress and Tumblr, different website and blogging platforms, as backups for its site. Gizmodo has been live blogging the aftermath of Sandy on its Sandy 2012 Emergency Site.

"While we're obviously disappointed with Datagram, our priority has been getting back online for our readers with an alternate publishing platform, which we've now done with all sites, thanks to Tumblr," Scott Kidder, Gawker's Executive Director, Operations, told ABC News.

Buzzfeed.com and The Huffington Post were also affected by Datagram's outage. Buzzfeed, a site that has surged in popularity in the last couple of months, was able to recover its full site, though, more quickly than others were.

"Elements of BuzzFeed's site and many story pages are back online, thanks to a Content Delivery Network, Akamai, which hosts the content at servers distributed around the world," Buzzfeed wrote on its blog Monday.

"Two key things helped BuzzFeed recover: After Hurricane Irene last year, BuzzFeed commissioned an offsite datacenter that replicates everything in near real-time. More recently, the site started using Akamai to cache content. That means that when Datagram was offline, the site and its pages should have stayed up — and many did," Buzzfeed's Matt Buchanan said in a post on Buzzfeed's FWD tech site.

Similarly, The Huffington Post had a backup server in Newark to rely on.

"Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, HuffPost was accessible via a temporary site -- status.huffingtonpost.com -- and writers and editors relied on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter to post stories and information during the storm," the Huffington Post said on its site following the outage.

MarketWatch also went down for a brief period of time, but it is unclear if that was a result of Datagram's outage.

On Tuesday afternoon Datagram had reported that Consolidated Edison and city workers were helping to restore the services and that there were "at least five pumps pumping water from the basement into the street."

While Datagram will eventually come back online, Kidder added that Gawker will be speeding up its plans to have a second data center. "We -- as other publishers -- had counted on Datagram's ability to withstand anticipated natural disasters, which seems to have been misplaced."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct302012

Hurricane Sandy: Waffle House Index Points Relief to Eastern Pennsylvania

Jim Stratford/ Bloomberg News(ALLENTOWN, Pa.) -- Two red, two yellow. What sounds like a child sorting Halloween hard candies this year doubles as something a bit more important to state and federal disaster-management officials: the Waffle House Index for Hurricane Sandy.

Two Waffle Houses near Allentown, Pa., were closed, and two in Maryland were open but serving a limited menu, according to Waffle House spokesperson Kelly Thrasher. All were without electricity; the open ones had gas and water.

Thrasher summarized the Index: when an official phones a Waffle House and the restaurant is open and serving the full menu, the index is Green. When the restaurant is open but serving a limited menu, it’s yellow. When it’s closed, it’s red.

Federal Emergency Management Administration head Craig Fugate devised the index after leading Florida’s response to several hurricanes in the 2000s. Based on the 24-hour restaurant chain’s hardy reputation and presence across the Southeast, it is an informal yet handy way to assess an area’s post-calamity condition.

This allows officials to do quick disaster-relief triage: red areas need help first, and fast.

Thrasher said Hurricane Isaac closed 40 restaurants on the gulf coast for a few days. She attributed the difference between this and Sandy to the chain’s high concentration of restaurants in the gulf area. Their restaurants in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania are fewer and more spread out.

Unfortunately, there are no Waffle Houses in New Jersey or New York.

The company was “definitely proactive” before Sandy hit, Thrasher said. They tracked the storm all last week and sent an advance team pre-landfall with extra supplies and employees.

The Waffle House Index even has its own Twitter hashtag. “How can the severity of Sandy be measured? The northern most WaffleHouse is in Ohio. #WaffleHouseIndex,” a Twitter user [@rkeni2] tweeted Monday.

Thrasher called the attention “very flattering,” but added: “This is what we do all the time: to be there for our customers and associates on an everyday basis.”

A call to FEMA went unreturned. Perhaps they were busy calling Waffle House.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio