Gramercy Park Block Association - Neighborhood News #283

Gramercy Park Post-storm Update 

Once again our close-knit Gramercy Park community has come together to support one another during a challenging time.


Our building staffs have worked tirelessly for days on end and have been extremely resourceful and helpful in supporting residents. Along with neighbors, they have gone out of their way to ensure the well being of frail, elderly and homebound neighbors.


Hats off to our Police, Emergency Service, and Fire departments for their outstanding round-the-clock service to our community and city, even while several of their own homes were flooded, swept away, or burned to the ground, and their own families were suffering.


Gramercy Park itself sustained little damage with the exception of downed branches and debris. We believe this was not only due to luck, but also to our continuous year-round care of our trees and plantings. The Park will be closed until city parks are reopened.


Immediately outside the Park on Gramercy Park South, we lost 2 large linden trees with 2 more in jeopardy. Since trees outside the Park are under the jurisdiction of the Parks Department, we have filed official reports to them. We are also having our own tree experts come today to evaluate the situation. Other local damage included a downed tree in the Calvary-St. George's garden, a limb falling on a parked car on Gramercy Park South, and the awning of 31 Gramercy Park South being blown down.


All along First Ave. and the east twenties, cars floated downtown. The Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper village lobbies flooded with water up to their mailboxes, and for a time many residents were stranded. In Breezy Point, Queens, many homes suffered flood and fire damage that left approximately 100 homes in the area leveled and charred, in a scene that many described as "looking like a war zone". Of course, nothing compares to the loss of life (with the grim death toll now at least 90), and everyone you meet seems to mention the Staten Island mother whose two sons, ages 2 and 4, were swept from her arms by rushing floodwaters, and whose bodies were found on Thursday in a marsh.


For several days in advance of the storm, both the media, the mayor and the office of Emergency Management were focused on their prediction for the height of the storm surge, flooding and the mandatory evacuation of Zone A. They did little to warn us that with this expected storm surge, it was inevitable there would be extensive loss of power for several days for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers far beyond Zone A. Con Edison knew that they either had to preemptively shut down systems to protect them from floodwaters, and that systems not shut down could be flooded, causing extensive long-term damage that could take months to repair. One unexpected event that led to loss of power was when a transformer at 14th St and Avenue C blew up. Click here to see the video.


Few were prepared for the extent of difficulty that resulted from this loss of power and water. While many of us filled our bathtubs with water, purchased a few extra batteries, some candles, water, some dry food and other essential supplies for a couple of days, few were prepared for a week without light, internet, showers, schools, transportation, and all the basics lost without power or water.


Our plans for future emergencies


Throughout this time, our Gramercy Park Block Association has been in regular communication with Calvary-St. George's Senior Clergyman Rev. Jacob Smith. To be prepared for future emergencies, together we will set up a community command center in Anderson Hall at 61 Gramercy Park North. Calvary-St. George's is determined to purchase a generator, which will enable us to have a place for our community to gather to receive emergency updates. In addition, we hope to have a charging station for cell phones and laptops, WiFi, and to stock it with emergency supplies.  Although we were blindsided by the effects of this storm and many in the community left their homes, to have good come out of this, it is our hope to be much better prepared for the future.