Heavy flooding wrecks Broad Channel island

Francis Seim picks through items in his Broad Channel home, which was destroyed by flooding. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Although many residents of Broad Channel and Hamilton Beach lost all of their belongings during Hurricane Sandy, some were just thankful they survived the superstorm.

Francis Seim braved the tempest in a neighbor’s home in Broad Channel while his family spent the night in Rockaway Beach. He headed to his house on 10th Road on the island between Howard Beach and the Rockaway Peninsula at about 3 a.m. Tuesday and found a neighbor’s deck in the street in front of his home and everything inside ruined.

Then he checked to make sure his wife, 8-year-old son and other relatives in Rockaway were all right.

“I pray to God for that. All of this hopefully can be replaced,” he said as he picked through water-soaked belongings Tuesday afternoon before he planned to bring supplies to his relatives in Rockaway.

“I have really nowhere to live. My wife, my son, I don’t know where we are going after this,” Seim said.

Several blocks away, Ginger and Tom Brauner marveled at the debris, which included most of a wooden bridge that connected the island with several bungalows on stilts, one of which they own. The Brauners’ home was still standing, albeit with damage to the deck and exterior.

During Tropical Storm Irene, two of the bungalows fell off into Jamaica Bay, and this year Sandy took half of another house. The other half hung precariously above the water.

“This is like a bomb went off here. It’s unbelievab­le,” said Ginger Brauner, who spent the storm on Long Island.

Her house, which was originally built in 1904, is only accessible by the wooden bridge on East 12th Road. Most of it was strewn across several backyards.

“It will be a while before we can even go out and assess what is there,” said Ginger’s husband, Tom.

Debris and remnants of flooding were visible on nearly every block in Broad Channel, and a powerful stench of gasoline and home heating oil permeated the air. On Channel Road, the North Channel Yacht Club’s shed collapsed into the street, which was impassable by car because of the debris. Among items on the ground were a bottle of whiskey and a dead cat.

Large boats, including one from the North Channel Yacht Club, had floated into Cross Bay Boulevard, the fronts of homes and backyards.

The club’s deck was partly smashed against the building, while the interior was filled with ruined furniture and water.

“The whole club is destroyed. Pretty much 90 percent of the boats are destroyed .... Most of the people who are members live in Broad Channel, so their houses are destroyed at the same time,” said member Mark Kaminski. “We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to rebuild this.”

In Hamilton Beach, a section of Howard Beach, residents estimated the water surged between 6 and 10 feet.

Christine Kilkenny said she called the cell phone of a West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department asking to be rescued after water filled her entire first floor. Responders told her they were not able to get to her because they themselves were trapped in the firehouse with 6 feet of water outside.

Kilkenny said her home had been affected during Tropical Storm Irene, but this storm was much worse.

“This year I really lost everything,” she said.

West Hamilton Beach Deputy Chief Daniel Amorim said all the firehouse’s vehicles were destroyed in the storm except for one ambulance. In addition, the personal cars of many of the volunteers were wrecked after they parked them in the Waldbaum’s supermarket lot in Howard Beach, which was flooded.

Amorim and fellow volunteers were surveying the damage as about a dozen FEMA workers from Massachusetts walked along 104th Street.

Maria Martinez, whose house looks out onto Jamaica Bay, pointed out that her deck had shifted in the storm and piles of debris filled her yard. Her husband braved the storm in the house with their dog and had to run to the second floor after the storm surge filled the living room.

“Everything is flooded,” Martinez said.

In addition, one chicken and two ducks had not survived Sandy.

She said she found the remaining members of her flock six blocks away.

Reach photo editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4589.

Posted 3:45 am, November 2, 2012
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Reader feedback

Constantin S. Manta from Howard Beach says:
Dear Howard Beach Residents,
I live on 98th Street by Charles Park. What is happening to us is unbelievable! Please come together here: . Homeowners and tenants do not sign anything from FEMA or your insurance company. We need to come together.
Nov. 4, 2012, 6:40 am
Joe Brennan from re: Broad Channel says:
Folks on Broad Channel have weathered a tremendous assault, suffering staggering losses. They deserve a lot more assistance and respect from the powers that be in Manhattan. On the positive side, the Marathon mania was put into proper perspective, and scarce resources were saved for those who really needed them.

As an inhabitant of Park Slope in Brooklyn the worst I witnessed was the loss of some leaves from the oak trees outside my building. Man, we raked like hell for at least an hour.

Visiting Broad Channel a few days later and seeing all those front loaders and dumpsters full of the debris of people's dreams was a truly sad shock.

My own loss was pathetic in comparison, a small green kayak. But I can't help wondering where a 20 foot float attached to my boat may have wound up after departing Sunset Marina at W 10th St ? Please take notice: there's some hazardous debris out there for boaters.
Nov. 6, 2012, 10:15 pm

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