Volunteers sort clothing and other goods dropped off at Warbasse (Photo: Alex Morozov)

Hundreds of seniors and other residents remain trapped in Coney Island’s major co-op developments, and efforts to help them are hampered by supply shortages and language barriers.

Volunteers sort clothing and other goods dropped off at Warbasse (Photo: Alex Morozov)

When Esther grabbed me by the arm, pulled me in for a hug and told me I was the only person who had come to see her in days, I cried. This was an 80-year-old woman living on the 19th floor of Building 3 in the Luna Park co-ops. While all of the other buildings have electricity and some have water, Esther and anyone else above the 10th floor does not.

Hesitant to open the door at first, she eventually revealed that she didn’t prepare well and didn’t have water. She was starting to feel lightheaded. When I saw her face-to-face, she could only ask about her 82-year-old brother in Building 5; she didn’t know that his building had power and water.

Bensonhurst Bean food writer David Cohen and I walked up to the 20th floor with as many water bottles as we could carry. Then we made our way down through the dark hallways, knocking on doors and checking in with over the 160 or so mostly Russian-speaking seniors living in Building 3. We ran out of supplies by the 15th floor.

Unable to make the trek down many flights of stairs for food or water, and with few outsiders aware of their plight, the seniors are trapped. In fact, most of the high-rise co-ops west of Ocean Parkway that house a large senior population are without water, heat or electricity. In some cases, they are without all three. The potential of the freezing nor’easter to come along the East Coast early next week makes this situation a deadly one. 

Thursday saw a storage room at 2770 West 5th Street in the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses turned into a makeshift staging area for the drop-off of goods, packaging, water distribution and volunteers. Volunteers especially. Over a hundred people showed up, including a group from Bushwick calling themselves “The Drink.”

Local organizations were there for the effort too, including COJECO and the Met Council. Otherwise, it was locals who wanted to help Brooklyn’s most vulnerable residents. No signs of the National Guard or FEMA on the scene.

Volunteers canvassed the buildings, walking up 23 flights of stairs and surveying the apartments to determine what supplies residents needed. They brought with them water, food, medical attention and, hopefully, comfort.

However, towards the late-afternoon, 2770 was running low on water supplies. Eventually, the volunteers began to peter out.

Residents also told us of incomprehensible messages from police heard earlier in the day. Turns out, they had asked these largely Russian-speaking people to turn their circuit breakers off… in English. Then, fliers were left at the doors by the management stating that Con Edison had no idea when the power would come back for Building 3. Again, they were typed out in English.

Residents said they hope for better communication from property managers, or even suggest appointing building “mayors.” A familiar face that checks up on home-bound seniors in a time of a crisis would be so much better than what they say today. This may just wishful thinking.

Many of the building’s healthier residents have evacuated – some through volunteer vehicles that responded and helped families out. Some seniors capable of getting down the stairs have also been evacuated. But many, if not most, of the building’s most vulnerable residents – the frail and disabled – remain trapped in their own homes, now turned dark, cold caves.

For the many without it in Warbasse, power, heat and running water is not expected for another five to seven days.

When I told Esther that I had to move on, but that I would find out about her brother, she stood there watching me and yelling after me to “be careful.” Certainly, she was grateful for the water, but I think that just having someone show her that she wasn’t alone was helpful.

The rest of the residents were grateful too. We tried to figure out whether or not the Coney Island Housing Projects were receiving assistance, but didn’t have enough time to dedicate to asking more people on the street about it. Later, I found out that Bloomberg and Marty Markowitz were there with FEMA, just blocks away at MCU Park.

To donate or volunteer, go to 2770 West 5th Street at 10:30 a.m. Don’t just stick to Warbasse, ask about heading out to Luna Park and to the buildings along Surf Avenue. Bring a flashlight with you.

