Hundreds of Island Park residents gathered at the Sacred Heart Church Parish Center — the only large building left with power and heat — on Nov. 8, the first public gathering since Hurricane Sandy devastated the area.
Residents came to hear Mayor James Ruzicka and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rosmarie Bovino speak, and to get the only thing people want as badly as electricity — information. Since the storm ravaged the community, reliable information had been scarce, as rumors spread and circumstances changed quickly.
The lack of a functioning public address system made the gathering hark back to town hall meetings of a century ago. Ruzicka strained to be heard over the murmurs of the crowd. Quiet came only when someone yelled at the top of their lungs for it, and lasted only moments. A bullhorn was eventually brought in.
Ruzicka told residents that National Grid was working to restore natural gas to homes. He also said that the village Department of Public Works would be going house to house in the coming days and picking up garbage, which has been piling up on curbs.
Ruzicka said that everything in Village Hall had been destroyed in the flooding. “We only have two phones that were supplied by the National Guard,” he said. The temporary village headquarters, set up in the train station parking lot, will be open every day from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and there officials will help residents and answer whatever questions they have.
When Ruzicka announced that power would not be restored for two weeks, many residents started shouting, blaming LIPA. The anger directed at the utility was almost palpable.
“My main concern is that we get the village up and running,” Ruzicka said. “I’m not going to blame anyone.”
Bovino took the megaphone next, and informed residents that schools were scheduled to open on Wednesday. For now, all students will attend classes at the Lincoln Orens Middle School, which will be powered by a generator. Francis X. Hegarty Elementary School was more severely damaged in the flooding, Bovino explained, and will not be usable for three to six months.