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Chelsea Recovers After Irene's Mild Impact

By Mathew Katz | August 28, 2011 1:44pm | Updated on August 28, 2011 4:02pm

CHELSEA — Despite some flooding on West 22nd Street, many in Chelsea's mandatory evacuation zone said they felt vindicated in their decision to stay in their homes during Hurricane Irene.

"I wasn't inconvenienced — we never left," said 26-year-old Pedro Nomez, who was standing outside of his apartment at the corner of West 23rd Street and Tenth Avenue.

Nomez said that he and friends walked to the Hudson River during the storm, and didn't find any danger.

"I'm disappointed. I was hoping for something exciting," he said.

The evacuation area, which included much of Chelsea west of Tenth Avenue, didn't escape unscathed. Roughly two-foot-high waters flooded much of West 22nd Street at 11th Avenue, and fire crews responded to indoor flooding at Flemister House, a homeless shelter at 527 W. 22nd St.

Some decided to laugh and frolick in the water, while others simply watched.

Jon Golberg, 44, who lives in a condo on the largely-unscathed eastern side of the block, was watching the flooding with his family.

"I didn't think it was going to be that bad. It didn't make a lot of sense to leave, especially if this is the worst that it gets. We have two young kids. It would be hard," he said.

Other parts of Chelsea were untouched by flooding, though many trash cans had disappeared overnight. In their place was wet trash piled on street corners, which passersby did not hesitate to contribute to.

By midmorning, many in Chelsea were out on the streets. Some were bemused by the storm and did not even bring umbrellas as they went to get breakfast.

"We're going to watch Entourage episodes all day," said Nel Gimbford, 24, while waiting for a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich at the Breadstix Cafe on Eighth Avenue. "This storm is going to be bad for my waistline."

Outside, Dan Linehan, 32, was enjoying an iced coffee.

"There's still no Starbucks, so that's a total bummer," he said. Linehan had used the hurricane as an opportunity to host a party.

"We had wine, a big dinner. It was like a vacation," he said.

While many stores and restaurants were closed, the few that were open had no shortage of customers. Next door, the New Venus Diner was packed with people enjoying a Sunday brunch. Down the street, people were grocery shopping at Gristedes.

Some even made it to mass at St. Columba Catholic Church at 343 W. 25th St. Both the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. masses had about a half-dozen worshippers. At the church's entrance, volunteer Isabel Komar was welcoming in the handful who had come for the noon service.

"They're trickling in," she said. "We'd probably have more if it had been bad."