What people need most urgently:

  • Water
  • Matches
  • Candles
  • Flashlights
  • Canned goods
  • Blankets
  • Clothing

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  • Mitchell Block

    My mother (Marion Block) lives in Building 4A, Warbasse. I live in Spain and have been unable to reach her. I’ve heard through the grapevine that as of last night she was downstairs and doing fine. Do you know if there’s someone on the scene I can get in touch with. A friend of hers (Hana) has said she would pick her up she could stay with her until things are back to normal. But I don’t how Han can find my mother. Thanks!

    • kathy

      I can stop by ur mom what is the bldng # and app #? MOPKOBKA@AOL.com

      • Mitchell Block

        Kathy: Sorry to have not seen this until now. My mother is from 4A, 16G.

        • volunteer

          I was volunteering with a group earlier and we spoke to your mother, she’s doing fine and knows about your post here.

          • Mitchell Block

            Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!!

        • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

          We got power on, no elevators or hot water

    • Barry Lerner

      She is fine, volunteers are cheking up on her and bringing her food tomorow they are expecting power to be on. if you want to know more please email to b_lerner@hotmail.com

  • Brooklyn Boy

    Trump Building 4 seems fine (has water power and heat and telephone). Just spoke to my mom. She told me that all of the residents in Warbasse across the street were evacuated a few days ago due to the generator damage (Do not know if its the one by the F train Neptune Ave Station of the one by Keyfood). The buildings are dark, and not sure where they were moved to. Not sure if my info is accurate. Anyone have accurate full info?

    • Warbasse daughter

      Warbasse was not evacuated; my mother and father are still sitting in their high floor apartment. I just talked to them on the phone a few hours ago.

      • http://twitter.com/arleneherring arleneherring

        I also know a senior citizen who was evacuated by the National Guard. If they knock on a door & people don’t answer (which I personally might not want to do either anymore), they can’t go in, they leave.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

          Are they evacuating the elderly people on the high floors? Is anyone coming by with food and water? The elderly people are going to start dying.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

            we got my parents out, but I know there are a lot of elderly people still there on high floors. I am very concerned. I am in Texas. I will be talking about it on my radio show here. I’ve been posting about it all over FB. I hope it gets someone’s attention.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

            I’m talking about Warbasse.

          • http://twitter.com/arleneherring arleneherring

            I wish I knew more. I heard today that one of the buildings in the co-op has power back & I saw on tv (CBS) that mobile medical teams & other resource groups have been sent to Coney Island to help but I’m pretty much immobilized myself & can only tell you fourth-hand about this one family friend — I’m glad your parents are out.

          • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

            thanks1

  • Bill S

    One correction: Con Edison doe not supply electricity to Warbasse. They have their own power. Some of the lower floors may get water back, albeit cold water, today.

  • Warbasse daughter

    Thank you for talking about Warbasse; my parents live there and have been without power, water and heat since Monday night at around 9PM. Their power is NOT from Con Ed but from their own power plant. My parents have not been told ANYTHING about what is going on. No fliers, nothing. Calls to management result in a busy signal. One time, my mother got through and someone said “we don’t know anything.”
    Incidentally, my parents are American born and speak English, so this is not a case of miscommunication. This is a case of NO communication from Management.

    I am pleased that the volunteers gave my parents a care package yesterday.

  • Mxx

    Cold water was just turned on in Warbasse… at least in building 3 on 16th floor, so it should be everywhere very soon.

    • Kathy

      Woow thats great, any news about electricity?

      • Mxx

        Some workers say still 5-7 days, others 2-3…don’t know who to believe…probably not the ladies that are sitting in the community room.

  • Vicki

    Anyone from Manhattan want to carpool to volunteer tomorrow (Sunday)? Was doing this on the LES (knocking on doors, bringing food/water/batteries up to high floors), would like to help in Bklyn but need a ride to get down there.

    • Eric

      Subway should be running. F or Q line

      • levp

        But keep in mind that F only runs to Avenue X and Q only runs to Kings Highway.

