The only entrance to Lake Avenue became impassable once water started tumbling down from Emmons Avenue, and debris littered the alleyway.

There is no shortage of heroes that came out of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, but it seems everyone on Lake Avenue agrees that two quick thinking residents of their bungalow colony and a nearby landlord are their first first responders.

The Nostrand Avenue condo building where Lake Avenue residents found refuge from the flood.

One of several Lake Avenue buildings that are now deemed uninhabitable by the Department of Buildings.

When flood waters breached the bulkhead of Sheepshead Bay and engulfed Emmons Avenue, it advanced forward, rushing into the bungalow colony alleys located below street level. With no drainage systems, approximately 60 residents of Lake Avenue – just off Nostrand Avenue and Emmons Avenue – realized their one-story bungalows were about to be submerged.

“All of a sudden the water started pouring into the house. My 94-year-old father and I live in the house together,” said Lake Avenue resident Wendy Mitchell.

That’s when neighbors Missy Haggerty and Peter McCandless rushed out of their homes and began banging on doors, telling people to get out. Some were sleeping or in the middle of eating dinner, and looked up the block to see a waterfall rushing down the steps into the colony’s dead end alley.

“I got out and I’m trying to hold the door open [for my 94-year-old father] and Peter got him out finally,” Mitchell said. “When we first left, the water was up to the knees. By the time we got about five houses down it was under my arms. I’m five-foot-five and it was under my arms.”

Mitchell said she never would have been able to get out of there if it weren’t for Missy and Peter – and the landlord of a nearby building that abuts the alley.

Haggerty had called Arthur Nazarov, the son of the owner of a three-story, six unit unoccupied condo building on Nostrand Avenue. Without a second thought, Nazarov gave the green light to allow Haggerty entrance to the building, giving refuge for the 60 or so residents through a backdoor facing the alley. Without that, many of the block’s elderly and disabled residents – and even some of the healthy ones – may not have been able to get off of the property.

“We wouldn’t have been able to [get to the stairs], it was a chore getting out on this side,” Mitchell said.

Amazingly, the condo did not lose power, heat or hot water throughout the storm, though all of the buildings around it did.

“We were very lucky to get this place. We had everything we needed, thank goodness. We were able to get clothes, we had washing machines and dryers. We were very fortunate to get this place, we really were,” Mitchell said, adding that the apartments are beautiful.

If it weren’t for Nazarov, “Me, Pete, my brother, we would’ve all been dead,” Haggerty said.

Nazarov, who was there when we visited Monday afternoon, waived away any suggestion that he saved anyone.

“It was all Missy,” Nazarov said.

The incident has many on the block angry at the city for failing to provide basic services, like sewer and drainage systems.

“For many year’s we’ve been complaining over and over. Anytime it rains or pours, this block literally turns into a lake. They won’t do it, even though we’re taxpayers, too,” Nazarov said. The city considers the spiderweb of alleyways that connects Emmons Avenue’s bungalow colonies to be private property, and will not pay for such improvements.

But on the night of Hurricane Sandy, with no help from the city, neighbors came together to care for each other. Once inside the condo building, Missy Haggerty’s father Bob, whose house just finished undergoing renovations after a neighbor’s house fire caused heavy damage to his home last year, did his part. Despite being partially blind, Haggerty went door-to-door inside the coop building, checking on his neighbors and bringing them supplies throughout the night.

The residents have started moving out to stay with families and friends, leaving about nine in the building when we visited on Tuesday.

“We all have to stick together,” Bob Haggerty said. “Thank God we’re alive, and after all this is over, we’ll stay together.”

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  • bob

    why do they keep complaining to the city about the drainage when they know their answer is they will not fix it because it is private property? why have they not fixed it themselves?

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

      It would still have to be hooked up to the main lines. And that, I suspect, is something the city has been playing games with.

      • bob

        why do you suspect that? the issue is they want the city to foot the bill for it.connecting drainage lines is something any licensed plumber should be able to do.

  • SS Bay

    The city should allow developers (i know, i know it is a dirty word), to purchase and redevelop areas like Lake Ave. Rezoning such area will allow developers to build multi-story (>4 floors) luxury condos which in my opinion, if designed properly will be a much better solution to the flooding problems in such low lying areas.

    We should think forward and move forward. There’s a huge potential in these areas which will remain forever unlocked if we are not open to new, constructive ideas.

    In return, the residents of such low lying areas in SS Bay could trade up for one of these condos in exchange for their land. A big WIN-WIN for all parties involved!

    • Emmons Owl

      Great idea, except the developers have about 200 empty apartments from Nostrand Ave to Knapp Street. They have been there for one to three years empty. The Breakers anyone?. These Bungalows are a great community and should be rebuilt. They are a unique place for people in the community to live.

