Meet the Evacuated from Hurricane Zone A

October 30, 2012 at 9:16 am

John Jay High School Evacuation Center on Monday afternoon, Oct. 29. Photo by Marc Rosenblatt.

UPDATED Oct. 30 at 12 p.m.:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference Tuesday morning that 6,100 people are staying in the city’s emergency shelters.

On Monday afternoon, the new arrivals at John Jay High School in Park Slope could take some time for a breath of fresh, gusty air. A man who identified himself as Gilbert from Red Hook stood outside the building’s green doors, where a large handwritten sign on white paper was taped, identifying it as an NYC Evacuation Center.

The large brick building that houses four separate high schools is one of  more than 70 secondary education schools across the city that have been turned into Hurricane Sandy shelters. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, approximately 2,500 people had checked into the city’s emergency storm shelters as of Monday morning, less than 4 percent of the capacity.

Gilbert, from Red Hook, took refuge at the Evacuation Center at John Jay High School in Parks Slope, Brooklyn. Photo by Marc Rosenblatt.

Gilbert, from Red Hook, took refuge at the Evacuation Center at John Jay High School in Parks Slope, Brooklyn. Photo by Marc Rosenblatt.

Gilbert had left his neighborhood on the New York Harbor on Sunday, the day Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had mandated that the 375,000-some residents of Zone A areas evacuate. Gilbert had seen the waters lapping at Red Hook’s major landmarks of commerce, IKEA and Fairway. For his trip to this shelter on the store-filled strip of Seventh Avenue, between Fourth and Fifth Streets and high on the hill of the “Slope,” he had packed a few days’ worth of clothes, a charger, a battery-operated radio and a portable DVD player and TV.

“I’m getting three meals a day and I have no complaints,” he said.

Oscar Perez at the Hurricane Sandy Evacuation Center in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Oscar Perez and his daughter were evacuated from Red Hook to the Hurricane Sandy Evacuation Center at John Jay High School in Park Slope, Brooklyn. He said he learned lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Marc Rosenblatt.

Oscar Perez, 42 and also from Red Hook, has trouble walking and didn’t want to wait until the last minute to evacuate.  At 10 a.m. on Sunday, he said there was one foot of water on Imlay Street, a quarter-mile from the Queen Mary’s berth at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. He said he learned from the Hurricane Katrina victims to bring all the “right stuff” when he left his home, such as his birth certificate and social security card.

Mr. Perez explained that his 14-year-old daughter, who was inside the shelter “guarding our valuables,” misses not going to school, “even though she’s not a geek,” he joked.

Like Gilbert, Mr. Perez had only good things to say about his experience at the storm shelter, including his breakfast of sausage rolls and pancakes.

A bus transporting residents from a Zone A in Coney Island arrives at the John Jay school evacuation center.

A bus transporting residents from a Zone A in Coney Island arrives at the John Jay school evacuation center in Park Slope on Monday. Photo by Marc Rosenblatt.

While Mr. Perez watched the sparse traffic on the street, a city bus pulled up at 3 p.m.  MTA bus service had ceased operations on Sunday evening, but this one was transporting evacuees from a different waterside neighborhood – Coney Island. It carried fewer  than 20 passengers.

Diane Grace stepped off the bus with her five children and boyfriend.  She had boarded it at West 31st Street between Sea Gate and Coney Island and didn’t have time to talk as she kept an eye on her children.

A block away at the corner Rite Aid, manager Nickoya George said that the store and pharmacy was running low on  toilet paper and travel-size toothpaste and soaps. She herself drove herself to work from elsewhere in Brooklyn, as did an employee who came in from Mill Basin, Brooklyn, which he said was in fine condition when he left Monday morning.

Hurricane Sandy shopping in Park Slope, Brooklyn

John Roundcity and Elizabeth Butters shopped on Monday at their neighborhood Rite-Aid on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Photo by Marc Rosenblatt.

Neighborhood residents shopping the picked-over aisles came in for simple comforts. One woman complained repeatedly that the store was out of Diet Pepsi and M&Ms. A young couple who have lived in the neighborhood for three years, John Roundcity and Elizabeth Butters, had better luck: they found the oatmeal bath salts they had come looking for.

John Jay High School is listed as being able to accommodate 5,057 as a shelter.  MetroFocus was not allowed into the shelter and representatives of the shelter operations there would not talk with the media.  Schools are closed again on Tuesday, Oct. 30, but what happens when it’s safe and possible to travel to school again, but not to return to evacuated areas, remains to be seen.

NJTV and WNET’s MetroFocus are broadcasting a live special on Hurricane Sandy’s impact in the region on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m. on NJTV and THIRTEEN. It will be repeated at 10:30 p.m. on WLIW21.

Additional reporting for this article was contributed by Marc Rosenblatt.
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