Downtown Community Center Floods in Hurricane Sandy

By Jesse Lent on November 1, 2012 7:23am 

TRIBECA — It took 90 minutes for the floodwaters of Hurricane Sandy to rush through the sandbag-stacked doors of Manhattan Youth’s Downtown Community Center at 120 Warren St. on Monday night, filling the sub-basement with over 20 feet of water and causing millions of dollars in estimated damages.

“It was unbelievable — so quick, so unpredictable,” building superintendent Bobby Gardocki said of the water that seeped through his front doors after rising several feet high on Warren Street.

On Wednesday afternoon, the community center’s director Alex Roche watched a crew of several workers pump the wall of water out of the subbasement where his organization had stored the bulk of their equipment. A boiler, several water pumps, hot water heaters and even some recording gear was all submerged underwater.

“We know that a lot of our mechanical equipment is damaged and that’s our most expensive equipment,” Roche said.

Founded 26 years ago by Bob Townley, the Downtown Community Center serves over 1,400 families, offering after-school programs, activities for seniors and an aquatics program with an indoor pool.

For Townley, it’s important that the organization bounces back quickly.

“We’ve got to get our assets and building back and running,” he said.

And although he failed to speculate on exactly when that would be, Townley promised the facility would be operational before New York City schools resume classes.

“The day schools reopen, we’ll be taking care of our after-school programs,” he said.

It’s not the first time the Downtown Community Center has faced adversity. The building was damaged in Hurricane Irene and during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

And although Townley understands the effort involved in another restoration, he is proud to once again be part of the city’s recovery.

“It’s naïve to think when something hits like this everything’s going to be hunky-dory,” he said. “Downtown is surely going to have to lead the way again with its commerce as a family-friendly neighborhood.”

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