BY ANGELA MATUA
Whenever the next coastal emergency strikes, south Queens residents will no longer experience confusion when driving to their nearest evacuation center.
New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have installed new coastal evacuation center signage in south Queens and the Rockaways to direct residents to their designated evacuation center at John Adams High School in South Ozone Park, instead of Aqueduct Racetrack.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder contacted the DOT last May after residents were led in two different directions when trying to reach an evacuation center during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Aqueduct Racetrack previously acted as the evacuation center before Resorts World Casino was opened in October 2011. After the casino was constructed, the center was changed to John Adams High School.
Though emergency personnel directed people to John Adams High School, the existing signage still pointed to Aqueduct. City evacuation plans and NYCEM city flood maps list John Adams High School as the zoned evacuation center but signage did not reflect the change.
Goldfeder reached out to the DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg to request that the agency update and maintain designated evacuation routes and signs.
Signage was updated and installed in early April at 28 locations including cross sections on Beach Channel Drive, Cross Bay Boulevard, Rockaway Boulevard and Belt Parkway and will be maintained regularly by the DOT, according to an NYCEM spokesperson.
Goldfeder said these signs are crucial in ensuring the safety of all residents and thanked NYCEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito for playing a role in the installations.
“This change to our emergency evacuation route signage will save thousands of lives by helping direct families in the event of major disasters,” Goldfeder said. “Our community has had two major evacuations in the last four years. The vital information these signs provide is the key to keeping our families safe during emergencies.”
The repairs were done in time for the Atlantic hurricane season and NYCEM is preparing to relaunch the “Know Your Zone” hurricane campaign to encourage New Yorkers to find out if they live in a hurricane zone and what steps to take to plan ahead.
“Hurricane season is around the corner, and we want every New Yorker to be aware of what hurricane evacuation zone they live in and how they can get to their nearest evacuation center if necessary,” NYCEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito said.