  • Fannie2620

    My parents live in Trump Village building. 3 and are trapped in their apartment on the 19th floor since all the elevators are out. Does anyone know what’s going on? Actually their main concern is about being able to vote on Tuesday.
    Is there any information about when the elevators will be running?

    • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

      Trump building 3 has everything except elevators and heat. Power, cable tv, hot water is fine.

  • Lucky Lady

    Finally got back to NYC! I live in Trump Village 2… we have electricity, heat, hot water. Warbasse is completely dark! What’s going on over there???????

    • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

      Warbasse a mess

      • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

        I love u kukla

        • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

          Are they currently working in warbasse. If so I think it should b on in no time, as long as somebody’s working on it,it’s a relief.

  • Tanya K

    I speak russian and I’d like to volunteer in Luna park building 3 tomorrow. please contact me on Facebook tanyaknyc. or by email tanyaknyc@gmail.com

  • Ellie’sMama

    Trump village building 3 has power, water and now elevators are running!

  • Mxx

    As far as I know all but #3 Luna Park buildings have power, hot/cold water (and cablevision fixed tv and internet). I’m not sure about building #3, when I walked by it was still dark.

    Btw, you can also use http://nyc.everyblock.com/locations/neighborhoods/west-brighton/ to see news about your neighborhood and post other messages.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

    Any way for the younger, more agile tenants who are still at Warbasse to check on your elderly neighbors? They are probably without food, water, medications. I was told that, if you call 911, they will help people out of their apartments, even from a high floor. If someone has dementia, they will not think to call 911 themselves…or may not even notice that they are in grave danger.

  • http://www.facebook.com/luba.kaufman Luba Kaufman
    • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

      THANK YOU, Luba!!!! I will post this all over my FB!!

  • concerned neighbor

    See article posted on the WSJ today. Has comments from the property manager. http://blogs.wsj.com/metropolis/2012/11/04/in-coney-island-hundreds-wait-for-relief-in-one-housing-complex/

  • Mxx

    I just came back from the Warbasse community room and management there said power should be restored by tonight. They managed to get some proper generators to connect to. No hot water and 1 elevator per section.

    • Mitchell Block

      Thank you for sharing this info. So very grateful! Hope they can pull it off!

    • dmkwarbasse

      Any news on heat, I want to move my parents back in by Wed I hope there is heat by then also thank you for the updates

      • Mxx

        I dont know about heat. I imagine it will be on only after main power is back. If your parents are comfortable for now, perhaps keep them there. With another noreaster coming this Tuesday-Thursday, who knows how this temporary setup will hold out…

      • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

        So far no heat and its FREEZING

        • dmkwarbasse

          Thank you so much for replying. Any more updates on the situation? Is Friday a reasonable day to think my parents can move back in. Thank you for your help, e mail me at dmkteach@gmail.com if possible with updates. Thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/di.soulisfromelsewhere Di SoulfromElsewhere Baum

    Have family in Luna Park building 3 on the 16th floor. Does anyone have info?

    • Mxx

      I just walked by Luna Park 3 and it’s still dark. I did see a bunch of people downstairs but it was too dark to tell if they were volunteers or construction/maintenance workers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

      About 2 hrs ago finished volunteering there…

      • http://www.facebook.com/di.soulisfromelsewhere Di SoulfromElsewhere Baum

        THANKS

  • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

    Do u know if they need people to help out?

  • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

    Do you know what volunteer groups are helping with bringing food and medication to the elderly…and checking to see if they need medical assistance? If so, do they need donations? I have a radio show in Austin this evening and many people here will want to help. I would like to announce it on the show. Please let me know. You can e-mail me: drmarakarpel@aol.com.
    Thanks!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

      I don’t think they need any donations, who needs it is Seagate, they need everything starting from water ending with pet food

  • Mxx

    Warbasse 3 just got generator power about 20 minutes ago. Supposedly building 4 is next one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/evelyn.kozlik.3 Evelyn Kozlik

      If you get any warbasse updates can you please email me. I live in 4 and hoping to get home as some point. I was there yesterday donating food and clothes. Evelyn@bestphit.com

      • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

        Bldg 4 just got electricity no elevators no hot water

        • http://www.facebook.com/janet.sacks.33 Janet Fishbein Sacks

          Anything new on Bldg 4? Its been a while.

