The Scene From Evacuation Zone A: Police, Escape Vans, and Kids Walking Papillons


Depending on who you listen to, come Monday morning East River Park will look something like this. Sitting smack dab in the middle of dreaded Evacuation Zone A, the park is vulnerable to any storm surge Irene has up her sleeve. For now, however, it is full of joggers and dog walkers. We are about an hour away from the city’s mandatory evacuation time of 5pm, but apart from a few empty vans and buses waiting to pick up evacuees from the Jacob Riis Houses, you could hardly tell.

Outside the 13-building NYCHA development were two school buses and three vans accompanied by a police cruiser. The complex sits between Avenue D and the FDR–right next to the East River. The vans and buses, however, seemed sparsely filled.

The men driving the vans told us they were with Fordham University’s Transportation Department and not the city. They received an order from the university’s president to assist with the evacuation and were going to stay on Avenue D until 5pm. They are taking any evacuees to the shelter at 350 Grand Street.

Neither the Fordham volunteers nor people with NYCHA knew exactly how many of the approximately 1,402 people who live in the Jacob Riis Houses were staying behind.

Confusion about the elevators
remained, however. Officials were handing out flyers that said the elevators at the Jacob Riis Houses–which include some buildings that are 14-stories high–would start being shut down at 3pm, while NYCHA volunteers told us that elevator service wouldn’t be terminated until 5pm. We rode an elevator shortly after 3pm and it was working fine. The hallways also appeared to be relatively empty.

As 5pm neared, a recorded voice from a bullhorn mounted on a city vehicle repeatedly reminded joggers coming over the FDR overpass of the “mandatory evacuation.” Few could hear over their iPods.