Nightmare on East 23rd Street
Hurricane rubble piled up three stories high
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Dec 12, 2012 | 3901 views | 0 0 comments | 60 60 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PILED UP LIVES – Many of the possessions ruined by Hurricane Sandy wound up on this pile three stories high, part of the city’s cleanup efforts.
PILED UP LIVES – Many of the possessions ruined by Hurricane Sandy wound up on this pile three stories high, part of the city’s cleanup efforts.

All day and for long hours into the night, residents on East 23rd Street heard the trucks rumble in, carrying the water-damaged remains of people’s lives elsewhere in the city, truck by truck. The loads were dumped into a construction yard at the end of the street until the pile rose so high it looked down on the nearby houses.

What was a nightmare for people elsewhere in the city over the last month has become a nightmare for residents on this block, the designated drop-off area for debris the city collects from flood-ravaged areas from First Street to 65th Street. Couches, chairs, rugs and other debris that have been dragged out of places like Boat Works or Country Village have been dumped in this lot for eventual relocation to dumps elsewhere in the state.

“You have trucks coming in all day and night,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be named. He added that he and others on the block have been ticketed for minor infractions and fear that if they holler too loudly, they may see more.

They said they complained to City Hall and though Joe Waks, the Director of Municipal Services, came to look at the situation, nothing was done.

Vince Demitus, who has lived on that block for more than 40 years, said the noise is annoying. A piece of sheet metal which blew against his house during the hurricane, is still in the street more than a month later.

“No one picked it up,” he said.

Bob Cmileski, who has lived here since 1967, said he fears rats as a result of all the junk being loaded onto the property.

“They dump it on the ground and then they stack it up higher,” he said. “I talked to the [Environmental Protection Agency]. They tell us it’s was a temporary thing.”

City officials said this site is being used as a temporary collection area for items that were destroyed during the storm, and that the debris is being kept there only temporarily as the city collects the items from in front of people’s homes elsewhere in the city.

“Control Demolition has been contracted by the town to move the material from there to a dump,” said Joe Ryan, a city spokesperson. “This is a temporary situation, and the material is being moved in stages.”

“We have everybody’s trash from all over town,” Demitus said. “Right after the hurricane they started dumping, big loads, coming all night and day. We live here and years ago we had a problem with rats when they were constructing of the mall on Route 440. That sent the rats right into this area.”

The residents fear that dumping this stuff at the end of a residential street will bring rats back.

“They dump it on the ground and then they stack it up higher.” – Bob Cmileski

Oil contamination clean up

Meanwhile, in the same area, city officials confirmed that oil has washed up onto city streets and into the basements of residents.

“We have hired two firms to do an external cleanup on the streets and the side walks,” said City Business Administrator Steve Gallo.

This includes all areas outside of buildings, around vehicles, fire hydrants and other public areas.

“That’s essentially complete, but if any residents have external issues, they can call us then we can see what we can do,” he said. “We encouraged residents to file claims for their damages with the New Jersey Spill Compensation Fund, in addition to filing with FEMA. The Spill Compensation Fund is designed for this purpose, for environmental impacts of unknown origin.”

Gallo said the oil is not the result of any new projects or construction work.

“We’ve had an environmental consultant test it and it’s an old product. It’s not something recently refined. In fact there is no current refining in Bayonne. It was in the environment as was somehow released as a result of the storm and it’s difficult to find a responsible party for it.

That’s why the Spill Compensation Fund exists and hopeful they’ll take care of whatever their expenses are for their cleanup. Most people have already conducted a cleanup.”

Gallo said that the city is unaware of any structural damage to buildings as a result of the oil contamination, despite reports of buildings being closed up as a result of the oil.

“Some people claimed they had four feet of oil in their basement, but they really didn’t,” he said. “They had four feet of water and about an inch of oil on top. I don’t want to downplay the significance of this because it is serious, but most people are already cleaned up. Our consultant has tested the air and found that it is safe.”

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