Paul Paradiso, left, Michele Thorne and Christopher Thorne at Gerritsen Beach Fire Department hall on Thursday.
By Paul Moses
Owning little more than he wore, Paul Paradiso lumbered forward on crutches into the cool dark training hall of the Gerrittsen Beach Fire Department to see if he could find some clothes.
A bar-on-a-barge floated into Gerritsen Beach. Neighbors lightened the mood by sharing shots in it after the water receded.
Doreen Garson, assistant chief of the Vollies, as the volunteer department is called, told him to look inside the big plastic bags heaped on a set of folding tables– there weren’t enough people available yet to sort clothes local residents had donated.
Like nearly everyone living in Gerritsen Beach’s old section, Paradiso, 42, was wiped out Monday night by the rising floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy. The couch floated in the living room of his Canton Court home and the refrigerator flipped over and drifted in the kitchen. His wife, Michele Thorne, 45, said she nearly drowned trying to move their Volvo to safety; she and her 17-year-old daughter got out when the window opened automatically. Then they linked arms and held onto a street pole to withstand the water gushing through their street.
There are harrowing stories to be heard everywhere in Gerritsen Beach, as in Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Sea Gate and Rockaway. But somehow, Gerritsen Beach has largely escaped attention, especially in the daily newspapers. The New York Post did, however, run a 150-word story in Thursday morning’s paper that called the Gerritsen Beach “the forgotten disaster zone.” A few broadcast news operations then reported from the neighborhood on Thursday.
“We sort of got lost in the mix over here,” Thorne said as she paused from looking through piles of clothes to find a coat for her 12-year-old son, Christopher Thorne. When she had the opportunity on Wednesday, she posted her own message-in-a-bottle on Facebook, saying that “We need help” and “nobody knows how bad it is out here.”
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