BU in NY students, staff weather superstorm

By Caroline Brewton

City editor

Baylor students living in New York as a part of the Baylor Communication in New York program said the wind and rain from Hurricane Sandy were nothing — compared to the disruption in the public transportation system.

“Everything was fine. We were well prepared,” Joseph Kickasola, associate professor and director of the Baylor in New York Program said. “No one was hurt in our group and we didn’t lose anything.”

Fifteen of the 17 students enrolled in the program remained in New York throughout the storm. Students and the program’s resident adviser are housed in an apartment building in Long Island City, at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge.

Kickasola lives in the Astoria neighborhood, about a mile away from the students. Kickasola said faculty were “in constant contact” with the students in Long Island City throughout the storm. Neither the students nor Kickasola lost power, although there was flooding nearby.

For members of the program, the biggest challenge now will be resuming their jobs in a situation where the availability of transportation is still uncertain. The damage to the subway system has been described as the worst in its 108-year history, and sections of the city still lack power.

Newbury Park, Calif., senior Whitney Van Laningham weathered the storm in her apartment with two of her three roommates. “We were all pretty scared about what was going on outside,” Van Laningham said. “But we were safe in our apartment.”

Van Laningham said she and her roommates watched movies and lived on a “hurricane diet” of junk food, including Lucky Charms and cookies. She said the only inconvenience is that she has been unable to go to work for the past two days.

Van Laningham, who works as an intern at The Late Show with David Letterman, said she didn’t go to work yesterday and described the conditions on buses as “packed.” The subway remains closed.

Taxis, which are usually impossible to get, she said, are even more scarce. Adding to her stress was the inability to communicate with her colleagues — the CBS servers were down. Van Laningham said she finally received an email from her boss’s private email today.

“I’m glad that my boss is not upset with me, but it’s been stressful not being able to go to work,” she said.

Hailey Oltman, a Montgomery senior, said she made the long trek in to work yesterday, arriving at her office at Young and Rubicam Advertising after an hour of walking. “Luckily, my office is not super far away,” she said, compared to others in the program who might have a longer distance to travel. She described the conditions on her way there as crowded.

“The whole sidewalk is crowded with people, because they know the bus is not an option, the subway is not open,” Oltman said.

Oltman said when she received an email from her boss notifying employees the office was open, only three had made it in, although later when she arrived, seven members of her own team were there.

Oltman works with others on assignments to advertise for Colgate toothpaste in South America.

She said she and the others design ads and digital ads, help with the distribution of promotional items to dentists, and help to produce television commercials.

When she arrived, she said, she and her coworkers had “a lot to talk about.” Despite missing work Monday and Tuesday, their deadlines haven’t changed.

Still, Oltman said she was glad she made it in. The greatest inconvenience so far has been the lack of transportation, she said, especially the subway, which she described as “number one here.” Colleyville senior Lane Soward said there was more traffic on the Queensboro Bridge than he had ever seen.

Soward’s phone interview was interrupted by the loud honking of cars as he traveled on foot to survey the situation outside in order to determine what he’ll need to do to get to work in Soho the next day. He said the closure of public transportation led to an increase in foot traffic – which could include his own.

“I believe right now the closest I’ll be able to get to my office by train is within 40 blocks” he said. Soward said he plans to try and get an early start, take the train as far as he can, and then walk the rest of the way.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday the Long Island Rail Road would begin to provide limited service on several subway routes. Still, the students and staff expressed gratitude their ordeal wasn’t worse.

“We were really thrilled and grateful,” said Luann Jennings, the adviser in residence of the Baylor in New York program who lives with students in Long Island City. “We got out so easily compared to so many other people.” For more information on the reopening of the subway, visit https://www.mta.info/.