Stories

Coney Island public housing awaits aid

Residents who resisted evacuation orders still have no power, water or clues about what's next

Photo: Metro Ministries

From the Amalgamated Warbasse complex near Ocean Parkway, it’s a mile and a half west to the public Gravesend Houses, with dozens and dozens of flooded-out townhouses in between. The destruction is so thorough that it’s almost casual, every block piled with sodden furniture and full trashbags as residents gut their ground floors. Cars were slapped with stickers labeling them a “total loss.”

On the ground floor of a building at the Gravesend complex, 21-year-old Kamesha McClain immediately accosted a reporter who entered, complaining about the lack of power and heat in her building, as well as the reports of looting after the storm.

“They just keep talking about us on the news as savages — we didn’t do it!” she said. “We don’t have nothing. They don’t tell us nothing.”

As McClain spoke, several NYPD officers entered the building, handing out flyers telling residents that they could still relocate to shelters. McClain quickly dismissed that, contending the shelters were dirty and crowded.

On the sidewalk outside, 24-year-old Brian Thomas credited the work being done by the New York City Housing Authority, which maintains the complex, to clean up the area. Behind him, three workers were setting up a hose to pump out one of the buildings.

But, Thomas said, the recovery effort “is gonna take more than just NYCHA.”

“The water is receded, but…they still have a lot of work to do,” Thomas said. “Tell ‘em there’s no help over here. The only one come by is Yogi Bear.”

Yogi Bear is the mascot of Metro Ministries, a church group that picked up the nickname years ago after its pastor, Bill Wilson, roamed the streets in a costume of Jellystone Park’s most famous resident. Cherrie Tapp, an assistant to Wilson, confirmed Friday that Metro Ministries had sent a team to Coney Island with food and drinks earlier in the week.

At the Sea-Park buildings, an affordable complex a few blocks away, things weren’t much better: no power, and no running water on the upper floors, according to residents and visitors.

Jawanza Fraser, 28, who was visiting his parents, said that the area was dangerous at night.

“Winter time, you don’t know who got what on ‘em,” he said, fearful that people could be hiding weapons under their warm clothes. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. You want to stay here to protect your stuff, but how can you stay with nothing?”

Several people said were frustrated by the small number of stores open on Coney Island, making it difficult to purchase food or supplies.

The National Guard had reportedly set up a distribution station on Coney Island, five long blocks away, on 25th Street.

Another NYCHA complex nearby, O’Dwyer Gardens, was also without power.

Conrado Bowen, 54, of Staten Island, had just come down from the 15th floor, where he had carried six gallons of water — some 50 pounds — up to his mother’s apartment.

“And it’s murder. My back is killing me,” he said.

Bowen said his mother was using a bucket to bathe, and that nobody had knocked on her door to see if she needed help. She refused to leave her apartment — she didn’t want to walk down 15 flights of stairs on sore knees, Bowen said.

“There’s a lot of nice folks in there, and they’re suffering,” he said.

NYCHA did not respond to an email about the conditions at O’Dwyer Gardens, or the Gravesend Houses.

Halfway in between, a man stood next to the road, filling a bucket with a slow stream of water from a fire hydrant.

Asked if the water was to take back to his house, he nodded.

“What can I do?” he said.