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'We've Been Forgotten,' Howard Beach Residents Say After Sandy

By Jesse Lent | November 7, 2012 3:14pm

HOWARD BEACH — When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City last week, 38-year-old Howard Beach resident Eddie Dibari stood in his second-floor apartment, watching the water rise up to his front door.

“It was pitch-black out here,” Dibari said Tuesday, in front of his boarded-up apartment on 95th Street and 157th Avenue. “It was like standing in the middle of the ocean. I got scared that the water was starting to come up the stairs.”

After helping his elderly landlady and her husband onto a Fire Department boat, Dibari and his wife waited all night for the vessel to return. It never did.

While Dibari and his wife safely rode out the storm in their apartment, they awoke the next morning to find both their cars totaled, trees fallen and electrical wires dangling.

More than a week later, Dibari and many other Howard Beach residents, still without power, are feeling ignored by a local recovery effort that has focused on decimated areas like Staten Island and the Rockaways.

“We haven’t seen anybody,” said 51-year-old Howard Beach resident John Greenholtz who lives at 95th Street and 159th Avenue. “I haven’t seen Con Edison. I haven’t seen anybody from Keyspan. No one is telling us what we need to do to get the power back on.”

A large tree fell on top of Greenholtz’s house during the storm, landing near his 22-year-old daughter’s window. Although she was home at the time, she was not injured.

The tree remains on top of Greenholtz’s house, which also took in 5 feet of water during the storm, causing an estimated $60,000 of damage in the basement alone.

“I know it’s a bad storm all over — we just want our lights back on,” Greenholtz said, adding, “Everybody now in the neighborhood is pissed. There’s nothing going on.”

Resident Michael Russo, manager of Russo’s on the Bay, was also disappointed in the disaster response in Howard Beach.

“Nobody’s been here, no FEMA, no Red Cross, nothing,” Russo said. “[None of them] have been to Howard Beach. We’ve been forgotten about.”

As a resident of Zone A, low-lying areas that were evacuated during Sandy, Russo is surprised that “no one has been back there.”

Standing in view of a nearby dock strewn with washed-up boats from the hurricane, Dibari said he is trying to keep an open mind about the disaster relief effort in his neighborhood.

“I saw the National Guard, so it’s not like they forgot about us,” he said. “But maybe they could have done a little more.”