Hurricane Sandy Pounds Jewish Communities

Hatzalah and Disaster Experts Warn on Seagate, Five Towns

Worries Mount: As Sandy plowed ashore, disaster management experts are worried about the safety of Jewish residents in oceanfront communities.
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Worries Mount: As Sandy plowed ashore, disaster management experts are worried about the safety of Jewish residents in oceanfront communities.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published October 29, 2012.
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As fierce winds battered New York City and Long Island, emergency experts continued to express concern about conditions in heavily Jewish oceanfront neighborhoods.

Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and Far Rockaway in Brooklyn and Queens have been under mandatory evacuation since last night. In Long Island, parts of the Five Towns have also received evacuation orders.

Severe flooding from the Hurricane Sandy is expected Monday night, with the storm lingering through much of Tuesday. Streets in low-lying areas already flooded with this morning’s high tide.

Some in the threatened areas continue to disregard those warnings.

“The captain doesn’t leave the ship,” said Pinny Dembitzer, a resident of Seagate, a gated community on Coney Island. Dembitzer, president of Seagate’s homeowners association, has decided to stay put, despite repeated warnings from city officials. “It’s very windy outside. The winds are really picking up,” he said.

Dembitzer, a Bobov Hasid, said that about half of the residents of Seagate had already left. Standing in the community’s management office, he said he could see others leaving.

The Five Towns and the Rockaways are in particular danger, according to David Pollock, director of security and emergency planning for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

“In the Far Rockaway section people have relatively little distance to go to reach safe ground, but the road can all be blocked,” Pollock said. “We’ve been telling people move now if you have someplace to move to.”

Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in parts of Lawrence, Woodmere, Long Beach, Valley Stream, and other heavily Jewish Long Island towns.

Nassau County has opened a shelter serving Kosher food in West Hempstead.

Hatzalah, the Jewish ambulance service covering the New York area, is currently receiving fewer calls than on a normal day, according Dovid Cohen, the group’s CEO. “Our guys are ready,” Cohen said.

“We’re very concerned about the possible loss of power for our phones and radio systems,” Cohen said.


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