Northwest Queens not spared Sandy’s fury


| aaltman@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Tony Ringston
THE COURIER/Photo by Tony Ringston

As John Dememy watched the water rising in the East River from his apartment on the 31st floor of the CityLights building in Long Island City, he recalled a particular story from the Winnie the Pooh books called “In Which a Flood Comes to the Hundred Acre Wood.”

As in the anecdote, depicting the characters watching a stick become overtaken by climbing water, Dememy overlooked the waterfront as it disappeared under Sandy’s tumultuous surf. He felt the building wobble in the wind, comforting his unnerved young children who were upset by the storm.

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Two feet of water infiltrated the high rise. The building’s elevator was shut off, leaving some residents stranded. Regardless of its position inside of Zone A – for which mandatory evacuation was ordered on Sunday – many residents remained in their homes.

“[The decision to stay] was part wishful thinking, part wherever you go it’s going to be bad,” said Dememy.

While western Queens was ultimately spared from the monster storm that rocked most of the eastern seaboard, locals and business owners faced flooding, submerged vehicles and loss on the way to returning the neighborhood to working order.

In Astoria, massive uprooted trees crushed cars and displaced sidewalks. On 29th Street in Long Island City, a building collapsed, covering the sidewalk below with fragments of red brick and crushing a white SUV.

On Tuesday, October 30, Doris Nowillo Suda, event coordinator at Riverview Restaurant on Center Boulevard in Long Island City, stood in the soaked dining room with a broom, attempting to sweep up debris. A recently installed plastic awning on the side of the building, Nowillo Suda said, saved the waterfront spot from even more destruction. A film of salt and sand caked the floor and puddles several inches deep filled the space.

“We’re thankful no one’s hurt,” said Nowillo Suda. “But I can’t even ask my staff to help clean up because they can’t get here.”

Nowillo Suda said simply deciding where to start repairs seemed overwhelming.

“This is the price you pay with the view and the water and you think ‘what if one day?’”