Many Rockaway residents ignore evacuation, remain home

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THE COURIER?Photo by Terence Cullen

Despite calls from elected officials in the area, many Rockaway residents say they’re staying, and have hunkered down for the impacts of Hurricane Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced earlier today that NYCHA would begin shutting down elevator service, heating and hot water in the 26 housing developments within Zone A as a means to drive people from the flood zones and into shelters.

John D’Arrigo said he and his wife Ruthanne are staying put in their beachfront apartment — although they evacuated last year for Hurricane Irene.

“Last year we kind of evacuated,” he said on the boardwalk of Rockaway Beach, “but this time we’re going to stay here.”

D’Arrigo, like many others who plan to stay, said he stocked up on necessary items and will wait out the storm.

“We’re hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” he said.

Likewise, Oscar Izquierdo said he was not worried about the storm, or flooding in his third floor apartment. His concern right now was potential flooding or water damage to his car.

Some, however, said they are closing up and heading to higher ground.

Elizabeth Bethea said she was helping to close down her cafe, Veggie Island, and heading out to Brooklyn.

The city has been working all weekend to build sand barriers around potential flood sites on the southern coast of the peninsula, particularly around Beach 116th Street and Rockaway Beach Park.

“I’m just hoping the barricades do hold up here,” said Danny Ruscillo, president of the 100th Precinct Community Council.

Neighbors are working together to fill sand bags to prevent flooding, Ruscillo said, adding that “everybody’s helping everybody.”

Elected officials and staffers have been throughout the peninsula this weekend reaching out to residents and urging them to move to designated evacuation centers.

State Senator Malcolm Smith voiced concern that people were lax about staying put for a storm expected to devastate the area. He added that 90 percent of the residents he spoke to said they decided to stay where they were.

By staying in the area, Smith said residents were not only putting their own lives at risk, but those of the first responders who would have to return to the peninsula to save them.

“We don’t want this to be another Katrina,” Smith said.”They didn’t treat Katrina serious and you saw many lives in loss, and this is what could end up being here. The problem is people don’t feel any rain, it’s just a slight wind so think we’re going to be fine. I think preparation is sound, I just would hope people understand how serious this is, and do not put their families at risk and our first responders.”

Surfers trying to capitalize on the growing waves have been continually urged to stay out of the water.

“They [surfers] want to catch some great waves, but they’re putting their lives in jeopardy, and also they’re putting other people at risk: the first responders, and the people that have to drag them out of the water when it becomes too rough,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said he’s spoken to Governor Andrew Cuomo about continued assistance from the state and FEMA in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, and to co-ordinate relief efforts for the colossal effects it’s projected to have.

“I’m confident that the city, state and federal government will work together to bring the aid to people as soon as possible,” he said.

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