MPK Village calls emergency meeting of residents
By Carolyn James
Emotions ranged from confusion to frustration to anger, with all of the sentiments in between.
“I am disgusted,” said Massapequa Park Village Mayor James Altadonna who held an impromptu meeting Tuesday night for residents, particularly those in Bar Harbor who were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. “Where are all of the resources we have been promised? We have not seen them in Massapequa Park.”
Approximately 200 residents attended the meeting looking for information, answers‑—and hope.
“It’s been really tough; we got hit hard,” said Garret Christy of Massapequa Park who has family members who got hit even harder living with him.
“Frankly, we feel this community has been neglected,” said Rhonda Gogel of Old Bar Harbor whose home was still without power on Monday and who attended the meeting with her husband. “The Village is trying to do it’s best but where is everyone else; we haven’t even seen a LIPA truck.”
Altadonna told the group that following Hurricane Irene a year ago, LIPA officials told the Village that one of the reasons it took so long to get the power back on in the community was because many access roads were blocked by down trees.
“So, right after this storm, we had crews out there sunrise to sundown and had the roads cleared in 24 hours,” said Altadonna. “Still no LIPA workers.”
Altadonna said he was also frustrated at the lack of adequate police protection for the hardest-hit areas. “We called and asked to have police cars in the parts of the Village that are dark and were told the department did not have the resources. That is just unacceptable.”
Altadonna said that is no reflection on the individual officers who are doing their best. “If the Nassau County Police cannot provide us with adequate protection during a crisis like this, then something is wrong.”
Altadonna said that after this crisis is over, he and the Village Board would be reviewing the possibility of establishing a Village Police force.
Nassau County Police Inspector Joseph Barbieri said that the department has and is continuing to provide police service and surveillance in the area and has just authorized two units at Whitewood Drive and Harbor Lane to monitor those going in and out of the area.
“I think what the Mayor was looking for was some kind of a curfew, which is just not something we do,” said Barbieri. “But we can assure residents that there is a police presence in their communities and that incidents of crimes are low.”
Since the storm, Barbieri said there has been a report of only a single burglary.
Another resident said the Village should also look into a class action lawsuit against LIPA.
“Frankly nothing is going to change unless we hit them in the pocketbook,” said Donna Guarton of Massapequa Park.
Another source of frustration for Village officials and residents was the information provided to Massapequa Park and other municipalities along the South Shore by LIPA, which announced on Monday that no home south of Merrick Road would have its power restored unless LIPA received certification from the homeowner that the electrical system had been inspected and was safe. Officials tried to get the word out to the homeowners, many who had little or no access to phones and the Internet, to move the process along.
That led to a scramble for locating licensed electricians who could complete the review and fill out the reports, as well as a lot of confusion.
“No sooner had we gotten the word out no power would be restored unless the homes were inspected then did LIPA get the power up along Whitewood Drive in many homes that had not been inspected,” said Altadonna. “Many residents called to ask what was going on. Did they need the inspections or not?”
Altadonna told the residents to use “caution and prudence.
“What we are telling residents is that if they had any water damage, it is wise to have someone come in and check out the electrical system in the home for safety reasons,” said Altadonna. “We are during our residents to be careful.”
Residents were pleased about one thing however: the Village’s response in clearing the roads of downed trees and picking up debris.
“Great, you did a terrific job,” one resident shouted out at the meeting. Many joined in acknowledging that.
“We are doing our best,” responded Altadonna.