          • Mitchell Block

            Janet: I Skyped with my mother a short time ago. Electricity went back on in Bldg 4 at 10:30 last night (emergency generators). Still no hot water, but she had cable and could even watch TV. Progress! At that time, though, the elevators still weren’t running and I don’t know when that’s expected to change.

  • Bill Smith

    911 will not help anybody down the stairs unless they require hospitalization. The Warbasse security staff has been wonderful, and brought my disabled relative down from a high floor in her wheelchair on Friday, Nov. 2. These men would not accept anything from us except a thank you, and we are VERY grateful for their help and professionalism.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

      Great!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

      You got lucky cuz when I asked one of them to charge my phone ( he had extra plug in his generator ) he refused me :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

    Mara Warbasse is well covered by volunteers. Today we went to bldng 3 in luna park. Most of the people have everything so thank God everything ok

    • Mxx

      That is good. I was worried about Luna Park 3. It seems like that building was kinda forgotten. I walked by it in the last few days and haven’t really seen help like in Warbasse.

      • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

        It kind of was forgotten …

    • http://www.facebook.com/mara.karpel Mara Karpel

      Great!!! So glad to hear it!!!

    • Mitchell Block

      Thanks so much for this information. My mother is in Warbasse Building 4 and it’s a relief to have confirmation from you that it’s well covered by volunteers!

  • Anita

    It was a real disgrace. The management and the city are cowards to leave us there without anything for days. The lobby was filled with water. Sheet metal from the walkway overhangs were flying around like toys ready to slice someone in half. From what I heard the workers were sent home by mangement the 1st 2 days after the storm.

    • http://www.facebook.com/katya.twins Katya Julia Twins

      I agree !!!! I understand that they have families and stuff but everyone has job’s to do…And to leave all 5 bldngs with out management or workers thats just WRONG

  • James

    Any word on when building 2 will get power?

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  • Mxx

    Instead of updating comments here or other news stories, please use http://nyc.everyblock.com/locations/neighborhoods/west-brighton/ It’s a good common place to post such information.

  • Mitchell Block

    Thanks to the very kind people here who have been sharing information and to all the generous people working in the buildings this week. Thanks to this comment area, I learned that my mother was still in her apartment (Warbasse 4A), that the electricity was turned on Sunday at 10:30 p.m., and then today I was told right after a volunteer had visited her that she was on the internet. We Skyped! Very grateful for the help re-connecting with my mother, who is fine, happy to see the progress being made, and grateful to the all the people working so hard.

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  • James

    Any news on building 2 power?

  • AAP

    Warbasse has been contending with two particular sets of
    circumstances that made made restoration of electrical power especially
    challenging and time consuming. First, when the Warbasse buildings were
    constructed in the 1960s, critical electrical equipment, including the
    transformers for each building, were installed in sub-basements. This
    engineering decision may have made sense at the time, but now in retrospect it
    is clear than no one anticipated a corrosive salt water flood of the magnitude
    that we just experienced. Second, approximately eight years ago, a decision was
    taken to disconnect Warbasse from Consolidated Edison. This decision of the co-op board at the time may have resulted in saving money on electrical energy costs
    for Warbasse residents, but it put our apartment complex at a disadvantage,
    compared to other apartment complexes that remained customers of Con Ed, in not being able to access the extensive resources available to Con Ed – resources
    that Warbasse could never afford on its own. These two strategic issues will
    have to be addressed by management and the board at a later date. In the meantime, I have observed management working full out in trying to secure limited resources in our area and am very thankful for their securing temporary generators at each of the five buildings which are providing electricity for essential services.

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