We Can Do It

Medi in Rockefeller CenterPhoto: Kenneth Chen

Just three weeks ago, our taxi-riding, NoLiTa-shopping, cocktail-consuming ways were seen – even sometimes by ourselves – as a sign of decadence, if not a Sex and the City script. Now we realize how innocent we were. Now, we learn, eating and drinking and theatergoing and spending (not to mention giving and volunteering) are the patriotic duty of all who consider themselves New Yorkers. The city still needs heroes. And on the following pages you’ll find innumerable ways to help save your city – whether or not you’re a credit-card-carrying American.

If red, white, and blue are your new favorite colors, let your dollars do double duty: At Bendel’s, proceeds from all things flag-hued go to charities, including the September 11th Fund. Ditto the profits from Old Navy’s flag tees ($5) and Saks’ Trade Center commemorative tops ($20). And if you’re not keen on parading around in your purchases, the dog will be happy to oblige: At The 4 Paws Club, 65 percent of proceeds from Ella Dish’s dog leash ($42) and collar ($40) go to the FDNY. After your patriotic shopping spree, kick back at Bliss, where $10 from every massage or facial through 2001 goes to the Twin Towers Fund.

Get out of the kitchen: Armies march on their stomachs. And the army of rescue workers at ground zero has eaten well indeed – catered to by some of the best chefs in the country. Now, however, downtown restaurateurs say they need their own Marshall Plan to bring back paying customers.

“The restaurant business can’t sustain weeks of this,” says Drew Nieporent, who owns Nobu, Montrachet, Tribeca Grill, and Layla, all below Canal. A shuttle bus should begin operating within the next few days, says Jacques Capsouto, of Capsouto Frères, who will also cut prices by 25 percent. Local businesses, including restaurants such as Chanterelle, Bouley Bakery, and Bubby’s, have formed the TriBeCa Organization in the hopes of luring visitors with neighborhood-wide discounts the weekend of October 12.

Of course, midtown has also been thinly populated. “We are depending almost exclusively on our regular customers right now,” says Le Cirque’s Sirio Maccioni. Lutèce is introducing an à la carte menu, and Medi, the costly new Rockefeller Center restaurant from French chef Roger Vergé, has a special $29.95 prix fixe “I Love New York” menu.

As on Broadway, restaurant workers are making sacrifices for the greater good. “The staff is being wonderful,” says Maguy Le Coze, owner of Le Bernardin, which closed for a week because she couldn’t get fish that met her standards. “They have agreed to take a cut in salary for as long as it is needed.” Customers are beginning to return the favor. “Some people I haven’t seen in a while are coming,” says Le Coze. “There has been a definite increase since last week.” Don’t forget to tip.

If no one’s going out, it’s only logical that they don’t need cabs to take them home. “Look at this,” sighs a taxi driver named Prince as he passes typically chaotic Herald Square without a single tap on his horn. “It should be much, much busier at this hour.”

Prince has been struggling to make $300 after eighteen hours behind the wheel, $100 less than normal. George Marquaye says he can drive around for two hours these days without a single pickup, pulling in half as much as he used to. “Tourists are our main customers,” he says, “and there aren’t any in New York right now.”

Many cabbies are also worried about discrimination. Like a lot of drivers from the Middle East and South Asia, Ashok Kumar, an Indian, displays an American flag prominently on his antenna. Still, he says, riders are suspicious. “A lot of people are asking me many questions about myself. Like where am I from, and how long have I been in this country? They’re nervous, I understand. I just try to be very nice.” It’s up to us to be nice back.

With workers looking to leave their jobs in conspicuously tall buildings – and a new Gallup poll finding that 35 percent of Americans are now less willing to walk into a skyscraper – it’s time to get right back onto that elevator and hit ph. One great spot to amplify your vertigo is the View, the rotating bar and restaurant on the forty-seventh and forty-eighth floors of the Marriott Marquis (212-704-8900). For more stationary – but equally breathtaking – vistas, try Above, on the twenty-first floor of the Times Square Hilton (212-642-2626), or Top of the Tower, on the twenty-sixth-floor penthouse of the Beekman Tower Hotel (212-980-4796). Or head to the Rainbow Room on the sixty-fifth floor of Rockefeller Center (212-632-5100). Consider it practice: a way to work up your nerve to take the elevators up to the Empire State Building Observatory.

