2005-09-16 / Editorial/Opinion

Realistic Planning Is Critical To Our Survival

When the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was created by then-mayor Rudy Giuliani, it began to develop plans for hurricane evacuations in the city’s low-lying areas such as Rockaway. To a certain extent, like today’s FEMA, those plans, which abrogated the plans drawn up years earlier by the NYPD, were made by people with little experience in such things. Why else would somebody have chosen the open-air Aqueduct racetrack as a place to put evacuees from the eastern end of Rockaway? Think of it, 50,000 men, women and children crowded into the grandstands with the rain and wind pouring in. Not a pretty sight. In fact, the evacuation plans for Rockaway in case of a category four or five hurricane make little sense. The plan calls for residents from Beach 73 Street west to Breezy Point to take the Marine Parkway Bridge to Brooklyn College. How do they get there? Presumably by automobile for those who have cars, by bus for those who do not. Does this begin to sound like the flawed New Orleans plan? It sure does. What happens when Beach Channel Drive floods, when Flatbush Avenue becomes a lake nearby the Belt Parkway, when buses make one run from Rockaway to Brooklyn and then stay there? Those from Beach 73 Street east to the Nassau County Border are to take the Cross Bay Bridge to Aqueduct Racetrack. Have the people who did the planning ever see Cross Bay Boulevard in Broad Channel during a moon tide, nonetheless during a hurricane? Forget about it! How about going to the eastern end of the peninsula through Route 878 to Nassau County shelters. Forget about that as well. That road floods worse than Cross Bay Boulevard, as does Seagirt Boulevard, the only major road out of the city in that area. What can we do, besides leaving days earlier and spending days in an open racetrack or in a college gymnasium? There must be a way. Perhaps the task of planning should go back to the local NYPD precincts, the people who really know the community and what happens to that community in an emergency.

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