By Phil Corso
Sharmin Derrick grabbed her cellphone to snap a photo when Mayor Michael Bloomberg reached out to shake her hand, thanking her and several other city Parks Department workers who helped clean up after Hurricane Sandy.
“This park looked crazy after the storm,” said Derrick, who traveled to Alley Pond Park from Brooklyn over the last six months to maintain the landscape. “There was a lot of work to do and it feels amazing to have the mayor say thanks.”
Derrick said crews were working hard at Alley Pond Park before the storm to prepare for the high winds by pruning loose branches and securing trees that might have fallen. And by Sandy’s departure, she said crews worked around the clock to make the park safe for everyone.
Bloomberg made a quick visit to the Oakland Gardens section of Alley Pond Park Friday to show his appreciation for those who worked to restore one of the hardest hit city parks in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“Mother Nature is tough,” Bloomberg told a crew of city Sanitation Department and Parks workers, who lined up at the park to shake his hand during his visit. “Thank you for taking care of it.”
His appearance came amid the sounds of chain saws pruning damaged trees and workers spreading fresh wood chips across the park. According to a spokesman for Parks, the eastern Queens park had some of the worst effects of Sandy with roughly 200 downed trees out of the 5,000 trees toppled in all city parks.
Parks Commissioner Veronica White toured the grounds alongside the mayor, pointing to uprooted trees in the aftermath of the storm. As they walked through the park, workers were buzzing around them as they serviced the park.
According to White, the city recorded 12,000 downed trees on city streets and about 5,000 throughout the city’s 29 acres of park property. After surveying the progress at the park, Bloomberg spoke about the future possibility of storms such as Sandy surging through Queens again.
“This kind of storm is very unlikely,” Bloomberg said, citing the perfect combination of Sandy’s position and timing during a full moon, which increased storm surge. “But we are likely to have more storms, more draughts. The climate is changing.”
But looking forward, the mayor said he was cautious about committing substantial amounts of investment into bulking up rebuilding efforts to combat such significant flooding in places such as city subway systems, which were flooded after the storm. Looking ahead, Bloomberg said New York City was in better shape than other cities in the region when it came to preparing for another storm similar to Hurricane Sandy.
“Flooding can happen again. But it hasn’t happened in 100 years,” Bloomberg said. “You can take so many precautions, but at what expense? New York City is much better prepared than anyplace else.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.