Powerless Far Rockaway Tenants Want Generators like NYCHA Residents
QUEENS — The elevated subway that rumbles through Far Rockaway has become a dividing line between the powered and powerless.
Last week, the city-owned Ocean Bay houses on the north side of the track flickered back to life after NYCHA hauled in generators. The apartments, which lost power when Hurricane Sandy struck Oct. 29, once again glowed at night.
But just across the A line, thousands of tenants at Ocean Village apartments remain in the dark. As of Friday, the federally subsidized low-income housing property was still without power and heat.
Residents say management and the Long Island Power Authority hasn't told them when lights will return. They also wonder why someone can't do for them what the city did for Ocean Bay just a block away.
"This is federal programming. Why don’t we have generators?” Anthony Mack, 47, asked. “Why do we gotta wait until LIPA fixes the power?”
For 17 years Mack has lived in a five-bedroom basement apartment in Ocean Village, which borders the boardwalk. When Sandy hit, his unit was flooded.
“In less than 3 to 5 seconds, it was at my waist,” Mack said. The water forced him and his four kids to take shelter in a vacant third-floor apartment whose door he had to kick in.
They have since returned to their water-logged apartment. Mack said at night, without TVs, iPads and other electronic distractions, they “talk and get to know each other.”
Sundown has become a self-imposed curfew for many Ocean Village residents who fear muggings or worse. Spotlights powered by three generators barely illuminate the outdoor premises at night, they say. During the day, residents plug their cell phones into them.
To heat their homes, they turn on their gas ovens.
Deborah Otts, 62, hasn’t left her second-floor apartment at Ocean Village since Sandy struck. Her oven hasn’t worked since before the storm. Instead she keeps her stovetops burning from the moment she gets up in the morning until she goes to bed.
“I got nothing to go by except for my faith, because who can stand it in here?” Otts said Friday as she sat in a lazy boy, bundled in two sets of clothes, a hat, leg warmers, boots and a blanket. “It’s been going on for two weeks.”
Otts had her hip and knee replaced and needs a walker. She receives disability and pays $375 in rent. Under Section 8, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development pays an additional $889 in rent to the property manager.
Since Sandy struck, her ceilings have leaked brown water into her bedroom. Another room has accumulated mold.
“You should see it after 5 o’clock,” said Otts, who has lived at Ocean Village since 1974. “It’s impossible. I have to light candles.”
At 7 p.m. she curls up in bed with her cat Misty and falls asleep listening to the Christian radio station 1190 AM. Her other cat, Benny, stands guard, she said.
“I wake up in the morning and start all over again,” she said.
“This is unacceptable to anybody."
The Ocean Village property manager could not be reached, and the Long Island Power Authority did not respond to a request for comment.
Natasha Gasaway, 33, a student who has lived with her mother for 12 years at Ocean Village, said it’s “pitch black” at 5 o’clock at night. After that time, she doesn’t leave her apartment.
“It’s dangerous,” she said. “There could be looting. People try to rob one another.”
Gasaway heats her house by keeping her oven on for three hours, then turning it off for an hour.
She said the property managers should do more to help restore power.
"My mother pays $800 or $900 a month. She should be able to have a generator provided by management,” she said.
“I hope they don’t think they’ll get the full rent.”