By Michèle De Meglio
Hurricane season may be months away but Coney Island residents are already preparing for a major storm. Officials from the city Office of Emergency Management (OEM) attended a meeting of Community Board 13 to explain how locals can best protect themselves in the event of a natural disaster. The most important defensive measure? If the city orders an evacuation – as was done in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city – leave your home immediately. “If there’s an order to evacuate, you should take that order seriously and you should evacuate,” insisted MaryAnn Marrocolo, OEM’s assistant commissioner for planning. Because Coney Island residents live so close to the Atlantic Ocean, they are especially at risk if a deadly storm is headed for the city. That’s why even “in the weakest type of hurricane, you might be asked to evacuate,” Marrocolo said. If locals are ordered to leave their homes, their best course of action is to head to the residences of family or friends. “Going to a city-run evacuation shelter should be your last resort,” Marrocolo said. “I want to hit the [Verrazano] bridge, get on a boat, get out of here. I’m not hearing about a shelter,” agreed CB 13 member Eddie Brumfeld. But for those who must stay in a city shelter, they should go to one of three reception centers designated for Coney Island residents. Those at the centers will later be taken to shelters throughout the city. “We have the potential to have 870 shelters,” Marrocolo said. The reception centers catering to Coney Island residents are Brooklyn College, located at 2900 Bedford Avenue, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, 5800 20th Avenue, and P.S. 249, 18 Marlborough Road. Coney Island residents are encouraged to follow outlined hurricane evacuation routes to reach the centers. Drivers should take Neptune Avenue to Nostrand Avenue to reach Brooklyn College. To get to Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, drivers should travel up Stillwell Avenue then northeast on Bay Parkway. Via Coney Island Avenue, drivers can head to P.S. 249. Animals are not allowed in the centers so “you should be making plans to accommodate your pet with friends and family,” Marrocolo said. Additional reception centers will be added in the coming months to deal with Coney Island’s growing population. If an evacuation is ordered, under no circumstances should residents remain in their homes, Marrocolo said. That goes double for people who live in the top floors of high-rise apartment buildings or condos. While many residents of these tall buildings may think they’ll be safe 10 or so floors in the air, they will actually face stronger winds than people on the ground floor, Marrocolo said. “If you’re on the first floor, it could be 75-mile-an-hour winds but if you’re on the tenth floor, it could be 110-mile-an-hour winds,” she said. Making matters worse, after the hurricane has run its course, people will be trapped on those top floors because the lower levels could be severely damaged. In such an instance, police officers and firefighters would be unable to reach the residents in the towers, leaving them stranded for days or weeks. “You will not be able to leave and no one will be able to come to you,” Marrocolo warned. “You will not have electricity or running water.” For these reasons, locals are better off evacuating, she said. As hurricane season begins in August (it ends in October), there is plenty of time to prepare for a storm. “You live in an area that is significantly at risk,” Marrocolo warned residents. “You have to take action early.” That entails creating a “go bag,” which should be taken along during an evacuation and contain supplies necessary during the recovery period after a hurricane. The bag should contain clothing and important documents, such as homeowner’s insurance policies and identification. For more information about preparing for a hurricane, log onto www.nyc.gov/oem. To find out which reception center you should head to in case of a hurricane, call 311.