Thirty Minutes After Deadline, Calm Prevails At Hurricane Shelter For Williamsburg Residents

At a Hurricane Irene evacuation center in Long Island City for residents of Zone A areas in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the controlled and efficient mood stood in stark contrast to the chaotic scene Runnin' Scared found yesterday at a high school in Ozone Park meant to house evacuees from the Rockaways.

We managed to get ahold of a car this afternoon and drove up from our home base in East Williamsburg to Aviation High School off of Queens Boulevard. As far as emergency housing goes, it seemed pretty nice.

We scurried towards the school as a steady rain fell. A friendly Nigerian-born worker named Aham greeted us outside the building and walked us into the school's lobby, where four or five officials in orange vests sat at a table for evacuee intake. We were told that if we needed to stay at the center, we could register then and come back later if necessary. We couldn't access the rooms where the evacuees were being kept without committing to staying there. Aham told us the evacuees are staying in empty classrooms, supplied with cots, water and food.

The center's capacity? 300. The number of people there at 5:30 p.m., a half-hour after Mayor Bloomberg's deadline? 20-25, according to the crew working the center. Aham expected a lot more. "We'll get more people then we think we'll get," he said.

What would happen if they reached capacity, something that's already happened at at least one shelter (the Christa McAuliffe School in Bensonhurst)? "We're hoping we don't," he said. He said that if the center reached "critical mass" some evacuees would have to be sent to other evacuation centers. He told us the other centers for Williamsburgers and Greenpointers would be much more poorly-staffed and -equipped than Aviation.

As with all evacuation centers in the city, people can bring their pets to the high school. This is a picture of the hallway for pets at Aviation. We saw two dogs in there, one of whom wouldn't stop barking, poor thing:

Thirty Minutes After Deadline, Calm Prevails At Hurricane Shelter For Williamsburg Residents
Rosie Gray

One of the buses the city is using to transport people to evacuation centers sat outside. Since MTA service shut down Saturday at noon, these buses have been supposed to be getting people in need to emergency shelters (although as Aham pointed out, when the weather gets really bad even that probably won't be available):

Thirty Minutes After Deadline, Calm Prevails At Hurricane Shelter For Williamsburg Residents
Rosie Gray

Runnin' Scared got back in the car and drove back down into Brooklyn, skewing close to Zone A near the waterfront. The area around the Williamsburg Bridge was a ghost town; the only other souls in sight were a few joggers and the occasional NYPD car. On some of the pretty and possibly doomed glass high-rises next to the river, the panes sported sad thin X's of tape. We ran into Internet guy Jim Behrle, who lives in South Williamsburg right next to Zone A and kindly lent us his rain jacket. He has no plans to evacuate.

Seems to be kind of a theme.

A puny array of sandbags next to the East River.
A puny array of sandbags next to the East River.
Rosie Gray

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

Go to Runnin' Scared for more Voice news coverage.


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