NEW YORK -- The New York City brokerage firm that lost 658 employees in the Sept. 11 terror attacks announced that it will "adopt" 19 schools in communities hit hard by Superstorm Sandy and will give each family in those schools $1,000 to spend as they see fit.
Cantor Fitzgerald, its relief fund and its affiliate BGC Partners will donate a total of $10 million to the families in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island and New Jersey.
Cantor Fitzgerald CEO Howard Lutnick said each family will receive a debit card with $1,000 on it.
Lutnick said he learned after Cantor's devastating loss of so many employees with young children that help should come with no strings attached.
"The best way to take care of a family is to put money in the hands of the parents and let them decide what to do," he said. "Maybe they need a couch and maybe they need to go to Toys R Us and buy their kids a present."
Cantor Fitzgerald's headquarters on the 101st through 105th floors of One World Trade Center were destroyed when terrorists struck the tower, and the company lost two-thirds of its New York work force. Lutnick was not in the office but his brother Gary was killed. The company's death toll was by far the largest of any single employer.
The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund run by Lutnick's sister Edie was established to aid the families of Cantor employees lost on Sept. 11 but its scope has since expanded to include scores of charities around the world.
Each year on Sept. 11 the company donates the day's revenues to charity and employees donate their day's pay. The effort raised $12 million last September.
"We wanted to have a way that we could memorialize those that we lost in a way that was positive, and to do good things," Edie Lutnick said.
She said that when Sandy hit the region last October the relief fund immediately wanted to help. The schools selected for aid are in areas where Cantor employees live or have other connections.
"We're really excited that we have the opportunity to help the families from these 19 schools to let them know that communities matter and that we care," Edie Lutnick said.
The Lutnicks were to join U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and other officials at Public School 256 in Far Rockaway on Thursday to hand out the first cash cards.
Cantor Fitzgerald has been affected by Sandy itself. The firm moved its headquarters to midtown after the 2001 attacks but it had more than 500 employees at an office on Water Street in lower Manhattan when the storm hit. They relocated to Cantor's other offices, Howard Lutnick said. The Water Street site has still not reopened.