BY PATRICK ROCCHIO
Many Bronx residents in low-lying areas chose to tough it out with Hurricane Sandy rather than “getting out of Dodge.”
Initial reports from City Island, the largest Zone A mandatory evacuation area, indicated at least 60% or better of its residents chose to dig in when the evacuation order went into effect around noon Sunday, Oct. 28.
By 3 p.m., a few stores on City Island Avenue were boarded up, but few islanders had left. The only gas station on the island, City Island Sunoco, had lines stretching around the corner as residents rushed to fill their tanks.
City Island Avenue had an eerie silence, with stilled streets interrupted periodically by the whoosh of cars traveling by at high speed or less optimistic people rolling suitcases along it.
With the storm having done its worst Monday night into early Tuesday, all power was still out Tuesday evening on roughly half of the island, south of Centre Street to Belden Point, with scattered outages locations near its northern entrance from the mainland. Affected residents said they were hearing it would be three to seven days before power was restored.
The vast majority of seniors at Pilot Cove Manor, a senior-housing development on Pilot Street on City Island, choose not to evacuate.
“It was left up to the tenants – none of them wanted to go over to the high school,” said Virginia Gallagher, executive director of Pilot Cove. “They felt more comfortable in their own homes.”
All of the tenants were told that they could go to Truman High School’s emergency shelter and that buses were available that could take them there, said Gallagher. Some of the tenants went to stay with relatives, but about 100 tenants of the apartment complex chose to stay in their building, she said.
Gallagher said that when she built Pilot Cove Manor in the 1970s, she consulted with the Army Corps. of Engineers and the architect to set the building back 500 feet from where water reached during the worst storm recorded by metrologists up to that point.
Around 11 a.m. on Monday, as Sandy approached, Soundview Councilwoman Annabel Palma visited workers and volunteers at a shelter, P.S. 102 on Archer Street near Parkchester. But only eight people had sought shelter. Two areas in Harding Park and Clason Point in her district were Zone A evacuation areas.
By around noon, Jordan Sullivan, 22, of 115 Leland Avenue, was contemplating leaving his waterfront apartment as the water began reaching the foot of the building, and the worst of the Sandy had yet to hit.
“The water is never this high,” said Sullivan. “It is always about 4 or 5 feet below where it is now,” adding that he was going to prepare for the worst and then come back in and clean.
As water flooded past a breakwater in a cove between Soundview Park and the Harbor Pointe development in Harding Park, resident David Reeve, 52, an emergency medical technician who lives there said “The water is higher now than it has ever been in the past 17 years I have been here.”
As Reeve looked out at the water not far from his home at 617 Harding Park, a barbecue pit large enough to roast a pig had already floated out about 100 feet into the cove on to the East River.
Palma, who visited Harding Park, urged residents to leave before the worst of Hurricane Sandy came through.
“It makes me feel a little more at ease knowing that people will seek safety,” said Palma. “I love my job, and I think that this part of it is extremely important.”
Evacuation shelters were open at Truman High School, P.S. 102, Evander Childs, Lehman College, M.S./H.S. 141, Taft Educational Campus, Bronx Community College, P.S. 306, P.S. 211, I.S. 201, P.S. 5, I.S. 145, and I.S. 98.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393