Written by Melissa Argueta Friday, 23 September 2011 00:00
Nearly a month ago, Tropical Storm Irene blew through Long Island leaving severe tree damage and rampant power outages in her wake. Garden City was one of the villages hardest hit by the storm’s rage. At the board of trustees meeting, village department heads updated residents on the extent of the damage and apprised residents of cleanup efforts still underway.
Mayor Brudie emphasized that the storm has posed a heavy burden on the village with respect to overtime costs needed for the cleanup. “We were really hit hard. We were hit harder than many other villages in Nassau County. Probably, maybe we were hit the worst. Quite honestly, when I saw the tree damage, it was really something to behold,” the mayor said.
Village Administrator Robert Schoelle said that the various village department heads and supervisors developed a plan prior to the storm and it was extremely well executed, with no injuries reported within the village. “We were fortunate to have an advanced notice that a significant weather event would arrive over the weekend, which enabled departments to prepare personnel and equipment to be dispatched both during and after the storm,” Schoelle said.
“Due to the significant number of matured street trees in Garden City, weather events such as Irene pose a major safety threat to the people and property from high winds and heavy rain falling onto already saturated ground. This is made even more difficult during evening hours when visibility is poor at best and when electrical wires come down onto branches and trees,” Schoelle said.
Police and fire personnel cannot respond to an emergency until the streets are open to allow vehicles to pass, Schoelle explained, adding, “Our Public Works people worked throughout the night and during the storm to keep the streets open. You did a magnificent job.”
Department of Public Works Director Robert Mangan gave an in-depth report about his department’s response to the storm. “They might have had a tropical storm hit the Island, but we called it a hurricane because of the damage it did to Garden City,” Mangan said.
Mangan stated that 129 village trees came down during the storm, with 48 blocking roads completely. He indicated that opening the roads required the street department payloaders to push the trees to the side of the road after being cut by the tree crew. Forty private trees were also toppled and the DPW worked throughout the night to allow emergency vehicles to have access.
“All DPW employees responded and left their families, even those whose homes were in danger near the shoreline. We had to work with LIPA when there were wires down in areas such as Hathaway Drive, which we couldn’t start until LIPA showed up,” Mangan explained.
In addition to downed trees, Mangan said 75 large stumps were uprooted causing lawn and sidewalk damage. Forty-five of these trees damaged sidewalks, which have to be repaired. The preliminary estimate for sidewalk replacement is $37,000 based on the village contractor line items that were bid, according to Mangan.
“To date the village has spent $58,360 in overtime in the response and cleanup for the storm and the work is reimbursable from FEMA based on the Disaster Declaration for Nassau County. We attended the FEMA preliminary disaster assistance meeting for governments which was held in Bethpage yesterday,” Mangan told residents at the meeting.
Since the storm, the DPW has been transporting the debris daily to the designated Nassau County debris disposal site on Coes Neck Road in Hempstead. “To date we have delivered 4,500 cubic yards of debris and it is going to go way past that,” Mangan said.
“We have been meticulously documenting all of the storm response work in order to have it qualify for FEMA reimbursement as we did for the blizzard in January 2001.”
Mangan maintained that preliminary planning by all departments was a key component to the success of the response efforts. “I would like to compliment all the DPW employees for their efforts in putting the village back together. We were able to keep all wells on line and also the sewer pumping stations thanks to the efforts of the Water/Sewer Department personnel. I also want to thank the police and fire departments who worked closely with us in establishing priorities. In addition, the Recreation Department provided DPW with some of their staff to assist in clearing the roads. Preliminary planning was key in our response,” Mangan said.
Recreation Department Director Kevin Ocker reported that damage was minimal in neighborhood parks. “All parks buildings have been inspected and there has been no damage from the storm. The neighborhood parks have been cleared,” Ocker said.
Ocker also announced that historic St. Paul’s main building was damaged from the high winds of the storm. “There’s between 13 and 15 windows that are currently being repaired. They were broken and pushed in,” Ocker said.
Roof damage occurred in the area connecting the main hallway with the west wing. Other severe damage was the loss of the south clock tower face, leaving that section of the tower wide open to the elements. Preliminary estimates are being sought for the cost of roof and clock tower repairs, according to Ocker.
The mayor applauded the efforts of all village department leaders and the response of village workers. “I want to thank all the village agencies who worked so diligently before and after the storm hit. Their work is still ongoing with the cleanup,” Brudie said.