Guest op-ed: Helping the people of central Italy in their time of need

Last week, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy, killing 290 people and injuring several hundred more. Towns including Amatrice, Pescara del Tronto and Rieti resembled devastation on par with the destruction of Pompeii nearly 2,000 years ago, eerily on the same date. We are no strangers to natural disasters here in New York City. Hurricane Sandy dealt us a big blow but through the help of our neighbors and the world, we bounced back.

These majestic towns in the central region of Italy are not built like New York City. They do not have the infrastructure and resources of a major municipality. Our city could not rebuild alone and this region especially cannot. Its recovery will undoubtedly be a long process and those who have lost loved ones will never truly heal. However, we can assist in easing their burden.

There are recent reports that faulty construction of buildings in these towns, including the renovation of an elementary school that was said to be “earthquake proof,” may have played a large role in the fatalities. Italy’s government is looking into the matter to see if building codes were lawfully met or erroneously ignored. Indeed, this is alarming news, but we must keep the victims at the forefront for immediate relief. Simply put: the people of central Italy need our help.

With Italian American Heritage Month in October just a month away, the FIAO swiftly acted and organized a relief fund in partnership with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and with support from elected officials. FIAO raised $5,000 on its first day of accepting donations.

How can you help? To donate to FIAO’s relief fund, make a check payable to the FIAO Emergency Relief Fund and send it to 7403 18th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11204. You can also visit and click the “Donate for the Central Italy Earthquake Victims” tab at the top of the page, which will direct you to the Italian Red Cross.

In addition, the society of “Figli di Santa Rosalia” held a fundraiser for earthquake relief to close this past week’s festival in Bensonhurst and is organizing a committee to run a full-scale fundraising project through which people all over the world can donate too. To donate, make a check payable to “Figli Di Santa Rosalia” and mail it to 7204 20th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11204. For further information call 718-234-0160 and ask for Angelo Timoneri or Pio Andreotti.

This city and the borough of Brooklyn will always have a special bond with Italy. This earthquake has rocked its central region and its people are in dire need of aid. Please join me and support the Federation of Italian-American Organizations and the Santa Rosalia Society in their efforts to assist the victims of this natural disaster in getting back on their feet so that these cities can rise again from the rubble of this tragedy.

Thank you and please keep Italy’s central region and its victims in your thoughts and prayers.

City Councilmember Vincent Gentile represents the 43rd Council District in Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Dyker Heights.

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