Monday, September 20, 2010

Middle Village Storm Devastation

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Trees fell into homes and sidewalks were upended during the fierce tornado on torn through Middle Village Thursday night.  Recovery efforts are slow residents charge. As of Monday morning they say the amount of personnel and equipment needed is still not adequate to cut the downed trees and clear roads and sidewalks. More devastation is still being discovered  (Photos: Robert Holden/Juniper Park Civic Association)


By Robert Holden

Middle Village, NY - A quick moving violent late summer storm ripped through neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens on Thursday, September 16,  causing devastation rarely seen in NYC. At about 5:40pm in Middle Village, Queens the skies darkened and at one point lightning seemed so frequent that it resembled a strobe light effect. Then the winds picked up and became so violent that many Middle Villagers were reminded of 1987 when the neighborhood was struck by what seemed to be a tornado at the time. In that storm hundreds of trees were uprooted and carried several blocks.

The National Weather Service designated the 2010 storm a Macroburst with winds of 125 mph. The storm lasted only a few minutes but when it passed people went outside their homes and couldn’t believe the devastation. Most residents said that it looked like a war zone.

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Residents clear away parts of trees on top of a roof. 

Many of the neighborhood’s majestic older trees fell victim to the storm. The center of the destruction seemed to be around Juniper Valley Park and the Furmanville Avenue area but few streets south of Eliot Avenue were spared.  Juniper Valley Park lost dozens of trees particularly two 100-year old Scarlet Oaks. Several blocks from 80th street to Woodhaven Boulevard off Furmanville Avenue lost many or most of their trees.

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Many Streets Were Blocked Off Due to Fallen Trees.

Power was out to thousands of residents and the neighborhood became gridlocked with drivers desperately trying to make their way home.

The long clean up has begun.  On Friday, FDNY sent 6 firefighters with chain saws to help clear the streets. Residents on every block came out to help. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was in Queens on Saturday with Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. I met them in Juniper Valley Park to discuss the clean up.

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Juniper Park resembles a war zone according to Robert Holden. 

The NYPD response was not good after the storm (see press release below). There's not nearly enough crews out to cut the downed trees and clear roads and sidewalks. Lewandowski said that Parks is hiring companies to help with the clean up effort. I toured the neighborhood today and only saw Con Ed crews repairing downed wires. Many major streets and sidewalks are very dangerous with dangling trees and limbs. We desperately need more tree crews and fast! The Parks Department said they are hiring "eight to 10 private contractors"  but that is not nearly enough to handle the situation. 

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The Number of Contractors Being Hired To Clear Devastation Is Not Nearly Enough Residents Complain.

As of Monday morning, you still don't see a force of chippers out here. At this pace it will take a very along time to clear the area. We are still discovering more devastation. 

Press Release:

Juniper Civic: Lack of NYPD response left Middle Village to fend for itself in aftermath of storm.

After the most violent storm ever to hit New York City, the NYPD decided that the 104th Precinct could handle the chaos of downed power lines, hundreds of trees blocking streets & homes, and thousands of cars spilling off of the clogged Long Island Expressway (LIE).

Immediately after the 5:40pm storm packing 125 mph winds, heavy rain and hail slammed into Middle Village, the 104th Precinct in Ridgewood was notified by Patrol Borough Queens North headquarters that they were to hold 18 special duty officers due to end their patrols at 6:00pm.

As hundreds of calls poured into 911 operators from frantic residents, a call came from NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza in Manhattan to the 104th Precinct stating that the 18 officers weren’t needed and could go home. The result was that Middle Village was left essentially on its own with the normal contingent of precinct officers. On a good day the officers assigned to the104th precinct have their hands full patrolling the maze-like 7.5 square miles. However the night of the storm in Middle Village was anything but good.

As neighborhood streets became overrun with rush hour traffic spilling off the congested LIE and gridlocked Queens & Woodhaven Boulevards, the situation was made much worse with only a token police presence and no one to direct traffic or keep frantic motorists away from blocked roads with downed trees and wires. Most emergency calls to the precinct went unanswered.

Help would not arrive until 6 hours later at midnight when 12 officers arrived from Brooklyn precincts. “The (Brooklyn) officers sat in the precinct for about an hour then were left to make their way through confusing and unfamiliar local streets that challenge even veteran officers of the precinct,” said one source.  To make matters worse, NYPD patrol cars are not equipped with GPS Navigation Systems.

Touring Middle Village for about an hour, at approximately 2:00 A.M. the 12 Brooklyn-based officers were redeployed to the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills.  Again Middle Village residents were left to fend for themselves, most with no power, in a neighborhood devastated with downed trees, dangling electrical wires and tree limbs, and gridlocked roads with frustrated motorists with their car horns blaring.

Many veteran police officers are wondering why a “Level 3” emergency was never called for Middle Village, the hardest hit neighborhood in the city. A level 3, if called by NYPD, would bring officers from precincts throughout the city to come to the aid of the 104th Precinct and other precincts affected by the storm.

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, called the NYPD emergency response to the crisis as totally unacceptable. “We understand that other areas were hit by the storm but there should be someone in the NYPD that could evaluate the situation and immediately deploy the necessary officers to the hardest hit areas,” said Holden.

The Juniper Park Civic Association is calling on the NYPD and the mayor’s office to investigate the emergency response procedures immediately after the storm. 

Robert F. Holden is the president of Juniper Park Civic Association

Go Juniper Park Civic Association   and Click on Storm Devastation to view slide show 

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - September 19, 2010

A Walk In The Park - September 16, 2010

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