NEW YORK -- Citizens from all over the metro area converged on one of the city's most elegant buildings on Friday, when Gotham Hall served as a one-day center for a blood drive.
The New York Blood Center and the New York Yankees came together to co-sponsor the event designed to buoy the city's blood supply after Hurricane Sandy, and many members of the local community were enticed to donate blood with the prospect of free tickets to Yankee Stadium.
Rob Purvis, vice president of the New York Blood Center, said that nearly 6,000 units of blood had been lost in potential collections over the last week, and he also said it was important to let citizens of New York know how they can help local hospitals -- and each other -- in the wake of disaster.
"You've got to ask and you've got to let them know where you are," Purvis said. "Our problem this past week has been that with all the cancellations, we've had to reschedule drives and try to find new locations like here at Gotham Hall. It's almost like a MASH unit: You set it up and you tear it down the next day. Communication of where we're running blood drives on any given day [is important,] so checking us out at our website (nybloodcenter.org) would give the most current information."
Purvis lauded the Yankees -- who promised free ticket vouchers to many of the citizens who attended -- for their recognition and support of the cause. The New York Blood Center, Purvis said, would likely need to work for the rest of the month to make up for the week of lost collections.
Marian Goldberg, who lives in Manhattan, said the tickets to Yankee Stadium were the impetus she needed to donate blood. Goldberg said she had recently discussed the subject with her daughter and son-in-law, who are staying with her due to their apartment losing power.
Goldberg filed that conversation away at first, but then she saw a news item about donating blood and getting free Yankee tickets. And that, she said, was enough to bring her to Gotham Hall.
"I'm a great Yankee fan," Goldberg said. "So I said, 'OK, I need to do this because I haven't done this in a long time. So I'm going to go down there, and the secondary gain is I'm going to get my free Yankee tickets.' That was it. I wasn't running to 67th Street for the blood center. I have to be honest. But when they said free Yankee tickets, I said OK. I was semi-motivated, but that pushed me over the line."
Another donor, Mark Garson of Dobbs Ferry, had his family to thank for his motivation. Garson said that his youngest daughter, Ilyse, has run blood drives at her school, providing him inspiration. And his older daughter, Kelly, had also come to Gotham Hall on Friday to help out the cause.
Garson had gone four days without power at home in Dobbs Ferry, and he said that a stroke of luck had kept his house from even greater damage. He had cut trees on his property the week before, and he said that many of his neighbors wound up with a tree on top of their house.
"Because I had the trees cut down the week before, I got really lucky," Garson said. "We were out of power since Monday, and it lasted about four days. The first two days, we made it work. We charged our phones in the car. And then I made my way into the city. I drove in on Wednesday, and I took public transportation yesterday. Things seem to be getting back together today."
Gotham Hall -- a beautiful building often used for weddings and fundraisers -- had been operational but had seen a few events cancelled due to the storm over the last few days. And when the New York Blood Center found itself needing a new location, the Hall seemed like a natural fit.
"We were calling everybody yesterday because we were going to run a blood drive at Grand Central, and that one had to be cancelled for a lot of different reasons," said Purvis. "We had actually held one of our biannual fundraising dinner events about four years ago, and they said, 'You know what? We're not using the space. We've had cancellations. You guys are more than welcome to use it."
"We're all native New Yorkers here," added Alan Greif, director of special events for Gotham Hall. "The city has given a lot to us and we saw an opportunity to give back. We were available so we opened our doors. ... All you need to do is turn on the news and see what's going on. Hospitals are being stretched thin and they pretty much have to double up at some of the local area hospitals. I'm sure they don't have their full supplies at the ready, and this can help ease their burden."
Indeed, Purvis said that more than 2,000 units of blood are used every day throughout the community, and he said the NYBC serves hospitals in New York, New Jersey and in parts of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania. All blood types are needed, he said, but especially O-negative, the universal donor.
"We actually were very fortunate," said Purvis. "We have two main facilities -- one on Long Island and one in Queens -- and both of those retained power. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but we had no loss of blood product. That really was a blessing. We've been able to meet the needs of the hospitals, but the hospitals themselves have seen usage go down a little bit this week. Now that that's coming back up -- because surgeries are starting again -- we're going to see the volume pick up."
And that's where the local community comes in. David Cooperberg, who lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan -- said that he came to Gotham Hall to help out his fellow Manhattan residents. Cooperberg has given blood before, and he spoke of the civic importance of doing it again.
"Hospitals are down and they've had to evacuate people," Cooperberg said. "The city always needs blood, and I think it's always times like this that New Yorkers get motivated. If I had heard that the New York blood supply was short, I would've come down. But certainly because of the hurricane, I'm here."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com.