Although the images aren’t as shocking in Meadowmere Park as nearby Long Beach, the small, out of the way, Five Towns community on the Queens border has been nearly completely decimated by Hurricane Sandy.
Residents of the six-block area that is surrounded by water on all sides estimate that flooding has destroyed every home’s basement and first floor. Piles of furniture, boxes of personal goods and spoiled food line the front yards of the neighborhood’s small streets, waiting to be tagged and claimed to federal officials. The storm has created the unseen dangers of mildew and mold. The people who have stayed in their homes sleep on the second floor, if they have one, without heat, electricity and hot water.
“I can’t be in my house right now. I need a break,” Justin P., a 19-year-old resident of Meadowmere and volunteer firefighter (like many residents of the community), told Patch on Friday on the walking bridge between Meadowmere and a small sliver of neighboring Rosedale. “You’re sitting here and you want something different. We’re known for high tides. We’ve dealt with it before. We’ve never dealt with five feet of water in our houses.”
Lynn Rollo, a 63-year resident of Meadowmere Park, confirmed this, and said Sandy was the worst she’s seen.
Television news shows have highlighted other communities in similar situations that are awaiting the arrival of officials from FEMA and the Office of Emergency Management. This has not been the case for Meadowmere Park, whose residents feel they’re completely alone.
“We need assistance,” said Joann Waters.
“They don’t acknowledge we’re here,” Kris Pugliese added.
Pete Henry, who lives in Long Beach, lost everything in the storm, and is now staying with relatives in Meadowmere. As he cleaned out their garage, pointing out his empty gas tank, he had one simple message: “Get FEMA over here.”
The Meadowmere Park Fire Department is now, more than ever, acting as the essential backbone of the community, as of Saturday the only place to take a hot shower, and even providing security in the way of lights powered by one of its fire trucks. On Friday night, kids and teenagers, mostly the children of firefighters, filled their time playing Monopoly and Clue on the second floor of the firehouse, while a single DVD played on a nearby TV.
Kevin Carrero, whose house is higher than many in the community, still had a foot and a half of water in his house, and estimates the first floor has to be gutted. A contractor, Carrero is acting chief of the fire department, and has unofficially served as the community’s leader since the storm hit.
“We’re helping everyone clean out their homes,” said a visibly drained Carrero, who has slept only two hours a night this week on a cot in the firehouse and finally went to sleep at home for the first time Friday evening. “A lot of my guys are taking care of their own. This has been the most stressful time being chief.”
Looting is a huge concern in Meadowmere, but Carrero said he has not gotten any response from the Fourth Precinct or the auxiliary force.
“The other fire departments are the only ones helping us,” he said. “We can’t get outside help — we’ll take care of ourselves.”
Still, residents are hopeful.
Diane Kircher, who was cleaning her garage, assured Patch, “We’re going to have Halloween.”
The American flag hung high over Charles Lombardo’s home, which now has oil sludge in its crawl space after his neighbor’s tank spilled. “That was a freaky storm,” he said.
But Carrero is not so sure residents’ spirits can withstand the hardships that have yet to come as a result of Sandy.
“It’ll never be the same,” he said. “It’s hard to see what got lost.”