DISPATCHES FROM DOWNTOWN

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FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS: The community development divisions of four financial institutions in or close to the World Trade Center appear to have made it through the blast unscathed, according to staff ground reports. The community development staff of Fuji Bank and Trust Company, which was housed in the trade towers, made it out of the offices on time, according to two close friends of Fuji senior vice president Akiko Mitsui.

Deutsche Bank’s philanthropic operations were also located in the trade center at 130 Liberty Street. Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation President Gary Hattem said that few people were in his office that morning and everyone is now safe. “It was one of the few times when no one coming to work on time sort of worked,” he said. Deutsche’s building appears to be heavily damaged and Hattem said he did not yet know where the group would relocate.

Merrill Lynch’s new community development team, headed up by former J.P. Morgan exec Nancy Ylvisaker, also evacuated their offices at the World Financial Center safely, reports Merrill’s Daniel Nissenbaum. They have since moved their operations to temporary space in Princeton, New Jersey. Finally, J.P. Morgan Chase’s offices, located several blocks away from the blast, were evacuated safely. Updated contact information will be published as it becomes available.

THE LEGAL AID SOCIETY: The main headquarters of the Legal Aid Society at 90 Church Street, which is located in the Federal Building across the street from the World Trade Center, appears to have been heavily damaged in the wake of Tuesday’s attack. All staff members, however, were safely evacuated and the group’s criminal and civil operations are being maintained in the organization’s 25 satellite offices, says Pat Bath, Legal Aid’s director of public information.

The staff was evacuated from the building’s 13th, 14th and 15th floors shortly after the attack began on Tuesday, Bath said. “Everyone got out safely,” she said. “We are all grateful for that.” As of Friday, staff had not been allowed to return to the area, but it appears from TV footage that the top floor of the building, home to Legal Aid’s central administrative facilities, has been damaged. Bath is hopeful, however, that the lower floors, which house thousands of case files for the criminal appeals unit, are OK.

Services in three other downtown offices were also disrupted, though this may quickly change as electricity and telephone services are restored to the area. The criminal defense unit at 49 Thomas Street, the federal defenders unit at 52 Duane Street and the juvenile rights division at Family Court on 60 Lafayette Street were closed as of late Friday and staff had been dispersed to other offices. Executive Director Danny Greenberg is reportedly working out of the organization’s Brooklyn civil offices and Pat Bath can be reached in Manhattan at 212-426-3000. City Limits will post update contact information as it becomes available.

COMMUNITY FOOD RESOURCE CENTER: The advocacy group has set up shop at 252 West 16th Street until the power and phones at its main offices at 39 Broadway are up and running. Their temporary phone number is 212-662-4895. FROM THE NEIGHBORHOODS

LONGWOOD–Thursday night, two days after the destruction of the World Trade Center, nothing could comfort Sasha Cardona, 11. She wept as her 5-year-old brother played and her pregnant mother stood by in the plaza outside St. Athanasius Church in the Longwood section of the Bronx. Her father Jose, a clerk at Morgan Stanley, had been calling 911 to say he is trapped in the ruined basement of the World Trade Center. “The last call, all he said was that he couldn’t breathe, to help him fast,” said Sasha’s cousin Marisel Castillo, 16, as Sasha leaned heavily against her. “We haven’t heard from him since this morning.” At a candlelight vigil organized by Casita Maria, a settlement house on Simpson Avenue, speakers tried to offer comfort and hope as a solemn crowd of some 300 local residents flooded into the street and onto the opposite sidewalk. Children and grandparents leaned on their elbows in apartment building windows above and watched while American and Puerto Rican flags flutter in the wind. It was the first time in its 67-year history that Casita Maria veered from its regular services of counseling and tutoring in the South Bronx and East Harlem to lead local residents in a solemn march through the streets.

“Now you have children who are fatherless or motherless,” said Sandra Flecha, senior caseworker and supervisor at Casita, and the vigil’s organizer. “If it’s a single mother, now what’s going to happen to the children? We’re trying to be there for them.” The center typically offers tutoring for children, counseling for families in distress and meals for seniors. Now, Flecha says she is scrambling to put distraught New Yorkers in touch with religious leaders for comfort, as she did the day of the vigil when she led hundreds to the church. Next she will help families that have lost a breadwinner to keep from falling behind on their rent, and get them the government benefits they will need. While these circumstances are entirely new for every American, she says in many ways Casita is just trying to do what it has always done: keep families strong, and help them avoid homelessness and destitution. City Councilmember and Bronx Borough President candidate Adolfo Carrion, Jr., who led the crowd in singing God Bless America, called Casita’s work “absolutely critical” in meeting residents’ emotional and practical needs. On Thursday, the focus of Sasha’s family was on whether Jose will survive. But soon, one congregant predicted, the family could face more practical concerns, like steering away from homelessness. “It’s a lot of Spanish families here, we all are on the lower end of the income level,” said Carlos Munoz, a highway inspector and Longwood resident. He nodded toward the church as hundreds of local residents spilled out into the street. “You know at least one of them is at that edge.”