Stretch of East Harlem Readies for Hurricane Irene Evacuation

By Jeff Mays on August 26, 2011 6:13pm 

EAST HARLEM — At the Isaac Houses, a public housing complex at East 94th Street and First Avenue, Lorraine Johnson loaded up her sister's car with food.

She was evacuating to her sister Rosalie's home in the Soundview section of the Bronx to ride out Hurricane Irene. She uses a wheelchair and did not want to be trapped in case of flooding. She was expecting a 6 p.m. pickup from Access-A-Ride to take her to the Bronx.

"I think it's going to be bad," Johnson, 66, said. "I happen to be right by the river so if something hits, I'll be in trouble."

The Isaacs Houses lie in the mandatory hurricane evacuation zone in Manhattan. Residents who live between East 100th Street and East 93rd Street, from First Avenue to the East River, must move to move to higher ground, either with relatives or at one of the city's designated evacuation centers, by 5 p.m. Saturday.

Roughly 15 members of the Johnson family planned to regroup at Rosalie Johnson's Bronx home. Another sister was evacuating from the Rockaways.

NYCHA officials reached out to Lorraine Johnson earlier in the day to provide a list of evacuation sites if she had nowhere else to go.

"I'm truly taken care of," she said. "I feel good."

Johnson's home attendant, Shalema McGrier, 33, said no one was feeling like taking risks, especially after Tuesday's earthquake.

"It's a precaution, but a necessary one after the earthquake," McGrier said. "People are concerned."

The Johnson family had planned out a menu of meals to ride out the storm, including baked chicken, baked ziti, spaghetti with sauce and other home-cooked specialties.

"We all get along, so it should actually be nice," said Rosalie Johnson, who was helping her sister pack up.

There are several evacuation centers in Harlem to accommodate residents who don't have any alternatives. They are located at IS 118, at Manhattan Avenue and West 105th Street; PS 171, on East 103rd between Fifth and Madison avenues; IS 88, between Adam Clayton Powell and Fredrick Douglass boulevards.; Bread and Roses High School, at Edgecombe Avenue and West 136th Street; City College, at Amsterdam Avenue and West 138th Street.

At Bread and Roses High School Friday morning, workers were getting ready for the influx of resdients by unloading blankets, cots, water and cases filled with emergency items such as diapers and formula.

There were cots for roughly 300 people.

"It's nice to know the city is ready," said Lydia Connelly, a kindergarten teacher from Queens who was asked to volunteer by the city. "I hope I can make somebody feel at home if they are dislocated and upset."

Nicole Taylor, 35, a nurse, who also lives at the Isaac Houses said she was considering evacuation.

"I have a car, a full tank of gas and my supplies, so we are ready," said Taylor.

Her family in Coney Island had already evacuated. Taylor said she's concerned because during last week's heavy rains the area flooded and trees and a lightpole fell. She also lives on the 11th floor and worries about getting stuck if the power fails.

Taylor said Tuesday's earthquake had her rattled.

"Now I feel like you never know," Taylor said. "If we can have an earthquake in New York, anything can happen."

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