Feigning a blackout to shed light on readiness
BY CODY BROOKS | Alphabet City’s Village East Towers hosted its first-ever Disaster Festival on Saturday, showcasing how to respond to a power outage due to natural disaster.
The Avenue C apartment complex’s board organized a simulated power outage drill followed by an awareness festival out on the development’s promenade.
The drill saw residents volunteer to suit up with reflective vests, flashlights and a checklist, and go to participating floors to knock on doors and make sure everyone had enough food, water and medication; they also checked to see if the tenants had an evacuation plan for themselves and any pets.
The lights stayed on.
“We used our imagination,” said Dan Myers, the event’s organizer and co-chairperson of the complex’s disaster-readiness team.
The festival’s impetus was to promote a reliable emergency plan. But Myers also wanted to emphasize prevention. Maps and photos showing Manhattan’s elevations and the extent of the blackout that Hurricane Sandy caused were displayed alongside the message of mitigating climate change — explaining how more frequent storms and rising water levels due to higher temperatures can increase the threat of storm surges.
Myers noted that the Village East Towers board is seeking funds to install flood doors in key spots to seal the buildings in the event of another watery disaster.
Myers also wanted to encourage prevention as a way to promote the Mitchell-Lama housing program, of which Village East Towers is a part. He worried that if a disaster caused more damage to the complex than could be repaired with public funds, the place could be sold off to a private owner and the residents kicked out due to higher rents. According to Myers, Sandy caused an estimated $750,000 in damages to the development.
After the drill, residents heard from a variety of authorities about disaster preparedness at the festival. Paul Garrin of the new Lumen project demonstrated solar panels that could be used to power WiFi and cell phones in a blackout. The city’s Office of Emergency Management handed out emergency plan packets, the Lower East Side Long Term Recovery Group provided a disaster-preparedness newspaper, and Councilwomember Rosie Mendez, who represents the East Village, answered questions.
Village East Towers, with nearly 400 apartments, was flooded, along with much of the East Village. The complex is near the E. 14th St. Con Ed plant, which was also swamped by the superstorm.
“Where the cars were floating on Avenue C during Sandy — that was us,” Myers said.
Alphabet City is on manmade land that juts out into the East River; so rising waters have an easy time jumping over into the streets to flow south and connect back with the main artery.