For Brookdale residents displaced by Sandy, the worst is far from over

By Kristin Tablang • Nov 23rd, 2012 • Category: News

Editor’s note: This article was written in mid-November, two weeks after Hurricane Sandy.

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy barreled through the Northeast, life has finally begun to return to normal for most New Yorkers; subway lines are up and running, school is back in session, and the City no longer resembles a post-Apocalyptic ghost town.

For hundreds of Hunter students, however, the wait for “normal” is far from over. The school’s Brookdale campus, located on 25th Street between 1st Avenue and FDR Drive, was completely flooded as a result of the storm—a phenomenon that has displaced not only the college’s entire nursing school, but also its 600 or so dormitory residents.

Located in Zone A, the facility faced a forced evacuation on Sunday, October 28th, the day before Sandy was scheduled to touch down in the tri-state area. Brookdale residents and faculty members were instructed to be out of the building before 4PM, three hours prior to the MTA’s shut down of all public transportation.

“I didn’t think it was that big of deal at the time,” said Abdul Salam, a fourth-year honors student majoring in chemistry and mathematics. “I only packed a few shirts and a single pair of pants because I thought for sure we would be back [at the dorms] in a couple of days.”

Many other Brookdale residents shared Salam’s belief that the effects of Sandy would not last more than a day or two. Eleven days later, however, Brookdale’s doors remain closed as efforts to repair the extensive water damage endured by its phone, fire, and electrical systems slowly unfold.

“I’ve been couch-hopping this entire week,” said Chevon Christie, a senior majoring in computer science. He has lived at the dorms every semester—summers included—since freshman year, heavily relying on its convenient Manhattan location to commute to school and work. “I’m not digging the nomadic lifestyle,” he said. “It’s made me so tired lately that sometimes, I even forget to eat.”

Albina Khayrulina, another student who has lived in Brookdale since her freshman year, was forced to move back into her parents’ home in Staten Island due to the evacuation. “The commute—which costs twice as much—has definitely negatively impacted my academic performance,” she said. “I wake up almost three hours before class to get [to Hunter] on time. By the time I get home I am tired, it is late, and I am in no state to study.”

Salam, who is now staying with his family in Queens, also voiced difficulties concentrating on schoolwork due to being displaced. “I can’t study at home because there are too many distractions,” he said. “Especially since my bedroom doesn’t have a door.”

The unexpected move has gravely impacted the social lives of Brookdale residents as well. “At the dorms, [my friends and I] would see each other every day. We would study together, eat together,” Khayrulina said. “Nowadays, we have to sneak in time between classes to see one another.”

Some Brookdale residents who do not possess the option of bunking with a friend or relative were fortunate enough to find shelter at other CUNY affiliated facilities, such as CCNY’s dormitories and the student residence halls on 92nd and 97th Streets, courtesy of Hunter’s emergency housing services. In fact, the college’s main campus was used as a temporary shelter for approximately 250 city residents immediately before and after the storm. Repeat requests for interviews with Hunter administrators and personnel were not answered.

James Davis, a fifth-year student, was able to secure housing at the 97th Street residence hall. “I’m luckier than a lot of other students out there,” he said. “At least I don’t have to deal with the ridiculous commute.”

For now, Brookdale’s status remains a mystery to its struggling residents. “The least [Hunter] can do is let us know how long it’s going to be until we can move back,” said Salam. “Being kept in the dark just makes things even worse.”

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