Lumbering back from Tornadoes

Leave a comment
THE QUEENS COURIER/Photos by Bob Doda
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe stands with elected officials in a Forest Hills neighborhood.
One week after the storm, a car remains crushed on the side of the road in Forest Hills.

“New York City has not seen storm damage of this magnitude since Hurricane Gloria in 1985,” said Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph Bruno during a city update in Forest Hills on Thursday, September 23 concerning the two tornados and a macroburst that left streets, property and parks in shambles. According to Bruno, nearly 7,900 calls to 3-1-1 have been made; 6,000 alone from highly concentrated areas including Park Slope, Forest Hills and Bayside.

“The recovery process will take weeks, not days. We are asking all New Yorkers to do your part by calling 3-1-1 to report damage to your homes or property,” said Bruno, who explained that 3-1-1 calls helped carve a route for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) inspectors who have started to evaluate damage to determine if New York City will require federal assistance. The threshold for total damage to public and private property would have to exceed $25 million to qualify for government aid.

“We will be pushing them to give us a determination promptly. We are expecting that New York City should meet aid on all levels,” said Bruno.

In the aftermath of the unprecedented storm nearly 45,000 Con Ed customers were without power due intense damage. By Saturday, September 18, power was restored to 95 percent of homes and 40,000 pounds of dry ice was distributed to customers. More than 200 crews consisting of 800 employees from city agencies – with the help of surrounding counties – worked to remove or prune damaged trees and re-open 70 streets once blocked by debris.

“In a normal year, the Parks Department will remove about 6,000 tons of tree debris,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “In this week alone, we have removed 1,500 tons and there are hundreds or thousands of tons to go.”

Waste Management of New York (WM) is helping to recycle those trees at its BQE Wood Recycling Facility in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn under the Kosciusko Bridge. Once at the facility, the trees are chipped and processed into garden mulch to be used by the Parks Department and sold at home improvement stores.

“On a normal week, the BQE facility may receive and process 100 to 200 tons of wood,” said WM senior district manager Jim Van Woert. “On the weekend following the storm, we received 1,000 tons of material on Sunday alone – and that’s the day the facility is usually closed…It’s encouraging that the storm debris can be recovered and reused as mulch to foster the growth of new trees in the place of those we lost.”

New Yorkers who signed up for emergency alerts through e-mails or text messages had an advance warning about the impending tornados. Assemblymember Rory Lancman believes that this free service could be a key factor in saving future lives.

“Sometimes we need to be confronted with a really good reason to get up and do something,” said Lancman. “It’s a good idea to be as prepared on the back end and as warned as possible on the front.”

While there is plenty of debris to haul, trees to plant and homes to secure, the neighbor-helping-neighbor spirit of New York has never been more apparent.

“I’m so proud to be a New Yorker,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, who thanked the hard work of city agencies. “I saw us working together as a team . . . when we have a hard test, we can pass that test.”

For information concerning personal contractors for tree removal or to report dangerous damaged tree limbs that need pruning, call 3-1-1 or visit nyc.gov.

To sign up for advanced alerts concerning city emergencies, visit NYalert.gov.

To comment on this story go to www.queenscourier.com.