February 2003

Grant Results


The Art Science Research Laboratory provided equipment and supplies for recovery workers deployed at Ground Zero in Manhattan and the Fresh Kills landfill site in Staten Island after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

The Art Science Research Laboratory, based in lower Manhattan and co-directed by artist Rhonda Roland Shearer and her late husband, Harvard University biologist and best-selling author Stephen Jay Gould, is a not-for-profit organization that promotes cross-disciplinary research in the arts and sciences.

The Problem
Shortly after September 11, the Art Science Research Laboratory established the World Trade Center Ground Zero Relief Project to provide recovery workers with necessary equipment that was in critical short supply. The shortage was caused by frequently changing authority over responsibility for supplies, shifting locations for distribution of supplies, changes in authorizations for access to supplies, and fluctuating numbers of recovery personnel.

The situation was so dire that on December 9th, for example, if ASRL had not added hundreds of additional rain suits to the hundreds that they already provided the previous week, the main supply post of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) would not have had rain suits to give to the 150 firefighters working that day. (Many firefighters had to throw away their rain suits every day due to contamination.)

Key Results

  • The all-volunteer staff turned the project director's art studio (which was less than a mile from Ground Zero) into a warehouse for supplies. They also bought trucks and created a supply route to all posts around the disaster site, and visited the site often to find out what supplies the workers needed.
  • The research laboratory used the funds from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to provide authorized workers with equipment and to re-stock the four existing supply caches.

    It supplied approximately 2,700 workers from the FDNY, the New York Police Department Emergency Service Unit and the Port Authority Police Department with recovery tools (e.g., shovels, rakes and rebar cutters), clothing (e.g., rain suits, safety vests and work boots) and other supplies (e.g., respirators).

    Lt. Paul Brown, of FDNY Engine 290, said of the research laboratory's relief effort: "In many instances they quickly and efficiently provided urgently needed equipment and supplies under circumstances where the normal supply channels would have taken days or weeks. They also frequently have been able to provides supplies that are outside the abilities of federal, state and city agencies to provide."

The New York Times published an article, "Uphill Fight for a Downtown Volunteer," about the research laboratory's relief effort. The project director and her daughter, London Shearer Allen, who was also involved in the project, received the "NY1 New Yorkers of the Week" award from Channel 1 cable television for their work.

In 2002, RWJF provided partial support for these efforts with two grants totaling $800,000. The funds were a portion of the $5 million that RWJF allocated to help relief and recovery efforts, and to support New York City area hospitals, health clinics and agencies whose operations were disrupted by the attacks or had unusual needs as a result of the attacks.

Many other foundations and companies also supported the Art Science Research Laboratory relief effort with grants, gifts and donations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, Robin Hood Foundation, DeVal Safety and Equipment, Schering-Plough Corporation, Duracell Corporation and Vanity Fair Magazine. The Art Science Research Laboratory continued its relief work through mid-July 2002.

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Providing Tools, Clothes and Supplies for Recovery Workers at the World Trade Center Site


Art Science Research Laboratory (New York,  NY)

  • Amount: $ 700,000
    Dates: January 2002 to February 2002
    ID#:  044862

  • Amount: $ 100,000
    Dates: April 2002 to June 2002
    ID#:  045227


Rhonda Roland Shearer
(212) 925-8812

Web Site


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Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Lori De Milto
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Paul S. Jellinek

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