Western Queens braces for Hurricane Sandy


| aaltman@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman
THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Officers evacuated Gantry State Park at 3 p.m. as storm conditions began to worsen.

A few brave locals in makeshift trash bag ponchos trekked across Gantry State Park in Long Island City to witness Hurricane Sandy’s wrath.

One storm chaser, who lives just across Vernon Boulevard in Zone B, said she wasn’t afraid of the storm, even though officials speculated the worst was yet to come. She bought a few supplies — batteries and bottled water — but didn’t think Sandy would live up to officials’ predictions.

Around 12:30 p.m., police officers began taping off the park, broadcasting over a loudspeaker that a mandatory evacuation of the pier was in order. A police officer said the worst was expected to hit around 3 p.m., and that while the water line was receding during 1 p.m.’s low tide, the surf would eventually rise over the dock.

Along Vernon Boulevard, businesses were boarded up, surrounded by sandbags and plastic sheets. Windows of the all-glass high rises along the waterfront were reinforced with tape.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer toured Long Island City on Monday, stopping to check in on residents at the Queensbridge Houses. The councilmember visited Associated, the main grocery store for Queensbridge residents, which closed around 2 p.m. after a barrage of shoppers scoured the establishment for storm essentials.

“It’s really important that people be inside now and hunker down to ride out the storm and remain calm,” said Van Bramer.

Richard Mazda of LIC’s Secret Theatre said all of the spaces’ productions would be postponed, adding that he hoped they could still hold scheduled Halloween events on Wednesday.

Over in Astoria, even the consistently bustling Steinway Street was nearly empty.

At William Cullen Bryant High School, city officials set up a shelter for those displaced by the storm. A worker said roughly 15 people had taken refuge from Sandy inside the school, many of whom were stranded at airports and train stations due to cancelled departures.

Stocked with cots, blankets, food and toiletries, the shelter was prepared to hold people for several days.

“Everyone is cared for and everyone feels safe,” said a shelter worker. “We have an amazing group of people who are giving their time and talent. We’re fortunate the mayor has some place for people to go.”