Superstorm Slams Queens' Shores
By ROSS BARKAN and MEGAN MONTALVO
Cross Bay Boulevard served as a staging area for National Guard vehicles the morning after the storm struck.
Photo by Ira Cohen
As she gazed at the after-effects of Superstorm Sandy, Josephine Carcione of Howard Beach said it best: "It was like a movie."
Standing on Cross Bay Boulevard in her landlord's coat, Carcione echoed what residents there said was most shocking about the storm - floodwater actually reached them.
"The water busted down the doors and went up to the ceiling," Carcione said of her home on 84th Street in Howard Beach's western section.
The morning after the storm, streetlights were out on Cross Bay Boulevard from Ozone Park to Broad Channel.
Residents of Howard Beach looked on as phalanxes of ambulances, police cars, fire trucks and military vehicles raced down the boulevard to the smoldering Rockaways.
Cross Bay Boulevard and 158th Avenue was turned into a staging area for the emergency vehicles. Federal Emergency Management Agency officers patrolled Howard Beach on search-and-rescue missions while military trucks crammed with National Guard Troops stormed by.
Old Howard Beach, much nearer to the Shellbank Basin, was drowned. 95th Street by 158th Avenue was submerged under at least a foot of water the morning after Sandy hit.
"It was a lot worse than expected," said Paul Belfiore, a resident of 95th Street, who watched firefighters carry his ailing father-in-law from Belfiore's flooded home. "I never could have imagined the storm would be like this."
Frank Spallino, a retired marine, and Paul Marcel, a volunteer with the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps who lives in Howard Beach, drove Spallino's decommissioned military truck through floodwaters to help people escape a burning home in Old Howard Beach.
|The calm before the storm: A view of Manhattan from Gantry State Park just hours before Superstorm Sandy hit.
Tribune Photo by Megan Montalvo.
In Broad Channel, winds crushed bungalows and water surged through narrow streets. A small boat was blown over a white picket fence.
Unlike Howard Beach, Broad Channel and Hunters Point in Long Island City were in Zone A, meaning they were told to evacuate on Sunday.
Despite the evacuation orders being in effect, several residents were seen walking throughout Long Island City and the Gantry State Park just hours before the storm hit.
Among the small crowd of passersby, Fernando Solier, who lives in a condo just steps away from the shore, said that he had no intentions of leaving due to the less-than-terrifying effects of last year's Hurricane Irene.
"Last year, everyone thought Hurricane Irene would be devastating, but it wasn't," Solier said. "With Hurricane Sandy, I didn't want to go through the evacuation process, so I thought I would just stay and wait it out."
While overlooking the East River, which would slowly rise to meet his door several hours later, Solier said he "doubted the impending storm would be that bad."
Meanwhile, his friend Memo Acevedo, who resides in Jackson Heights, seemed to share a difference of opinion.
"What we are experiencing is not normal," Acevedo said. "I've experienced several Hurricanes in Florida and in New York, but I've never seen anything like this."
Acevedo said that on Monday he had planned to return home, but was forced to stay with Solier when he did not make it to the subway before they were shut down on Monday evening.
As evacuees in Hunters Point sought refuge at Aviation, Newcomers and Newtown High Schools in western Queens, shorelines along Long Island City flooded, completely submerging Gantry State Park over Monday night.
In the wake of 97 mile-per-hour winds, the neighborhood known for its booming commerce and technology scene had experienced severe damage to commercial and residential property.
Within the area closest to Zone A, 100-year-old trees toppled over playgrounds, houses and cars, several windows on the first floor of the Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene’s high-rise, located at 42-09 28th St. in Long Island City, completely shattered.
|An NYPD vehicle carried residents through Breezy Point, where Superstorm Sandy caused massive flooding and fire damage.
Photo by Ross Barkan
Parts of PS 78, located at 48-09 Center Blvd., experienced flooding and officials at the newly-purchased City University of New York Law School, located at 2 Court Square, reported storm damage, canceling classes for most of the week.
While surveying the affected areas in western Queens, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) confirmed that the damage was unlike anything the area had previously experienced.
"It was a rough night," Van Bramer said on Tuesday morning. "Thankfully, the worst of it is over. Right now, we are working hard to report the damage to City Agencies."
According to Van Bramer, much of Hunters Point had sustained significant damage.
Several small business owners had reported thousands of dollars lost in merchandise, and chunks of sidewalk were littered across Vernon and Center Boulevards as a result of uprooted trees.
Reports of more than 50 downed trees, fires, flooding and fallen power lines had been gathered within in various locations of the 26th District, including large portions of Woodside, Sunnyside and Maspeth.
In his continued tour of the Borough, Van Bramer said he had received numerous calls from residents seeking to participate in a volunteer clean-up.
Once the evacuation order has been lifted, he said he hopes to work with residents to coordinate a clean-up team.
"We have had such an amazing response from people wanting to help," Van Bramer said. "It just goes to show how strong our communities are. We can get through this. We will get through this."