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 joined Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Gregory Meeks and other officials at the Far Rockaway school to hand out the first cash cards.
Both New York Democrats praised Cantor Fitzgerald but also used the occasion to press for timely federal aid.
Meeks urged the House to pass the relief bill on Jan. 15. "It is something that is long overdue and it shouldn't be complicated," he said.
Schumer said the federal government should be "as generous, as caring and as thoughtful as Cantor Fitzgerald."
Cantor Fitzgerald has been affected by Sandy itself. The firm moved its headquarters to midtown after the 2001 attacks but had more than 500 employees at an office on Water Street in lower Manhattan when the storm flooded the area. They relocated to Cantor's other offices, Howard Lutnick said. The Water Street site has still not reopened.