Red Hook Houses Residents Resist Evacuation Orders, Some With Regret

October 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Many residents of Red Hook Houses ignored evacuation orders and now say they regret it. Photo by Gianna Palmer

Like everyone living in the lowest-lying areas of New York City, the more than 6,100 residents of the Red Hook Houses — Brooklyn’s largest public housing development — were under orders from City Hall to evacuate the zone by Sunday evening.

The New York City Housing Authority gave those who lived in public housing an extra push to get out: residents received advance word from staff and then police that elevators, heat and hot water would be shut off as Hurricane Sandy approached.

Instead, the complex’s 25 buildings provided a front-row vantage point for the many residents who remained to ride out the storm’s fury.

Alfredo Crespo, a fourth-floor resident of a Red Hook Houses apartment building, described the intense flooding that filled the streets outside his windows.

“Last night, everything was full of water,” he said, pointing to the intersection of Lorraine and Henry streets, near where he sat smoking a cigarette. This spot is three blocks in from Gowanus Bay, off New York Harbor. He pointed to his waist. “Line to here.”

Crespo, 61, said that when Tropical Storm Irene hit, he’d evacuated. “But nothing happened,” he recalled. “So this year I stayed.”

Many residents said Tuesday that they’d expected Sandy wasn’t going to be nearly as severe as it had in fact turned out to be. Others said they had feared their empty apartments would be robbed if they left. No one mentioned the city’s 76 evacuation shelters.

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