Woodlawn, an Irish neighborhood situated at the Bronx and Yonkers border, struggles to restore order in the face of power outages, fuel shortages and widespread panic after Hurricane Sandy.
Along its main thoroughfares – Katonah and McLean Avenues, heavily-damaged transformers and ensnared power lines now mark an otherwise unblemished landscape. Fallen trees – along Van Cortlandt Park East, Parkway North, Cox and Old Jerome Avenues – have damaged property, prompted traffic detours and interrupted power services.
“We were without power on Monday night, around 9 p.m.,” says Colleen Murray, an Irish-American mother of a 15-month-old daughter. “We have a generator, but it only runs a small construction light and a fridge. We have to bundle up at night because it gets very cold. And now, Con Edison tells us that we might not get power back until November 10.”
Similarly, Co. Galwaynative Colm O’Neill has “been without power for a few days. There’s no electricity at the house, or at work, so all you can do is hang out in the pub until everything sorts itself.”
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Carmel Redican, a bartender at J.P. Clarke’s Saloon in Yonkers, says, “It was very busy all week. The bars definitely got a boost from it, all straight through . . . busy all through. A lot of people were out of lights, so when you have no power, you come to where there is power.”
In fact, many local businesses have thrived in the aftermath of the hurricane.
“We were one of the fortunate ones,” says Manny Raniolo, co-owner of the McLean Avenue Bagel Café in Yonkers. “We didn’t lose any power, and for our business it had a positive effect. People need food, and some warm place to go, and a place to charge their phone.”
Oliver Charles – owner of The Butcher’s Fancy in Yonkers – experienced “a busy couple of days. People need to eat, and since the A & P [Supermarket] lost power, we definitely saw a lot of new faces in the area.”
Other businesses suffer from a lack of fuel or electricity, however.
“We didn’t have any gas,” says Harpal Arora, owner of a Sunoco gasoline station in Yonkers. “The day before yesterday – Tuesday – we closed around 5 or 6 p.m. We just had super, we didn’t even have regular on Tuesday – zero regular. I’ve never seen anything like that in the last 25 years.”
Co. Tyrone native Sinéad Brogan, co-owner of Katie’s Cottage in Yonkers, says, “We lost power on Monday morning. We have a generator running since Monday. So, our kitchen, we’re just working minimum. We’re open for business, but it’s mostly bar and some food. It’s getting gas to keep the generator going. The gas station up by us is closed because they have no electricity along Central [Ave.] on that side.”
R.J. Puma, owner of Anna Artuso’s Pastry Shop and chairman of the McLean Avenue Merchants Association (M.A.M.A.), says, “We were actually very lucky. The rain seemed to bypass McLean Ave. altogether, which was actually a very lucky thing, but we do have the block where Merk Chemist and Palmer Hardware – that whole block and even by the school – are out of power.”
Saint Barnabas Elementary School in Yonkers, like most academic institutions throughout the area, closed for the week.
James Terry, an Irish-American residential director at Fordham University, adds that his school’s “classes were canceled because of the fact that teachers and commuters couldn’t get to campus.”
Every aspect of life has been affected. And yet, while many people throughout the area struggle to adapt, residents in Woodlawn remain keenly aware of their situation.
Raniolo confides that one customer “had been living in Rockaway her whole life, lost her home. And she’s fortunate to have a son who lives here, and she’s staying with him at the present time. And these are the stories we’re hearing. We’re blessed here. Even if we lost all of our lights, we’re managing because we’re all safe.”
The Aisling Center stood up to the plate days after the hurricane swept through the Yonkers neighborhood to help the community. They immediately asked locals for clothing and supply donations to help the Irish that were badly affected by the hurricane, many of whom lost their homes and everything in them.
As gas began to run out in the neighborhood Liffey Van Lines came on board to help distribute the donations to those in need truly displaying a sense of community.
The center is helping with the clean up in Rockaway Beach this coming week. If you are available on Tuesday, please call them at 914-237-5121 on Monday or e-mail [email protected] If you are available on WEDNESDAY, contact them on Tuesday. If you are available on THURSDAY (subject to weather conditions), contact them Wednesday and so on.
Read more news on Hurricane Sandy here