Gerritsen’s cry for help

Total loss: Richie Bennick of Hyman Court says he “lost everything” in Hurricane Sandy. When this paper asked him for his for his cellphone number, he replied with tears in his eyes, “I lost that, too.”
Photo by Steve Solomonson

City agencies and utilities turned a blind eye on Hurricane Sandy-ravaged Gerritsen Beach until residents forced them to look at the devastation the super storm left behind, say homeowners who claim it took two weeks for government aid to reach the community.

Residents in the tiny seaside enclave said Hurricane Sandy thrashed and flooded their homes, but help didn’t arrive until after community leaders demanded that Con Edison and the Federal Emergency Management Agency attend a town hall meeting and see the neighborhood’s condition.

“Con Edison and the city had no presence in Gerristen Beach before the meeting,” said Robin Blanchfield, whose Hazel Court home was flooded during the storm.

Residents say the Department of Sanitation was the only city agency who paid attention to Gerritsen Beach — a community of cops, firefighters, and city workers.

“Sanitation trucks started coming three days after the storm,” said Blanchfield. “If not for them, we’d be living under mountains of garbage.”

The Nov. 8 meeting at Resurrection Church was organized by the Gerritsen Beach Cares. Members claim they put the meeting together because no one else would.

“We were left in the dark by everyone for 10 days,” said Mike Taylor, the founder of Gerritsen Beach Cares. “We were waiting for someone to lead us and, when nobody came, we and a lot of other neighborhood groups and community leaders put this meeting together to try to figure out what’s going on.”

Taylor claims that Con Edison didn’t know that most of Gerritsen Beach was out of power until representatives saw the 800 desperate residents who turned up at the meeting.

“I don’t even think they knew we were down here until that meeting was held,” said Taylor, who said that the church hall was still packed even after many residents left, realizing that they wouldn’t be given an opportunity to speak.

“Some people just got up and left when they realized you couldn’t ask questions,” said Gerritsen Beach resident Laura Golding.

Yet the meeting had its desired effect: within a few days aid began flowing to Gerritsen Beach and the Federal Emergency Management Agency set up a mobile command center in the community last week to lend assistance.

“Now there are dozens of Con Ed trucks down here and people are getting their power restored,” said Taylor.

The Gerritsen Beach town hall meeting also sparked other meetings: just last week, Councilman Lew Fidler (D–Marine Park) brought utility companies and Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives to meetings at the Kings Bay Y in Sheepshead Bay and at the Hasidic Educational Society in Canarsie.

Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4514.

More from Around New York