They Won’t Go: Residents Stay Put in Vulnerable N.Y. Neighborhood

By ABC News

Oct 29, 2012 4:32pm
ht residents staying put nt 121029 wblog They Wont Go: Residents Stay Put in Vulnerable N.Y. Neighborhood

Mary Lepera and her neighbors are defying orders to evacuate the seaside community of Breezy Point in New York City. (ABC News)

BY KETURAH GRAY, JIM DUBREUIL and ALICE GOMSTYN

The windy afternoon found Douglas Owens walking along the beach, checking out the surf.

“I’m all prepared for it,” he joked. “I have a nice, big hoodie on.”

Owens, 28, is a proud lifelong resident of Breezy Point, a neighborhood on the tip of New York City’s Rockaway peninsula. With Hurricane Sandy continuing to batter the Northeast, this seaside community is one of several parts of New York City under an evacuation order from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Owens and a number of his fellow local residents are staying put.

Owens’ home is just a half-mile from the shore — he put up a wall of sandbags to protect it — and he has fond memories of bodysurfing with his brother when Hurricane Irene hit last year.

“If the waves weren’t as rough as they are right now, I’d be body surfing (today),” he said. “We’re beach boys down here. We’re not going to leave because of a little storm.”

It’s not just Breezy Point’s sea-loving young guns sticking it out. ABC News found a number of elderly residents determined to ride out the storm today.

Annie Heslin, 85, has lived in Breezy Point since 1970. Heslin did leave her home during the onslaught of Irene’s punishing wind and waves last year, but found she didn’t fare much better at her choice of refuge in Long Island. The place she stayed at lost power.

This year, she said, she’s taking a chance and riding out the storm, kitchen tools in hand. She and her daughter are making roast pork and baking cookies and brownies while they wait for conditions to improve.

“It’s going to be a long wait so we might as well be well-fed,” she said.

Besides food, of course, a sense of community is what seems to be strengthening residents’ resolve.

“We’ve got a little group here that stays and checks on each other,” said Alvina Brughal, 96. “I’m comfortable.”

Mary Lepera’s storm to-do list also includes checking in on her neighbors. The 30-year-old, also a lifelong Breezy Point resident, acknowledges that Sandy seems to be bearing down far worse than Irene but she still has no plans to leave.

“We’re sticking it out,” she said. “Even if we have to go up on our roof, we’ll do it.”

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