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Hard hit Queens still reeling from Hurricane Sandy

November 19, 2012

By Jean Williams, ADA News Staff

Total loss: Mary Bayer, wife of Queens County Dental Society Executive Director William Bayer, walks through the ruins where their home burned down in a Sandy-related blaze. The Bayers lived in the Breezy Point neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queen
Queens, N.Y.—The brunt of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy occurred in northeast coastal areas along the Eastern Seaboard, especially in New Jersey and in New York. Queens, N.Y., for one, was particularly pummeled.

William Bayer, executive director of the Queens County Dental Society, suspects that any dentists with homes or practices in the area are facing major problems. Massive floodwaters and fires have crippled the Queens area known as the Rockaways.

“The Rockaways are located on a peninsula and that area, because it’s on the Atlantic shoreline, is completely devastated. If you had an office there, you’re in big trouble,” Mr. Bayer said.

Mr. Bayer knows the devastation firsthand, having lost his home in a fire that destroyed more than a hundred homes in the Rockaways neighborhood called Breezy Point. He also lost his car in the Sandy devastation. It all happened while he was away on vacation in Hawaii, and he couldn’t get a flight back until nearly a week after the storm.

“I’m fortunate that my wife’s mother lives somewhat in the area, so at least with that, I have somewhere to live temporarily,” he said. “But if you’ve seen it on TV, the community is completely leveled. You would never know homes were there. It looks like a giant, empty lot. I don’t know how many dentists lived there, but if they did, they’re in desperate straits.”

At press time, Mr. Bayer had scant contact with QCDS members, he said. Only two had contacted him with word of losses. “Our office is not in a coastal area, but we had no Internet service for the entire week. Our phones just came back late last week. So we have also been sort of deaf, dumb and blind in terms of being able to communicate with anyone. Fortunately, the ADA and our state association have done a great job in keeping members up to date with programs offering assistance.”

One person who has been in communication with QCDS and Mr. Bayer in the week following the devastation is Dr. Kathryn Schirmer, who also lived in the Rockaways in a neighborhood called Belle Harbor and suffered considerable storm-related losses.

Though she lost all of her furniture and many other possessions, Dr. Schirmer said that an ADA alert helped her to take preemptory precautions the day before the storm hit, enabling her to save some important items.

“On the Sunday before the storm, they were saying on the news that it was a mandatory evacuation for Zone A and the Rockaways are in Zone A,” Dr. Schirmer recalled. “That morning and afternoon, I was putting everything in my apartment up on cinder blocks. Thankfully, the ADA sent out an email. I was pretty busy that day. I was alerted to the email by my father, Dr. David C. Schirmer, who is also a member of the ADA. He recommended that I open the email. It was an email regarding evacuation preparedness, and it listed items that were important to bring.”

Dr. Schirmer, a QCDS trustee and a new dentist who practices as an associate at several New York locations, was able to save important documents, some electronic equipment and some sentimental items and clothing. She is applying to the ADA Foundation for a disaster grant, which the QCDS has recommended to members who call the component for advice and resources.

“Through this, the ADAF has been very helpful in getting my application for disaster assistance along,” she said. “I spoke with somebody today who was very pleasant and helpful and the support is much appreciated from the ADA, as well as from the Queens County component. Even through Mr. Bayer losing his own home, he’s been incredibly supportive.”