East End Matters...
The Dixie Chicks used to sing “Goodbye Earl.” That refrain was heard this Labor Day weekend when Hurricane Earl traveled up the east coast. As the governor of North Carolina, Beverly Perdue said, “We dodged a bullet” when Earl brought only minor damage to her state. The same can be said for the Rockaway peninsula when high waves and wind were the most Earl brought our way. On Thursday Earl was a category 3 hurricane. By Friday morning it was downgraded to a category 1. Forecasts called for the eastern end of Long Island to be affected the most, but they felt hardly anything. But as New York City emergency manager Joseph Bruno said in the Daily News last Friday, “Hurricanes don’t necessarily follow the script we give them. They do what they think they have to do, and they sometimes act badly.” In other words – prepare for the worst.
That is exactly what Ready Rockaway should have done. They have made it their mission over the last year and a half to inform Rockaway residents from the Nassau County line to Breezy Point how to react in a disaster. Unfortunately, it appears that the organization was not prepared for its first test.
According to emails that The Wave was party to, on Tuesday Ready Rockaway contacted their new project manager to let him know of an emergency meeting of the Ready Rockaway team on Wednesday. By the way, for some reason the email states that the meeting was not for publication. We’ll discuss that in a little bit. The new man suggested that the organization get in touch with The Wave to pass on any important emergency plans, evacuation routes or emergency phone numbers ASAP “so we can try to get that in The Wave by Wednesday afternoon for inclusion in this week’s edition.” While he has not yet officially taken his post, their project manager said that if the storm took a turn “for the worst” he would be on the peninsula to help. Zandra Myers, the director of Ready Rockaway, not only replied saying what a good idea he had, but also indicated she would follow up on it. Early Wednesday morning, Myers emailed The Wave saying we “may send you something today related to emergency evacuation or storm planning.” Two hours later when we inquired if we were receiving any kind of article, the reply was we would have it in 10 minutes. We never received any emergency information concerning the hurricane from Ready Rockaway. This reporter called Myers on Thursday, but she left early for the weekend.
As to the meeting’s “not for publication” status, local governments and organizations up and down the east coast, I am sure, were holding emergency meetings. It is probably protocol. Why would Ready Rockaway not want it known they held one?
This all leads to the question – was Ready Rockaway prepared to dispense vital information on a possible disaster on the peninsula?
According to Myers there was some “confusion” after the information was written up and then sent to Bruno.
Why wasn’t everything already printed on a hard copy or in a file on a computer just waiting to be sent out? Just because the storm didn’t turn out as advertised, doesn’t make it OK that a mix-up or confusion happened. As Bruno implied – plan for the worst, hope for the best.
Organizations such as the Red Cross and government entities have already said that Hurricane Earl is a learning experience – what was done right and what could be improved upon. September is National Preparedness Awareness Month. This is a good time for Ready Rockaway to determine what they could do better. Myers did say on Tuesday that everything she does is a learning experience. Which is good. This time Hurricane Earl’s bark was a lot worse than his bite. Next time, we may not be so lucky. **********************************
Renovation work has begun again on Rockaway’s subway stations. It would be great, except the previous work wasn’t finished. Since work stopped during the summer, the erosion of unfixed staircases has gotten worse. Going up the street stairs at the Beach 90 Street, Broad Channel-bound side of the station is a scary adventure. Stairs are not supposed to jiggle up and down and have gapping holes in them.
This is an accident waiting to happen. Yet the current repairs are to be done on the Rockaway Park-bound side. This is good because those stairs heading up to the platform are just as bad. Now with the Rockaway Parkbound side being closed until spring 2011, that means that commuters’ only choice is to use the Broad Channelbound street staircase – you know, the eroded one that jiggles up and down and has gapping holes.