Broad Channel limps to life after hurricane

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Photo gallery

A sign pleading for help is posted in the center median along Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel. Photo by Karen Frantz
A large boat that washed on the street during Hurricane Sandy blocks a lane of traffic on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel. Photo by Karen Frantz
A house along Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel has a pile of destroyed items on the curb and a garage full of other posessions with a sign warning off looters. Photo by Karen Frantz
Cross Bay Boulevard is illuminated only with headlights and a tower light Sunday evening. Photo by Christina Santucci
A large boat remained on Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel Sunday night. Photo by Christina Santucci

In Broad Channel, the American Legion has become the de facto center of the storm-ravaged island, with volunteers serving warm food to residents, handing out batteries and blankets and sorting through bundles of donated supplies, including stacks of clothes that literally reached the ceiling Monday evening.

“It’s been really peaceful,” said volunteer John Lehman, who lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

He said the grassroots effort has been democratic and has seen drawn some large-scale help from some corporate entities like Lowes, which spontaneously donated supplies to the impromptu aid site.

A Red Cross truck sat outside the American Legion Monday, offering blankets and sandwiches during its second day at the site, and another truck was giving away free dumplings. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also arrived at the center that evening to provide information on the assistance process and answer questions at a community meeting.

An organizer and committee member of the American Legion, Naomi Seitz, said the building was opened as the community base after a number of teary-eyed residents who had yet to see any organized help congregated the day after the storm to figure out what to do.

“We’re all demolished,” she said.

She said City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) attended the meeting and promised to find help, while the first to respond with food assistance was Aqueduct Racetrack.

Seitz and other volunteers — many of whom live in Broad Channel themselves — said the center is most in need of cleaning supplies, such as mops, brooms, work gloves and Clorox. They also said sternos are needed so people can heat their food, and the site also needs medicine such as aspirin, Tylenol and Benadryl.

Elsewhere in Broad Channel, evidence of the storm was all around. Drivers dodged a large boat that had washed onto Cross Bay Boulevard and was blocking a lane of traffic. Water-damaged vehicles parked along the boulevard had fliers tucked under the windshield wipers promising cash for cars.

The recovery effort was also visible, however. Many people were busy moving furniture and other possessions destroyed in the storm to the curb for trash pickup. Sanitation crews were out in force, with large front loaders clearing out debris.

But turning the electricity back on — one of the residents’ top concerns,— remained a daunting task.

Allan Drury, a Consolidated Edison spokesman, said the utility was expecting to have power back to most regions by the weekend. But he said any homeowner who had customer equipment, including electrical meters, under water during the storm would need to hire a licensed electrician to certify the house is able and safe to receive power before electricity could be restored to individual houses.

Eric Seitz, Naomi’s husband, said that meant in Broad Channel, where floodwaters rose many feet, the majority of residents would have to clamor to find electricians before they could get power back.

“Now we’ll have electricity here and we won’t even be able to use it,” he said.

Reach Reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 8:09 pm, November 7, 2012
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Reader feedback

Gail Cox says:
Having been born in Broad Channel, I am sad to see that it took so long for the residents to receive assistance. This problem should be publized more.
Nov. 8, 2012, 11:58 am

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