Tag Archives: American Red Cross

Op-ed: The importance of having strong swimming skills

| oped@queenscourier.com


As we knock on summer’s door, I am reflecting on the overwhelming number of people I speak to on a daily basis who STILL don’t know how to swim! The American Red Cross conducted a recent survey and discovered that nearly half of American adults cannot swim. Their definition for the purpose of the survey: “Adults should be able to float or tread water for about a minute, then be able to turn yourself so you can orient to a position of safety. Then you swim at least 25 yards and then get out of the water,” said Connie Harvey, a water safety expert of the American Red Cross.

Why is this the case? It’s true — the statistics are scary. In the U.S. on average, every day, 10 people die due to drowning. Drowning is the second largest cause of death for children ages 14 and younger, with kids of color drowning three times more than their Caucasian peers. Amazingly, it is the leading cause of death for children 5 and younger, with many of those tragedies happening around the home! And on a global scale, drowning is the second largest cause of death, period.

On the flip side, swimming is one of the most beneficial activities you can do ALL of your life! It is the best cardio/pulmonary and skeletal friendly exercise bar none. It’s a total body workout, working every muscle group, but with low impact. Embracing swimming as part of your exercise regime will help you avoid chronic health issues like obesity, heart problems and diabetes. From a cosmetic point of view, swimmers rarely look anywhere near their actual ages. It is the true fountain of youth.

The benefits of taking the skill to a competitive level certainly transcend the pool. Swimming is a sport that challenges the individual, for the benefit of the team. As a member of a community-based swim team advancing through participating as an elite swimmer on a national team, you will learn self-discipline, goal-setting, commitment, teamwork, perseverance, resiliency, and organizational and leadership skills. I often speak with educators from the primary school level through postgraduate levels who reflect that competitive swimmers do very well academically. Why? Because it takes a laser-like focus, self-discipline and the organizational skills needed to multitask so that you can successfully manage your time to swim multiple workouts during the day while going to school, doing homework and, in some cases, also going to work. Naturally, these skills will benefit individuals from their academic lives into their careers, family lives and into the community as well.

Strong swimming skills enhance your life in many ways. Once you have them, you can explore 32 other water-based sports. In some cases (water polo, competitive swimming and diving, rowing) there are college scholarships available. In other cases, like surfing … not so much! However, each sport is both physically and mentally challenging and you will meet people with similar interests and expand your social circle in a great way.

There are also career opportunities available in the aquatics industry and the military, hospitality, sports and entertainment fields that utilize these skills.

So, why are you waiting? For safety, health and recreation, there is nothing like it. The younger you start, the better, but it’s never too late to learn to swim.

Water Safety + Swimming Skills = LIFE Skills

Shawn Slevin is the founder of Swim Strong Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, saving and changing lives through swimming in NYC.



New program to help with post-Sandy mold damage

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Though FEMA assistance can help homeowners deal with some of the devastating effects of Sandy, there is no direct federal funding for mold removal.

A new program aims to solve that issue for around 2,000 homes in hard-hit areas.

Using private money raised to help storm victims, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, in partnership with the American Red Cross and Robin Hood Foundation, is sponsoring a $15 million mold remediation program, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced.

The mold treatment will be performed free of charge by private contractors and nonprofit organizations.

“Through our first-of-its-kind Rapid Repairs program, we have helped more than 15,000 families return to their homes. But mold remains a challenge that many residents are confronting,” said Bloomberg.

“More than three months after Hurricane Sandy, while recovery and rebuilding is ongoing, families are beginning to discover that mold is a serious concern for their families,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder. “For most, mold remediation was too costly or when done, not addressed properly and now with summer season approaching, mold can have a very dangerous effect on our health and environment.”

The Mayor’s Fund is also sponsoring free training sessions on mold remediation, where thousands of free mold supply will be distributed.

Below is a list of the first series of these mold treatment sessions. The locations will continue to be updated as they are scheduled. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov or by calling 311.

