Aid for First Responders

The Wall Street Journal - November 28, 2012


Howard P. Milstein, chairman of New York Private Bank & Trust and its operating bank, Emigrant Bank, was one of the millions of New Yorkers who watched in horror as swaths of the city were damaged and destroyed during Sandy, and while neighborhoods struggled to recover in the storm's aftermath.

"I used to go in the summer to Belle Harbor and Far Rockaway," said Mr. Milstein, whose mother grew up in that area. "I saw what was happening in reports: homes in several feet of water, first responders helping, the whole thing. And I personally identify with that area."

In response, Mr. Milstein, a developer and philanthropist, and Emigrant Bank recently donated more than $2.3 million to aid more than 2,000 first responders who were impacted by Sandy. The donation is now being administered by the New York City Police Foundation and FDNY Foundation and will be distributed over the holidays. The donation will send a $1,000 check to each of the first responders included.

"I did get a call saying: 'We added this up, and it's a lot money,'" he said. "I said I had done the math. These are the people that risk their lives to save others. They get paid something but when your life is saved, it's invaluable. And when they get devastated, nobody helps."

Mr. Milstein said he has long been affected by the role of the first responders around the country. Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, he funded a program for police and firemen with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he made donations to those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

During Sandy, he said, some of his company's buildings in downtown New York were affected, and one is still closed. He spent much of the storm helping to keep the bank operating, he said, and helping to let customers know about any issues caused by Sandy.

"I had been thinking about the situation and where we should be pitching in," he said. "I thought the best thing to do in these circumstances is send money to the first responders. I hoped that this donation might well stimulate others into giving, and I know that that has been the case."