Have grandmother – and everyone else in the extended family – over to your place for Thanksgiving. If relatives insist that it would be “so much easier” to do it elsewhere, explain that it would help “so much” to repair your wounded pride – and the city’s – to host them here.

Three mental-health experts offer their advice for staying sane:

1. Robert P. Franks, National Center for Children Exposed to Violence

“Give yourself a break from the news. And if you are a parent, remember that your children take their cues on how to behave and react from you. Show them that in the aftermath of tragedy, you have the courage to live your life.”

2. John Draper, Mental Health Association of New York City

“Because of the enormity of the event, you may think you have no coping mechanisms that can work in this situation. But you should return to ones you’ve relied on before – and maybe just use them a little more intensely, whether that’s exercising, spending time with family and friends, or just listening to more music.”

3. Thomas C. Neylan, medical director of the Post-Traumatic-Stress Disorder program at the University of California-San Francisco.

“Sleep. The best way you can be supportive to your loved ones is to be alert and attentive.”

Every other year, it seems, there’s a campaign to save Broadway. But this time it actually needs it. Five musicals have already shuttered – The Music Man and The Rocky Horror Show among them. Others are barely hanging on. “Unless you’re The Lion King or The Producers, you need help,” says one theater publicist.

Pay tribute to the casts of Les Miz, Phantom, and Kiss Me, Kate – who have taken whopping salary cuts of 25 to 50 percent so that their shows may go on – but don’t forget that the stylish 1997 Tony-winner Chicago could also use some help.

Plays always have a tough time standing up to the megamusicals. Our picks for this season? Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, starring Kate Burton; August Strindberg’s Dance of Death, starring Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren; and Michael Frayn’s Noises Off should all be terrific. “There’s a sense of community on Broadway that I haven’t felt in a long time,” says Noises Off’s Peter Gallagher. “I think this can actually be a real romantic time, because it’s hard to sustain the bullshit when you’re faced with these realities.”

Buy any Broadway ticket right now and five bucks goes to the Twin Towers Fund (rescue workers, firemen, policemen, and their family members can get tickets for just $25). You can also buy tickets for any Off Broadway show (including The Vagina Monologues and Havana Is Waiting) and get a ticket to another for half-price, through October 31. It would be a shame if the late Jonathan Larson’s sensational (if now somewhat unfortunately titled) autobiographical musical Tick … Tick … Boom! and the irreverent satire Reefer Madness had to close before they got the chance to become cult classics.

No Bob Hope-style entertainment for us. But downtown nightlife is back, under duress: Body & Soul, the long-running dance party at Vinyl, reopened this past Sunday, even though promoter John Davis’s apartment, located right next to the World Trade Center, was severely damaged. The disaster has actually brokered an unlikely alliance between cops and clubbers. “The 1st Precinct will sign off on ticketholders and band names so that they can drive in with equipment,” says Guy Compton, spokesperson for the Knitting Factory, which opened all its stages last Wednesday. “I think they understand that they need us to survive and we understand that we need them too.” The Knitting Factory is donating 10 percent of its box-office to the FDNY for the remainder of the year.

What if you created a sleek Philippe Starck stage set for Manhattan’s beautiful people – and nobody showed up? That’s just about what’s happened in the hotel business since the disaster. “The industry has taken a body blow,” says Emanuel Stern, who owns both the Tribeca and SoHo Grand. “Not only aren’t tourists coming, but business people are making do without meetings in New York.”