January 31, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Shorefront Y (Spanish Only)
3300 Coney Island Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11235

February 2, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Gerritsen Beach Fire Department
43 Seba Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11229

February 4, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Gerritsen Beach Fire Department
43 Seba Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11229

February 4, 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM
P.S. 195
131 Irwin Street
Brooklyn, NY 11235

February 5, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Gospel Assembly Church
2828 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224

February 5, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Bayswater Jewish Center
2355 Healy Avenue
Far Rockaway, NY 11691

February 23, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
CYO-MIV Community Center at Mount Loretto
6541 Hylan Boulevard
Staten Island, NY 10309

February 9, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
St. Clare’s Parish
137-35 Brookville Boulevard
Queens, NY 11422

February 13, 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM
P.S. 277
2529 Gerritsen Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11229

February 13, 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island
3001 West 37th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11224

February 13, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Bayswater Jewish Center
2355 Healy Avenue
Far Rockaway, NY 11691

February 16, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
St. Clare’s Parish
137-35 Brookville Boulevard
Queens, NY 11422

February 16, 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Oasis Church
539 Greeley Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10306



Deadly fire in Woodside

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Michael Pantelidis

Woodside residents received a terrifying wake-up call in the early hours of November 18 – a two-alarm fire running rampant in their community.

“I was asleep and all of a sudden I heard a huge explosion,” said Connor Ratliff, who lives a block away from where the blaze erupted. “I looked out my back window and I saw these giant flames.”

The fire, which spawned in a house located at 40-38 61st Street, eventually spread and caused severe damage to two neighboring homes.

The FDNY was initially notified at 1:15 a.m.

“When we first arrived, there was a very heavy amount of fire in the initial building,” said Rescue 4 Captain Joe Gandiello. “The power lines had come down in front of the building and landed on Ladder 163’s trucks. It was a very chaotic scene. Firefighter Ron Daly was assigned to check the rear of the fire building and upon his arrival he was met by a civilian who had self evacuated, and he told Ron there were people still trapped in the house. At this point most of the house was on fire. Ron broke the window into the rear bedroom, climbed in and found a [63-year-old man] unconscious. He dragged him back to the window and handed him out to Firefighter John Tew. There was also a dog with the man and [Daly] passed the dog out the window as well. Having witnessed Firefighter Daly remove this man, it was one of the most courageous acts I’ve seen in my 27 years in the fire department.”

According to an FDNY spokesperson, one resident, who was trapped inside the burning, two-story house, died in the blaze, and five people – four residents and a firefighter – were injured. The residents were taken to nearby hospitals, three of them with unknown injuries and one 54-year-old victim with burns to their face. The firefighter suffered minor injuries.

Ratliff, who admits he has never heard anything like the explosion before, feared the worst when he heard the boom.

“I left my building because I wanted to know what was going on, because we are in the flight path of LaGuardia,” he said. “All I heard was an explosion and planes so I thought someone dropped a bomb on the neighborhood. It was terrifying.”

The inferno required the work of 25 trucks and over 106 firefighters before finally settling down at 3:10 a.m.

As of press time, the cause of the fire remained unknown.

One Woodside resident speculated that the number of people living in the home contributed to the outbreak of flames.

“There are too many illegal conversions around here,” he said. “If one family lived there – a couple with their kids – this would never have happened. But people are buying one family houses all around here and converting them into two and three family houses.”

In the wake of the tragedy, members of the Woodside community united on November 19 for a vigil in front of the remains of the burned houses.

“I met one guy who lived next to the house where the first started. He, his wife and his kids lost everything,” said Daniel Gilland, who lives two houses away from where the fire raged. “He was still kind of in shock. I met another family that lived in that same house, and they had some pictures they could salvage, but most of their stuff was gone too.”

Roughly 20 people attended the vigil in support of the residents who lost their homes, and in memory of the victim who lost much more.

“We wanted to pray for the victims and the person who died,” Gilland said. “As a community we want to get together and do whatever we can for them.”

The American Red Cross, which responded to the scene of the fire, has provided five families – 13 adults and 4 children – whose homes have become unlivable after the blaze with emergency housing in area hotels. Four of the families were given emergency funds to purchase food and clothing, and the Red Cross has made support services, including mental health services, available to the victims as well.

According to Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, a clothing drive is also being organized to aid the victims of the fire.

“I think Woodsiders are a very caring and united group of people who are quick to respond to the needs of others,” said the councilmember. “As we saw with September 11 memorials, it is a neighborhood that doesn’t forget and comes together in times of tragedy and need and does for others. Woodisders are very much there for each other.”