News: Army Corps of Engineers lends a hand to citizens of Nassau County
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Anishka Calder
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York Recovery Field Office in Queens, N.Y., inspected several wings that were not in use at the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility in Uniondale, Nov. 13.
The inspection was conducted in an effort to help identify space to accommodate displaced personnel in need of medical care.
Hurricane Sandy’s wrath caused numerous personnel to be displaced from their homes and medical treatment facilities, due to structural damages. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Infrastructure Assessment Planning and Response Teams work in conjunction with local authorities to inspect residential and public works facilities after major disasters strike.
“This particular structure was not damaged by the storm, but this hospital has space available that’s decommissioned and hasn’t been used in years,” said Jeff Hawk, public affairs officer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, currently assigned to the New York recovery field office. “They needed to have it evaluated for habitability so that they could take some of the overflow of nursing and medical people who are displaced by the disaster.”
Hawk said that during a disaster, the Army Corps of Engineers gets several assignments from local governments, and that infrastructure assessment is one of them. He said the assignment to evaluate the extended care facility is a good example of local and federal governments coming together to help fill in the gaps of what is needed as far as resources put toward recovering from a disaster like this.
“So the Corps of Engineers was able to come in here with some special skills; mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, an architect, and an overall technical lead; and look at these wings of this medical facility that hadn’t been used, and give an initial assessment of what it would take to make these habitable again.” Hawk added.
The results of the assessment will let officials at the medical facility know whether the affected wings are structurally sound and can be used to house displaced personnel who need medical and nursing care. Hawk said hospital officials said there are about 1,000 beds from nursing facilities and senior homes that are no longer available due to the storm, hence the need for places to house these individuals.
“That’s what this meeting was about. It was about evaluating space that’s not being used, but needs evaluation for habitability, and the Corps of Engineers can provide that expertise and give them fresh eyes on these facilities,” said Hawk. “We can give them an indication of what needs to be done to bring them back up to operability and sustainability for these displaced people.”
Several vacant lots were pointed out to the Army Corps of Engineers officials during the visit. According to Thomas A. Bellizzi, an official at the Nassau University Medical Center, there is an estimated 58 acres of land available that could be used to house personnel displaced from their homes.
“The Corps of Engineers doesn’t have that mission yet, but if that is expressed in the future, we’ll have an idea of where some suitable lots may be,” Hawk said.
Infrastructural assessment is one half of the mission of the Corps of Engineers’ New York recovery field office during the relief efforts. The office is also tasked with picking up trash and debris left from the hurricane and taking them to collection facilities.
“For the Nassau County, we have been doing assessments of their water treatment plant and the water waste management plant; we’ve done some infrastructure assessments of the police station; all of which were damaged by the storm, said Hawk. “We’re also helping them take the debris at the collection facilities and get that shipped off to approved disposal areas.”
Hawk said it takes a local, federal and state effort to really help an area come back from a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. He said that local officials express their need for assistance, and the Corps of Engineers stands ready in support mode to provide that help.
“It’s an honor to be able to do that for the people of the region. They are pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, and we are just here to lend a hand while they are doing that,” Hawk said. “From all indications, this area is going to come back stronger, and the relationships between the local and federal and state officials are going to be all that much stronger and better prepared to respond in the future to situations like this.”