      I lost mine in the storm, but hell it was built almost 90 years ago with no major issues. Not a bad run, rebuild em.

      • SS Bay

        I think the main reason those condos remain empty is because they are mostly built by small time developers. Not enough marketing effort, limited clientele and sub standard construction/ finishing standards.

        We should look forward and welcome big developers, say trump or hovanian to bid on such redevelopment.

        I understand the nostalgic attachment, but these bungalows are not suitable in lieu of current and future weather threats. No point wasting your own money and taxpayers money to rebuild everytime a hurricane passs through. Remember, the. Only thing constant, is change.

        Nonetheless, such big development will bring forth greater tax money for other beautification and upgrade projects, which SS Bay could use.

        • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

          I don’t think these modern condos could survive 90 years like these houses have. I say, repair or replace with low-lying structures.

          • SS Bay

            Did you ever walk into Lake Ave and look at those houses? I have been into one many times, especially after hurricane Sandy. Those houses are too old and their foundations (some even have basement!), are barely holding it. As a civil engineer myself, you have no idea what you are talking about.

          • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

            OK fine, we’ll build more low-lying dwellings that will last another 90 years.

            I was in civil engineering for a few years, that’s a pretty broad term.

          • Barkingspider07

            shut up already and tend to your own home, A couple of the houses – , I believe – developed sink holes, the majority are fine.

        • Barkingspider07

          What an ahole – this guy thinks that he is a effen expert on everything. Jackass has no compassion for other human beings. Yeah, lets just plow all the homes in SB, and make Joe Jerkoff here a happy man!

    • bagels

      Did any of those condos have flooding in the basement? Rezoning will not solve problems associated with a storm surge so it seems like we should think twice before developing along the coastline. There are many building in lower Manhattan, including Battery Park City, that are still inhabitable.

      • SS Bay

        Those houses along Lake Ave had flooding water reaching 4 foot in their houses! For me, I would take a flooded condo basement over 4 feet of water in my house ANYTIME!

        The design of buildings in lower Manhattan area did not take coastal water surge into consideration. We can learn from this lesson and rebuilt a much better building to prepare for flooding from future hurricanes. It can be done

        • bagels

          Really? So you would be ok with living in a building with no heat, elevators or electricity for an indefinite amount of time. You’d be at the mercy of the owner and his ability to get things up and running again. Hurricane and flood proofing a building is very expensive. Developers want to build quick and run and they don’t mind trampling the existing zoning laws and common sense in the process.

        • barkingspider07

          Once again. you don’t know what you are talking about – who the hell are you anyway? You are a big fat mouth with no brain. There has never been water in my house – and I am there all of my life. There is water in the cellars of every house, which is removed with sump pumps. Hey SS, I have an idea – why don’t you just shut up about what you know nothing about and watch your own house – you are a moron.

    • barkingspider07

      You are evidently a really stupid ass, who has absolutely no sense of community. Several families on Lake Ave and the other bungalo colonies have a very long history together. Family members come back, and know each other. You want our homes taken away? N It should happen to you and your family – you should experience the devestation that we have,

  • osito57

    These bungalows should be demolished and replaced by newer housing, probably condos. There’s a strong demand for newer housing, and the older bungalows are inadequate. Time to trade up to safer housing.

    And there isn’t really a glut of housing anymore. There was, during the recession, say from 08-11, but not now. Prices have been rising for at least a year.

    This is a good opportunty for redevelopment, and should be a win-win for the bungalow owners and the developers. Both can make a lot of money through new construction.

  • breakersowner

    Breakers is not empty because of Lack of buyers — It is Empty because the city has yet to provide them with COA on all the remaining units in the property — There are currently five units trying to close for 1.5 years. It’s the city that is causing issues. The property itself actually sustained itself pretty good during the flooding.

    • bob

      the city is causing issues w/ them getting their COA? or are they just not fixing the issues the city says need to be fixed and following the proper procedures to get it?

  • Barkingspider07

    BY THE WAY – LAKE AVENUE HAD 3 HEROES THAT NIGHT, NOT JUST 2. I PERSONALLY WANT TO THANK BILL GOELER, WHO ALSO HELPED GET PEOPLE TO SAFETY, PETER, BILL AND MISSY WENT WAY ABOVE BEING “JUST” NEIGHBORS ON THAT HORRIBLE EVENING.

    BILL, I AM YOUR BEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR (WM) AND WANTED TO BE SURE THAT YOU WERE THANKED PROPERLY AND PUBLICLY ALSO.

    LAKE AVENUE IS A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE – HOW MANY OF YOU OUT THERE CAN LAY CLAIM TO HAVING SUCH GREAT FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS ON YOUR STREET?

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