As you watched the 12.12.12 Sandy Relief concert, did you feel a little left out? There is a good reason for that feeling of charitable abandonment: You were left out. If you have a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Ventnor, a business in Sea Isle that is still closed, or if, god forbid, you are one of the 12 families in Pennsylvania who lost a loved one to the storm, 12.12.12 wasn’t for you. Wrong zip code, sorry.
Sandy affected homes and lives from the Carolinas to Maine. Most of them are flat out of luck too. But 12.12.12 was aimed at the New York area. It’s not that the New York area doesn’t need most of the money; it was the hardest area hit, and the death and destruction is horrifying. But it seems odd, with a concert of this nature, that every other area is left out.
I started to get suspicious when every performer, speaker and pre-produced package talked about Queens, Staten Island, Long Island, Connecticut and the North Jersey Coast. Even Steve Buscemi, who stars in Boardwalk Empire, a TV show based on Atlantic City, never mentioned South Jersey. It seems the relief effort goes as far north as David Letterman’s home and as far south as Bruce Springsteen’s beloved Asbury Park.
The Robin Hood Foundation, the non-profit organization distributing the money, has this on its website: “We find, fund and partner with programs that have proven they are an effective remedy to poverty and are a consistent force for good in the lives of New Yorkers in need.”
For the Sandy relief effort, the organization has expanded its scope, but that still excludes us and, seemingly, everyone in a 30-mile radius of Manhattan.
“Robin Hood has launched a large-scale relief effort to aid our neighbors in the tri-state area whose lives have been shattered by Hurricane Sandy. Within hours of the storm, Robin Hood-funded non-profits were providing blankets, hot food, heaters, generators and more to residents in Red Hook, Coney Island, the Rockaways and all across the region.”
In case you were wondering, Pennsylvania is not one of the “tri-states.”
This morning I made several calls to the Robin Hood Foundation and have been given the runaround. If you were hit hard by Sandy, give them a call at 212-227-6601 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask if you’re geographically excluded.
Through the night, concert participants bragged that two billion people around the world were watching the international event. Thirty million dollars have been raised in ticket sales. The real money will come in donations and merchandizing and could be closer to $300 million—all going to one small non-profit in New York City.
There is sure to be scrutiny over that money and investigations into how it is distributed. My hope is that the charity donates to Sandy victims up and down the coast. My fear is that organizers will use the extra money for their own pet projects in the New York City area, which would not necessarily be false advertising. This is how the website promoted the event:
“12-12-12”, a fundraising concert to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy, will take place on December 12 at Madison Square Garden. The concert is being presented by Chase, and the proceeds will go to the Robin Hood Relief Fund. Robin Hood, the largest independent poverty fighting organization in the New York area, will insure that every cent raised will go to non-profit groups that are helping the tens of thousands of people throughout the tri-state area who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy.”
Since everyone in the New York area was “affected by Hurricane Sandy” in some way, the charity could defend almost any use of the money in the New York area.
As for the rest of us, maybe we can hold our own concert. Where’s Will Smith when you need him?