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.
Well known are the stories of heroism on the part of firefighters, police officers and other first responders on September 11, 2001. But there’s yet another story of heroism that has largely gone under the radar, involving ordinary civilians who put their life and property in harm’s way to save others.
Boatlift chronicles the story of the largest sea evacuation in history, when a fleet of civilian and Coast Guard vessels voluntarily navigated to the seawall of lower Manhattan, and helped evacuate nearly 500,000 people in less than nine hours.
Sheepshead Bay’s own Vincent Ardolino, captain of the Amberjack V, was one of those who played a pivotal role on that September morning 11 years ago. Seeing the attack on the news, he boarded his vessel and set out to ferry evacuees between the boroughs – long before the Coast Guard put out a call to all available ships for help in the evacuation. Ardolino is heavily featured in the film, as are captains from around Brooklyn and New York City, as well as New Jersey.
Boatlift was executive produced by Stephen Flynn and Sean Burke, and co-directed by Rick Velleu. It premiered on September 8 at the “9/11 Tenth Anniversary Summit: Remembrance/Renewal/Resilience” in Washington. The summit kicked off a national movement to foster community and national resilience in the face of future crises. See www.road2resilience.org to learn more.