Fall is usually the most expensive time of year to stay in the city. But now that occupancy rates have dropped to as low as 12 percent, some top hotels have, for all intents and purposes, become bargain destinations. So it’s your patriotic duty to take a little second honeymoon – you can travel by subway. The Tribeca Grand (212-519-6600), not surprisingly, has dropped its rates dramatically; a room that went for $309 per night on September 10 is only $199. A $395 room at the Mercer (212-966-6060) can be had for $300. The W (212-755-1200) has a special “We Care” package for $199 (down from $295).

In midtown, the Drake (212-421-0900), with its new Q56 restaurant and buzzing cocktail scene, has dropped its $259 weekend rate to $179; the Dylan (212-338-0500), which houses the restaurant Virot, has reduced $355 rooms to $199; and the Hudson, which has seen more celebs pass through its doors this year than the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, is offering a special crisis rate of $245, down from $310. The Bentley (212-644-6000), at 500 East 62nd Street, currently has a sweet deal of $125 per night, reduced from $265.

So sleep while you can – it may be a while before we see these prices again. “This week, we’ve actually seen people making, not just canceling, reservations,” quips The Four Seasons’ Leslie Lefkowitz.

You’ve heard of all the main ones – the Twin Towers Fund (for all uniformed-service workers), the American Red Cross, the September 11th Fund (the United Way). Giving to the big boys is simple on the Internet (libertyunites.org and charitywave.com have the best links), but some smaller, more targeted charities deserve special attention.

The Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund is specifically for those touched by the deaths of the Windows on the World staff – and of all restaurant workers in the World Trade Center – many of whom weren’t as financially prepared for catastrophe as their white-collar neighbors. Send contributions to David Berdon & Co., 415 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10017.

The Service Employees International Union – which had more than 1,000 members at the World Trade Center, of whom 24 are unaccounted for – has established the SEIU September 11th Relief Fund to aid the victims’ families as well as unemployed tour guides, elevator operators, cleaning people, and security guards. Send donations to: SEIU September 11th Relief Fund, c/o SEIU, 1313 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, or donate at www.seiu.org.

ABM Industries – the company responsible for much of the maintenance work at the World Trade Center – has established the ABM Family Fund Trust to benefit the families of the janitors, engineers, and window cleaners lost in the attack. Donations should be directed to the ABM Family Fund Trust, Rincon Annex Box 193224, San Francisco, CA 94119.

New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s William Randolph Hearst Burn Center treated 25 of the most severely injured victims of the attack. Contributions (212-821-0528) support patient care, research, and training programs at the largest and busiest burn center in the nation.

The New York Firefighters Skin Bank is the only local bank providing skin transplants to the burn centers in its region. The catch: Donations are, as with organs, made posthumously. The upside: Skin donation is approved by every major religion. You can sign up with the State Health Department (877-752-3175).

The New York Women’s Foundation (212-226-2220) is collecting for those most vulnerable to displacement and loss of income. Send donations to 120 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012, and be sure to write “Disaster Relief” in the check memo.

Win the ground-zero-sum game. While these groups don’t directly address the attack, they are located in or near ground zero. As the city starts suffering the ripple effects of recession, they need your money and attention. Contact the Community Food Resource Center (212-662-1283), God’s Love We Deliver (which brings food to people with aids; 212-294-8162), and the Henry Street Settlement (a local social-service group with a long history; 212-766-9200). Some offices have relocated, others are still paralyzed. If you don’t get an answer, try again in a few days.

I’m busy hurling my puny I ams toward the moon. I’ve bought two expensive skirts that weren’t even on sale. And I’m eating overtime. At Le Bernardin, Maguy Le Coze, a ribbon of stars and stripes in a bow at her neck, was welcoming loyalists – including one who promised to come every night till the room was full. Around the corner, JUdson Grill chef Bill Telepan dreamed up a $36 early-evening prix fixe to nurture Broadway neighbors and Wall Street refugees camped out in nearby hotels. Last weekend, I played Paul Revere in TriBeCa and desolate Chinatown. I’ve doubled my usual holiday gift to Citymeals-on-Wheels and mailed it today to help refill their emergency pantry. That first horrific day, with 615 frail shut-ins trapped in their homes below 14th Street, CMOW enlisted Bloomberg volunteers to deliver meals prepared by restaurants. Later, Citymeals diverted non-perishables from its Brooklyn warehouse that had been earmarked for the homebound over the long Columbus Day weekend. Now it’s near-empty. No funds are coming in. In the outpouring of giving, our 17,000 invisible neighbors, alone and vulnerable, have been forgotten for the moment. For so many, the horror on the television screen revived memories of terrors they came here to escape. And they had no one to hear their fears but a rushed volunteer. Citymeals-on-Wheels, 355 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017. For information, call 212-687-1234.

