Piermont Mayor Chris Sanders focused on the positive first as he addressed a crowed that filled the meeting room at the Village Hall, with nearly as many people outside as could fit within.
"I am truly glad to see everybody," Sanders said. "I've mentioned this recently and I don't mean to be flip. I know we're all hurting. I want us to know we lost nothing of value in the village of Piermont. A lot of stuff was damaged. A lot of stuff was ruined. A lot of stuff will need to be replaced. But it's only stuff."
Hurricane Sandy hit Piermont as hard as any part of Rockland County, from the tidal surge causing heavy flooding before the storm even arrived to the combination of flooding and fallen trees that left Piermont temporarily cut off from the rest of the county for a time Monday night.
"We knew we would face the worst of it, the tidal surge that we were seeing in advance was going to be unprecedented and it lived up to its expectations and all of our fears."
Thursday's meeting was the first for the entire village since the storm hit, though Sanders plans to do more. He said he plans to be in the meeting room at 11 a.m. every day, at least informally, to answer questions and address concerns by residents.
Near the top of the list is electricity. Piermont is entirely without power from Orange & Rockland. Sanders and Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who also spoke at the meeting, were critical of the power company's efforts. In addition to the lack of power, efforts to clear streets in Piermont, on Route 9W and elsewhere are on hold until O&R can secure and remove downed power lines.
"You and others who are so efficient and effective and ready to get your crews out there can't do it because O&R didn't take care of what they have to do," Lowey said.
"Don't get me started on O&R bashing," Sanders replied.
Sanders warned that current estimates are 10 to 14 days and residents should prepare to be without power at least that long.
Food and Money Donations
The Piermont Fire Department Ladies' Auxiliary has been providing meals for emergency responders in the village, but is running out of supplies. Other resident groups are taking donations to head out to purchase food and other supplies. A collection bag was sent round the meeting room and residents contributed over $2,000 during the meeting. Monetary donations are being accepted at Piermont Village Hall and the Piermont Fire Department.
The Piermont Fire Department has provided the emergency headquarters for town officials because it had power from generators all through the week. They will be bringing in a refrigerator Friday and are asking that people with food donations come by then. Food donations to the town are being accepted at the Piermont Fire Department. For more information, call (845) 359-1208.
Sanders and residents expressed concerns about tourists coming to view the damage in Piermont, in part because they often get in the way of recovery efforts. When asked about a proper response, Sanders joked, "Shoot on sight," but he was clearly unhappy with people coming simply to see how bad things are.
"We're trying to limit the amount of people rushing in to see what's going on," Sanders said. "We're not sealing off the village, though there were times I was tempted. We need to be able to take care of what we need to take care of."
Orangetown officials asked residents to postpone Halloween activities to Saturday, but Sanders said they will not be allowed even then in Piermont and asked that it be made clear no one from out of the area should come to Piermont expecting to go trick or treating.
"It's just too dangerous," Sanders said.
Other Safety Issues
Residents were warned about the dangers of space heaters, which are a fire hazard, as Piermont faces a forecast of dropping temperatures without power.
Some residents will need repairs to be made in their homes before gas or electricity can be turned back on, especially those in homes that flooded.
Sanders said he has put a curfew in place for the safety of residents and to help protect property in the village.
"There is a lot of stuff around," Sanders said. "There are places you can sprain an ankle or fall and break your arm. Or get a nail through your foot. It's dark after 6 p.m. It's really dark after 7 p.m. It's for your own safety and there are certain people who may want to take advantage that it's very dark here and it seems to them to be a shopping mall full of boats and other personal effects that are theirs for the taking."
"What we want to make clear is if you see something, say something," Piermont Police Chief Michael O'Shea said. "We have people coming at four and five o'clock in the morning. They are not supposed to be there. We are having some larceny."
The non-emergency number for the Piermont Police Department is (845) 359-0240. Emergency calls should still go to 911.
O'Shea also stressed that it is important that people stay away from areas marked off by crime scene tape. Police have had to remove people from dangerous areas that have been marked off.
"If you see crime scene tape, please stay away," O'Shea said.
He added that residents who leave town should file a closed home report with police so they can check on the houses while the residents are away.
"I can't thank Chief O'Shea and the entire Piermont Police department enough for the work they've done over the past couple of days," Sanders said.
One other safety issue raised was a number of reports of fights in the town.
"Tempers are flaring," O'Shea said. "We know everybody is upset. We are as well. Please be patient and give us time to get things back in order.
Check back with Patch for more from Thursday's meeting.