The Post-Sandy View From Astoria


Hurricane Sandy uproots trees, floods a few basements and bashes a Volvo, but overall doesn’t leave much of a mark on Queens neighborhood.

Fall tree on Volvo

A fallen tree crushes a Volvo on 34th Street. CREDIT: LIZ FIELDS

On Monday afternoon, hours before Hurricane Sandy was due to make landfall, members of the ‘Why Leave Astoria?!’ community interest group gathered at Daly’s Pub on 31st Street for an impromptu “Frankenstorm party,” which involved “donuts, pizza, dominos, and several empty glasses,” said the group’s founder, Ran Craycraft.

The group of local Astorians, dedicated to promoting commerce and local activities, departed the pub for home by 5 p.m. Monday, ready to sit out winds that whipped up to 80 miles per hour.

The morning after the storm, Craycraft set about surveying and documenting the damage that Sandy had wreaked on the community, and luckily found only a few uprooted trees that left some residents without power and flooded basements.

Craycraft stopped at what turned out to be one of the most dramatic damage sights in Astoria: on 34th Street and 34th Ave., a silver Volvo sat crushed under a fallen tree. The owner had erected a sign demanding “$5 per picture for car repairs and new tree.”

Neighbors said the owner had already called his insurance company, though they added that quite a few passersby had stuffed dollar bills into an envelope taped up with the sign.

A couple of blocks away, at a city Emergency Evacuation Center on 33rd Street and 35th Ave., volunteers who were unable to go to work or school Tuesday showed up to help those who had sought shelter from the storm.

“I’ve been a Red Cross volunteer before,” said Christina, a student at the City University of New York who recently moved to the area with her boyfriend. “School was closed today, so I wanted to come and be useful in some way.”

But there wasn’t actually much for Christina and other volunteers to do. The shelter, housed in Public School 166, had received just five evacuees.

A little up the road, outside the McDonalds on Broadway and 31st Street, an employee, who only gave his first name, Ron, was loading crates of Big Mac buns into the trunk of his car. They were to take back to the McDonalds where he works, on Maurice Avenue, about two miles away in nearby Flushing.

“The truck was supposed to deliver,” said Ron, “but they couldn’t get to us, so I’m having to pack all these up and take them to our store.”

For shops along Astoria’s bustling commercial strip on Broadway, it was business as usual for some, while others said they had been mildly inconvenienced by the weather. Although approximately a third of all shops were closed Tuesday afternoon (and some boarded up) the street remained crowded with shoppers and diners.

Volunteer signs into the NYC Evacuation Center in Astoria

A volunteer signs in to help at a city Evacuation Center in Astoria. CREDIT: LIZ FIELDS

Outside GameStop, a long line of young men were relieved that the hurricane had not lived up to its disastrous potential in the area, and were already seeking their next charge of adrenalin. They were weathering the vestiges of drizzling rain and cold winds outside the only open gaming store in the area to purchase the latest version of the ‘Assassins Creed’ game, which – despite Sandy – was released throughout North America on Tuesday.

“I’m from Florida, so I’m used to natural disasters,” said Mike Petrie, who was in line because he and his roommate had “ordered the game pre-hurricane.”

“A lot of my friends’ apartments in the lower east side [of Manhattan] are flooded, and they don’t have power,” said Petrie. “But we’re too far inland to get water damage. People were more worried about blackouts here.”

Rob Elio, the owner of K and T Quality Meats, said that in the aftermath of the storm, the butcher’s shop had been cut off from its suppliers in Long Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan’s meatpacking district.

“We stocked up for the hurricane, so we had enough, but we’re now running low.” said Elio, who hopes that since the reopening of the bridges into Astoria and Long Island City yesterday, the shop will soon receive their first order of meat in four days.

Mayor Bloomberg has announced public school closures for the third day in a row, which will affect some 29 schools in the Queens Community District 1 area that includes Astoria, Steinway and Long Island City.

“I’m happy I don’t have to go to school,” said one child outside the Baskin and Robbins ice-cream shop on Broadway on Tuesday. The boy, wearing a Batman costume, said he attempted to stop the storm yesterday, but failing to do so, still hoped to “get lots of candy” for Halloween tomorrow.


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