Four investments you can make that are good for you – and for those who need it more than you do.

1. Take out a life-insurance policy. Make it term life. Great deal for you, and the insurers could use your premium, badly.

2. Take your money out of a mutual-fund cash-reserve account and put it in a local savings-bank certificate of deposit. They could use your deposit now, and you won’t be sacrificing any yield.

3. Refinance your mortgage. The rates are incredibly low, and you will be doing yourself and your lending institution a great service.

4. Do some business with Keefe Bruyette, Sandler O’Neil, or Cantor Fitzgerald. The first two firms offer fabulous research on banks and savings and loans, and have made me a ton of money over the years. Cantor’s more of a bond house, but you institutional types will know how to funnel business there.

(Preferably one where you can hire some staff.) “It’s sort of like English wartime,” says Serena Bass, who is indeed English, but who – she says – was not yet born by the time the Blitz ended. “We need to pull together and eat and have a wonderful time.” Bass, like many caterers, has seen the bulk of her business cancelled in the last few weeks. “There’s belt-tightening, so we’re trying to give people what they need. Which is most likely food that’s dropped off at home. They hire a neighbor or a niece to help. We won’t make them spend more than they’ve got – which, of course, we all used to do because that was our job.”

Photo: Magdalena Caris

The city’s young designers – who allow New Yorkers to exercise their inalienable right not to shop at chain stores – are in trouble. They own small boutiques, financed by loans, that they man themselves. And they’re almost entirely dependent on foot traffic. So start marching. “I’m pretty worried,” says Anne Johnston of Martin, on East 6th Street. “There were a lot of people on the weekend, but we didn’t really sell anything.”

“We opened in June and everything was going so well,” says Andrew Paluba, whose store, ASP, is on Mulberry Street. “If it continues like this, I don’t know how long we can last.” Paluba and his partners have planned a benefit for October 2 – a shopping night with a portion of the proceeds going to the Twin Towers Fund.

In TriBeCa, the situation is even worse. Issey Miyake was forced to reschedule the September opening of his Frank Gehry-designed New York flagship, on the corner of Hudson and North Moore (it’s now slated for October 15). Neighborhood retailers hope the titanium-filled destination lures people back into smaller shops like Jimin Lee, on White Street, which opened last year. “You can’t even imagine,” says Kai Schneider, Lee’s business partner. “When you’re a new designer, you’re starting with a baby, and a baby needs to grow. If you get cut off … well, we have to see what we’re going to do for the future.”

Some retailers, however – particularly furniture stores – see a light at the end of the tunnel. “People were calling me and expressing their sympathies,” says Michael Corchado, the manager of Room on Duane Street. “But then they wanted to know, ‘So where’s my couch?’ “

The glamour jobs in this disaster – shoveling rubble, say, or operating heavy equipment, or being mayor – seem to be spoken for. But Walter Mitty-ish accountants – and even lawyers – can be every bit as heroic by wielding their own particular talents (hard hats not included).

Lawyers: The Association of the Bar of the City of New York’s Legal Referral Service (212-626-7373 or www.ilawyer.com) is offering free legal advice for people and small businesses affected by the disaster. On October 2, attorneys who want to help can be trained in all facets of disaster-relief benefits. “The families are just completely overwhelmed,” says managing attorney Bridget Fleming, “and they need someone to walk them through all the legal questions they have.” Attorneys are also needed at the National Employment Law Project (212-285-3025) and the Legal Aid Society’s Health Law Unit (718-422-2777).

