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Disaster looms in Auburndale days after storm

A large tree in Auburndale crushes the car parked in its path, though residents fear it could fall even further into a nearby home. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Superstorm Sandy turned the streets of northeast Queens into a life-sized maze, downing trees to block off roads and tearing down power lines in a destructive series of events that created outages for nearly 20,000 customers around Flushing and Fresh Meadows, but for one Auburndale family, the ordeal went on for days.

On Thursday afternoon, a partially downed tree was still looming over the 194th Street house of Bill Daley, propped just above the live power lines in front by a sturdier tree that caught the falling behemoth.

“That’s the second time that tree has saved my house,” he said.

But time is running out.

The supporting tree has a large fissure near the base of the trunk that is growing by the minute. On Tuesday afternoon, Daley said the crack had grown one-sixteenth of an inch in one hour.

On Wednesday afternoon, a city Sanitation Department police officer who showed up was so shocked that he offered his own house for the Daleys to stay in. When the city Parks Department came to asses how to get the tree down, an official said Consolidated Edison would have to shut down the power before anything could be done.

“Everything is still the same,” said Daley’s daughter, Alison.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called Con Ed’s response “disgraceful”

“There are many trees on people’s homes who have not been contacted by the city and there are thousands upon thousands of people in Queens without power,” he said.

Avella said he planned on asking the state Public Service Commission to investigate Con Ed’s response to the storm.

At about 4 p.m. Monday, the enormous tree began to lift up the sidewalk across from the Daley’s home as it teetered in the wind. As it came crashing down, the Giannopoulos family ran to the back of their house.

“We heard it start to crack and saw the cement lift up,” said George Giannopoulos.

When it fell, the trunk completely crushed the family’s white 2010 Subaru.

In Fresh Meadows, fallen trees blocked traffic at seemingly every turn as neighbors raked up smaller branches and landscape crews fed limbs into wood chippers. The large number of downed trees corresponded to the large number of people without power.

According to Consolidated Edison, 18,500 customers in the area were without power as of Tuesday evening, while boroughwide the numbers reached more than 100,000.

Downtown Flushing was mostly spared by Sandy’s destructive forces, with streetlights and power operating normally Tuesday.

According to Con Ed, there were only sporadic outages in the downtown area.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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