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Queens Chronicle

Hurricane Sandy’s impact on Queens still tremendous

A neighborhood in ruins, massive flood damage, gridlock and more

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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Thu Nov 8, 2012.

Days after Hurricane Sandy beat the hell out of Queens, the rest of the city and the entire region, borough residents are left coping with the aftermath in a number of ways.

Many families in southern Queens lost everything to floodwaters that destroyed their homes and vehicles. At least 111 houses in Breezy Point, the remote enclave at the western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, burned to the ground, leaving the community looking like a war zone. An entire block of stores in Rockaway Park also was consumed by fire.

A number of people were killed during the storm — which began Sunday and continued into Monday night — including Anthony Laino of Flushing, 30, who died when a tree toppled onto his house and Lauren Abraham of South Richmond Hill, 23, who was electrocuted by a live wire. At least five other people in Queens and, in total, 38 citywide lost their lives.

As their friends and loved ones mourn, the rest of the borough is coping with damage of one kind or another. In Howard Beach, ruined furniture and other belongings line block after block, waiting for the Sanitation Department to haul them away. Some residents are upset that they were not told by the city to evacuate, as people in lower-lying areas including the Rockaways and Broad Channel were.

More than 400,000 customers of Con Edison lost power during the storm, and the utility’s crews have been working day and night to restore it, according to CEO Kevin Burke, but many were still offline on Thursday.

Burke said during a Tuesday press conference with Mayor Bloomberg that Hurricane Sandy was “an extraordinary event that devastated our system.”

Many traffic signals all over Queens were still out on Thursday, causing havoc for drivers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.

Making driving even worse was the continued closure of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel due to flooding. The Long Island Expressway was a parking lot during the morning rush hour Wednesday, as police diverted all drivers off the roadway at the last exit before the tunnel, the one for Van Dam Street. It took a driver from the Crescents neighborhood in Rego Park, for example, three hours just to get to Van Dam.

And Thursday it was worse, as police began enforcing Bloomberg’s new order barring cars from entering Manhattan unless they had at least three people inside. Westbound traffic was stop and go — barely go — as far east as the Clearview Expressway as early as 6:45 a.m. that day, prompting some drivers to get off by going the wrong way along the on ramps.

Other drivers were seen asking people who had just parked their cars on area streets if they wanted rides to Manhattan, in apparent efforts to meet the mayor’s mandate.

Making matters even worse Thursday was a gasoline shortage caused by a lack of deliveries to stations, as well as the power outages. One driver who went from Brooklyn to Rego Park that morning said he could not find a single gas station that had fuel during his entire trip. And in a scene repeated all over the place at stations that did still have fuel, the line at the Hess station at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 104th Street in Richmond Hill stretched for blocks.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on Thursday afternoon, however, that New York Harbor had been reopened and ships with gasoline were arriving.

Meanwhile those who use public transit were welcoming the partial return of bus and subway service. Buses were running on a weekend schedule. The two northernmost subway tunnels from Queens to Manhattan were reopened Thursday, but other East River passages remained shut. Rides by rail or bus were free for the time being.

Update: This article was updated on the morning of Nov. 2 with the latest death toll in the city, 38.

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