Shrinks: The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill’s local chapter has a list of counseling services online (www.nami-nyc-metro.org); volunteers may call 212-684-3365.

Accountants: Public Benefits Resource Center is training volunteers to help victims’ families navigate the government’s byzantine system of food stamps, Medicaid, Child Health Plus, public assistance, Social Security, and unemployment – not to mention how to access disaster benefits from family-assistance centers, fema, small-business-association grants and loans, and the Crime Victims Board. Call Yvette Rennie (212-614-5550) to get a schedule of the classes.

Architects and designers: The local AIA and International Interior Design Association (IIDA) chapters are planning coordinated volunteer efforts to help with relocation efforts for businesses and residents, as well as furniture donations. Go to www.iida.org.

Typists and programmers: Finding people to answer the phones hasn’t been a problem, but “the one thing we had trouble with is straight data entry,” says Glenda Williams, who helps run the Emergency Employment Clearinghouse Program – hotlines set up in ten locations by the Consortium for Worker Education, the New York City Partnership, and the New York City Central Labor Council. The program is arranging temporary jobs and welcomes calls from both employers with jobs to offer and workers in need. (The hotline for job seekers is 212-558-2261; the one for employers is 212-558-2250). The Labor Support Center Hotline (volunteers call 212-684-8142) also needs help setting up databases to catalogue callers, job information, and data on emergency assistance. “We’re trying to get people to the right agencies depending on their needs,” says coordinator Julie Kelly.

Organizational pros: Food for Survival, the city’s food bank, has 11 million pounds of food to distribute in the wake of the disaster. Now they need to make sure it’s handed out in a responsible way. Outside of ground zero, the group has 1,200 programs around the city to tend to, and it could use a few hundred helping hands. Call 866-nyc-food.

Arab-American restaurateurs hung flags in their restaurants not just out of renewed patriotism but out of fear. Samer Halimeh, the owner of Bread From Beirut, a new diamond-district Lebanese restaurant (24 West 45th Street; 212-764-1588), says his deliverymen “were afraid to go out. They stopped wearing their T-shirts.” Business is starting to pick up. But only takeout. “Even the Lebanese get their food to go,” says Halimeh. “They think someone will shoot up the place.”

From the sidewalk outside Alfanoose (150 Fulton Street; 212-349-3622), a Lebanese-Syrian takeout shop that makes the best – and neatest – falafel sandwich in town, you can see the black shell of 5 World Trade Center and the ruins of No. 7. “Business is down by about a third,” says co-owner Mouhamad Shami. Many of his customers worked at the Trade Center, as he discovered when he recognized them among the missing posters. “I’ve made a lot of friends here,” he says. “Now I’ve lost a lot.”

Teachers are facing a daunting set of tasks, from consoling grieving children to helping their distracted charges prepare for Regent’s exams. “On Staten Island alone, there are 200 children of firefighters,” says Board of Education spokesman Askia Davis. Meanwhile, downtown schools have been displaced – Stuyvesant’s holed up at former rival Brooklyn Tech – and asbestos tests and structural exams are required before buildings can be reoccupied.

What can you do? If you’re a parent, spend time at your school. Just your presence will reassure children, who, according to experts, often have a delayed reaction to traumatic events. Everybody else, get out your checkbook: Finney says principals and teachers have had “lengthy conversations with the folks from Oklahoma City and Columbine” on how to bring the kids through this. Mainly, they’ve discovered that everything – from combating anxiety to making up for lost class time – costs money. Donate to the Fund for Public Schools – WTC School Relief Fund, 110 Livingston Street, Room 826, Brooklyn, NY 11201, or call 800-459-5545.

Children can take part in the Twin Towers Penny Harvest, sponsored by Americans for Common Cents. Schools will be collecting coins over the next month, and a committee will decide how best to allocate the money (212-579-0579).

Mentoring USA (212-253-1194) is developing programs at more than 60 locations throughout the city to help kids with grief and conflict resolution. Art-therapy specialists and child psychologists are especially needed.

We Can Do It