Queens residents prepare for hurricane (LIVE BLOG)
By Rich Bockmann

Following an early Sunday announcement that the city would be battening down the hatches in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, many Queens residents did the same.

“I wasn’t putting much credence in the fact that it would be so bad,” said George Darios as he and his wife, Carmen, loaded enough groceries for about three or four days into their car outside the Glendale Stop & Shop later in the afternoon.

At around 11:30 a.m., Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that subways, buses and commuter rail lines would begin gradually suspending service Sunday evening for an indeterminate period of time.

Bloomberg also announced a mandatory evacuation for the city’s low-lying areas, including the Rockaway peninsula, Broad Channel, Hamilton Beach, and part of Long Island City.

A day earlier, the mayor had implored surfers, to resist the urge to take advantage of the large swells preceding Sandy, though at least two people defied hizzoner and took to the waves off Rockaway Beach Sunday afternoon.

As dozens of Rockaway residents watched the waves from the boardwalk, their neighbors safeguarded their homes.

As he nailed plywood sheets over his bungalow’s windows, lifelong Rockaway resident Eugene Ott said he had almost everything he needed to ride out the storm.

“The basement is full of stuff, if I can get down there to get it,” he said, referring to flooding. “I tried to buy a generator but they were all sold out.”

Ott said he did not plan on going into Manhattan, where he works at an air conditioner service business, until Tuesday.

“I think we’ll just have a couple of hurricanes,” he said with some glee.

In Broad Channel, parked cars lined the median on Cross Bay Boulevard, where their owners hoped they would be safe from the rising swell, but at least one resident said there was nothing to be worried about.

“I’ve been here 50 years. The tide comes up, the tide goes out,” said a man, who asked to be identified only as Tony. “I’m still standing here.”

John Porcheddu said several of his family members had left the island and since he had decided to stay behind he volunteered to look after their homes.

“I’m basically babysitting four houses,” he said. “If they flood, I’ll turn off the electricity, if things blow away I’ll tie them down. Anything you don’t think of before it happens.”

On the mainland, 80-year old Leon Stephens stopped with his walker at the steps of John Adams High School in Ozone Park, the evacuation center nearest to the Rockaways.

Susan Dooha, vice president of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY, said she had spent the day visiting several evacuation centers throughout the city, and she did not like what she saw at John Adams.

“There’s a ramp in the back of the building, but there’s no signage. There’s no one out front telling you how to get there, and when you do get there the door is locked,” she said.

“We’ll be spending today and tomorrow looking at every site in the city. We’re hoping their needs are being met an they’re not just getting the runaround,” she added. “No one should be getting the runaround during Hurricane Sandy.”

Soon after Stephens arrived, evacuation staff at the school said they would put him directly on a bus en route to a shelter at PS 17.

At the College Point Yacht Club, Vice Commodore Artie McCrossen said many boat owners had already started taking their ships out of the water for the winter, but with the news of Sandy’s arrival the effort kicked into high gear.

Bloomberg announced Sunday that all marinas would close by 5 p.m.

“We usually take out between six and eight a day. We did 17 today and 18 yesterday,” he said. “We really killed ourselves.”

McCrossen said that with the storm expected to hang around through three high tides, the biggest concern was water coming up into the marina’s yards where the boats were stored.

“The concern is that if [the water] gets up on land, the boats might float off the blocks,” he said. “It’s scary. It really is.”

To get in touch with the TimesLedger staff or to send us your photos, email timesledgerphotos@gmail.com.

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