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Neighbor to Neighbor -- The Downtown Solution: IPNTA's Guide to Community Healing


In lower Manhattan, many residents are not yet organized with their neighbors. This can be remedied with a little creativity and some organizational sense.

It only takes one or two people to start the ball rolling. Some of you might already have co-op or condo boards. This is a great start. For those of you who do have an organization, you should consider having one person — or more — start an emergency action committee. The committee should identify who:

  • has young children
  • needs life supporting medication
  • are disabled
  • are seniors
  • could help in an emergency (identify skills and professions, i.e., doctors/nurses, architects, social workers, therapists)

This need not be invasion of privacy. A sample form can be distributed to residents, who should be asked to fill in the information. The need for this information is not speculative. We have already seen what happens when everyone is on their own.

If each tenant has the email and phone number of a committee leader, it will be easier to keep in contact if evacuation is necessary. It’s difficult to know when it will be possible to return home if no one is in charge — someone must take responsibility to get information for the rest of the neighbors.

“My cell phone number was mysteriously distributed as a Tribeca emergency number and I became the contact person for area residents who did not have tenant associations.”

If you discover there aren't enough people in your building who are interested yet, expand out to a block association. And if there are very few people on your block — pick a range of streets or an area — and create a neighborhood association.

Talk to some of your neighbors about it. See who is willing to at least help it get started. The person who eventually heads up the group, and an assistant, should be selected by ability — to keep a clear head and make good choices especially in an emergency. The person doesn't have to operate alone, but it's important to have one or two selected leaders who will serve as coordinators of the group. (President, Vice President, Co-captain, you decide.)

At Independence Plaza our leadership motto is: "Focus on the goal and leave the personal agendas at home." In other words, the person who leads the group must keep the Group's well-being as the most important motivating factor.

Johns Hopkins University's Center for Civilian Biodefense invited a representative of the Independence Plaza North Tenant Association to share our experience of 9/11/01, and the ten-day aftermath, at a seminar held in Washington DC last November.

The Center felt that IPN's response exemplified the positive ability and resilience of an American Community in an impossible situation. The audience was comprised of medical organizations, government & volunteer emergency responders, members of the Center for Disease Control, etc. Days later we received emails that five groups were already organizing around the country as a direct result of IPN's presentation.

"September 11th and the Role of the Neighborhood Association" is available on the IPNTA web site:

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