2013-01-18 / Columnists

Broad Channel Bits

Commentary By Dan Guarino

You never know when someone from Broad Channel is going to turn up at your door with a bicycle tire.

A few columns back the white bicycle on the median at the north end of the island was mentioned. A memorial to a lost rider, it held fast through the storm, but it did lose its front wheel.

Would anyone, the column said, have a spare front wheel?

Shortly after I got an e-mail from Jim Murphy. He and his family have been displaced while their BC home is rebuilt. I believe they’re in Staten Island now. But sure enough, he had a bike wheel to help make the white bicycle whole again.

He also offered to bring it to any location needed.

So one rainy afternoon last week, he stopped by where I am staying. We exchanged our post-Sandy stories. He graciously gave me the bike wheel. We shook hands and as neighbors sincerely wished each other “good luck.”

He and the family were headed to Russo’s on the Bay. “We’re looking forward to a nice night out– finally!”

Within the next few weeks I’ll be working on getting it inflated, painting it white and with a few quick tools getting it properly onto the bike.

Over the next few months, when you pass by, think of Jim Murphy and his family. It couldn’t have been put right without them.

Good news: the Broad Channel library should be ready to open by the end of this month or the beginning of next.

According to Queens Library people I spoke with last week, Sandy knocked out four libraries in our area, caused $7.62 million in damages and destroyed more than 100,000 books, CD’s, DVD’s and other library material.

Broad Channel alone sustained $659,313 in building repairs and another $280,627 in library material replacement.

But believe it or not, out of the four libraries- BC, Arverne, Peninsula and Seaside- Broad Channel was the least damaged.

Library personnel touring each of the facilities said what helped was that the building rested on a higher elevation. I think what also helped was that the whole thing was constructed of steel and either glass or plexiglass.

The prefab design and the nature of the construction, I think, made it more durable. No plaster walls, sheetrock or wood beams to be blasted through by the rushing water.

Months ago I checked in with the Central Library in Jamaica. I wanted to know how to donate any books or any other materials to help rebuild the Broad Channel library.

They said it would be best to wait for the library to reopen and donate directly.

Looks like that day is fast coming up, and a few big cartons are coming out of storage.

As an island community perhaps we wonder a little bit more than most about the state of the water that surrounds us. After Sandy that concern for Ja-maica Bay has only grown.

As NYC Audubon president Harrison Maas put it “Hurricane Sandy has further underscored just how fragile our coastal habitat is. Huge amounts of raw sewage and oil were dumped into (Jamaica) bay and its landscape has been dramatically changed.”

It’s no surprise then that Broad Channel has residents like Don Riepe, Dan Mundy and many others and BC based groups like the American Littoral Society and the Jamaica Bay Ecowatchers which are so dedicated to the good health of the Bay.

After Sandy that dedication has become even more important, and our appreciation for what they are doing, has grown even stronger.

You’ll find some of Don Riepe’s photographic work in the Urban Audubon winter 2012/2013 newsletter/ magazine. A noted photographer and very engaging lecturer, he recently made quite an impression on an audience at the Queens Botanical Gardens. And yes, he did talk about and show slides of Broad Channel after Sandy’s destruction.

Last month I talked to Don across a table at the American Legion. At the time, he like many was slowly but steadily working on his house, which overlooks the Bay on the west side.

More recently, a day or two after New Year’s, we talked about his other work and how he and a number of concerned others will be meeting with National Parks and other agencies to push for the reopening of Fort Tilden, Riis Park and other units of the Gateway National Recreation Area.

You can hear Broad Channel musician Mike Benedetto on the new “Greetings From South Queens: Songs That Survived Super Storm Sandy” CD. Mike has been involved with any number of musical good works for years. Here he appears with a host of talented area musicians. His original song “Confess” is pitch perfect.

As always, the Vollies were on duty all through the night, even as equipment was destroyed by the flooding; at least one member was nearly ripped away by the tide and one fire truck went up in flames due to Sandy.

Their dedication to duty did not go unnoticed.

In late November the town of Madison, Connecticut donated their ambulance to the BCVFD. Not only that, they decided to stuff it with a variety of goods to help the Broad Channel community. So they held a “Stuff An Ambulance” event before heading out to BC.

“There is such a great need,” said Sheila Bracken of Madison, who helped gather and deliver donations. “We are on the shoreline and have been through hurricanes. It could have been us, and they’ve lost so much.”

Additionally the city of Chanhassen, Minnesota loaned a pumper truck. Firefighters of Collingdale, Pennsylvania’s Fire Company #2 were proud to donate a 1987 Hahn fire engine. They also accepted and transported donations from Collingdale Fire Company #1, Darby Fire Company #1, Glenolden Fire Company, Folcroft Fire Company, and the Holmes Fire Company to assist the BCVFD. The Nazarene Church of Collingdale also donated multiple cases of food from its food bank which were delivered to the American Legion.

It is nice to see that in their hour of need the Vollies, and Broad Channel, were truly not forgotten.

Got BC news? Send it to workingstories@aol.com. Thanks for reading.

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