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(Published in New York Press, Oct. ’12)
Homes in Zone A weren’t the only places affected by flooding at the height of Hurricane Sandy. An Upper East Side apartment building in Zone C also flooded Monday night.
In the aftermath, residents of 555 East 78th Street were evacuating after about five feet of floodwater surged into the building around 8:30 p.m., creating a chaotic scene, according to neighbors who hurried past with their belongings in trash bags.
Barry Skipp, 30, was one of the residents directly impacted. His apartment faces the FDR and East River, and is also just off the lobby. He recalled watching the water surging over the highway around 8 p.m. “I started trying to prepare my windows as best I could, I duct taped them, I had towels there,” he said.
Skipp said the water started to breach his windows around 8:30 p.m.
“I tried to stop it and then it just came to a point where it flowed so much, the whole place flooded, and the entire lobby was flooded up until first landing step,” he said. “I grabbed what I could and I ran out.”
Skipp pushed open his door as far as it would go and revealed the damage the floodwaters left behind.
“If you look there’s a stool in my apartment. That’s not mine,” he said, noting he didn’t have homeowners’ insurance. “My wall got breached and my neighbor’s stuff came into my apartment, and I assume vice versa. I don’t even know what’s what anymore.”
Gerry Sirio, 44, is one of the building’s doormen. He was working last night when the flooding started. Standing in front of the building, he pointed out how the water entered through air conditioning vents below windows. Sandbags that had been placed in front of apartments facing FDR and the East River did nothing to stop the flow.
At first, the water was only a couple inches, Sirio said, so he simply pushed it back with a broom. “But then the river was right inside the building. We couldn’t do nothing anymore,” he said. “The first apartment, LK, was destroyed completely,” said Sirio, referring to the apartment closest to the lobby. He said many of the apartments on the first floor were also flooded.
Around 9 p.m., a power transformer on the block exploded, Sirio said, and neighbors described the panic of evacuating flooded apartments in the dark. The power has yet to be restored.
“It was worse here then Battery Park because I was watching CNN, and they said it just breached the walls. It breached the walls 30 minutes ago up here,” said Skipp, who didn’t think of evacuating because the building is located in Zone C.
“We didn’t expect this,” said Sirio. “I know a guy who’s lived here more than 30 years, and he said nothing like this ever happened.”
Both Skipp and Sirio agree that going forward, areas closest to the East River on the Upper East Side should be changed to Zone A.
By early afternoon, building maintenance had pumped out the floodwater, but the cleanup was far from over.