Seniors Suffer in Dark After Sandy

In Coney Island High Rise, Waiting for Power and Hope

By Seth Berkman

Published November 06, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
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Video: Nate Lavey


When Janet Greenblat heard that Hurricane Sandy was heading toward New York, she wasn’t too concerned. Since 1982, Greenblat, 68, has lived in the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses in Brooklyn, a five-building co-op that runs on electricity provided by its own power plant.

During citywide blackouts, when the rest of New York was dark, the lights stayed on at the Warbasse Houses.

Not this time.

More than a week after Sandy hit, Greenblat was sitting in her apartment in a nightgown with no heat, electricity or hot water.

“There’s some kind of an inner confidence that things are going to be OK,” Greenblat said,. “I didn’t even go crazy buying a lot of water because I knew in my mind that we had our own generator and we’re also supposed to have some kind of backup generator as well. So if one fails, it goes into the backup.

“And that didn’t happen.”

The systematic failure left residents of Warbasse’s 2,585 apartments walking around in the dark with flashlights or lighted headbands for more than a week, searching for answers.

According to the housing complex’s website, two steam turbine generators are able to produce 6,000 kilowatts per hour. Only one generator is regularly used, with the second as a backup. The power plant was also built with a diesel generator, “in case of electrical interruption.”

Warbasse resident Anya Klozner said that the elevator system was shut off at around 7 p.m. the night before the hurricane made landfall in New York. Two hours earlier, Klozner, 30, received a flyer underneath her door to evacuate the building.


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