IRC's U.S. Headquarters Remains Closed One Week After a Pipe Explosion Jolts Midtown Manhattan
On July 18, dozens of IRC staff were among thousands of people forced to evacuate their mid-town Manhattan offices when a huge underground steam pipe explosion ripped open a street, shook buildings, shattered windows, and spewed water, steam, dirt, bricks and debris in all directions.
One of the worst-affected buildings houses the IRC’s U.S. headquarters. The office remains in a “frozen zone” that has been closed off for possibly several weeks while safety inspections and a massive clean-up effort are conducted.
“The temporary closure of our N.Y. headquarters is certainly a major inconvenience, but our priority must be the safety and well being of staff,” says the IRC’s president, George Rupp. “We take consolation in knowing that our aid teams across the United States and elsewhere around the world continue to assist millions of people in need. With the exception of our refugee resettlement programs in New York, most of our New York-based staff are able to conduct their work from home.”
The New York resettlement office, which provides direct help to refugees, had to quickly improvise, says Christine Petrie, who manages the IRC’s national resettlement programs.
“Refugees who just arrived are being directed to donated office space, where we are conducting orientation, filling out paperwork for benefits, arranging health screenings and providing the kind of one-on-one assistance that is crucial for helping the newcomers adjust and settle in,” says Petrie.
For refugees who have already received basic orientation, the IRC, starting today, is sending mobile teams to refugee households to provide additional services that are usually offered in the office.
For now, less critical programs, like job-readiness workshops and computer classes, have been put on hold.