Oceanside: Power still out, trash piles up

Oceanside resident Debbie Gustus stands by her garbage

Oceanside resident Debbie Gustus stands by her garbage outside her home waiting for pickup. (Nov. 8, 2012) (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

Heidi Murray still doesn't have power, and the growing, snow-capped mound of trash on her Oceanside curb is starting to stink.

Now several feet high, Murray said her garbage hasn't been picked up since Oct. 27 -- two days before superstorm Sandy sent Hewlett Bay waters rampaging through her neighborhood.

"I lost everything but my garbage," said Murray, 54.


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She's far from alone. Hundreds of Oceanside residents flocked to social media this week to vent their frustration with the lack of trash pickup and other bleak post-Sandy conditions.

Across the community, curbside trash piles are now as high as stop signs and as wide as front lawns. The base layer is usually soggy furniture, followed by plastic bags full of flood-scarred personal items -- clothes and toys, bedding and antiques, yearbooks and photo albums.

Oceanside, still largely without power, has been hit especially hard: A few blocks down from Murray, Sandy claimed its ninth victim on Long Island when Michelle Bracco, 44, died Monday night of carbon monoxide poisoning after using a generator in her garage.

Days later, mildewing houses in Bracco's neighborhood were being gutted en masse, and the piles of trash grew as contractors ripped out moldy drywall and tossed broken appliances onto front yards.

Oceanside Sanitation District Supervisor Charles Scarlata could not be reached Thursday for comment.

"Oceanside is forgotten completely," said 26-year resident Rachel Taub, who has been living with relatives in Queens. "I don't understand."

After 10 days without power and counting, many residents say they've gotten the runaround from LIPA about what they need to do in order to re-energize their homes.

Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray called LIPA's performance "disgraceful."

"This is an absolutely miserable situation, not only for our Oceanside residents, but for all our residents who are still without power on Day 11," she said, adding that five of the eight Oceanside schools are still without power.

Raised in Oceanside, Soo Becchina, 48, a special-education teacher, said she and her husband have watched State Police, National Guard and FEMA trucks roll down Long Beach Road into neighboring Long Beach, which was decimated in the storm.

She understands that city's urgent need for help, but hopes the devastation there doesn't mean her community's suffering will go unnoticed.

"If you could just see how much of people's lives are lying on the curb," Becchina said, tearing up. She and her husband have been struggling to keep warm in their home, thankful that the flooding was contained to their basement. "You can't forget about us just because we were not completely wiped out."

The greatest help, Becchina said, has come not from government officials, but from local schools, which opened up to provide heat, showers and hot meals.

Thursday afternoon, former Oceanside High School math supervisor Rhonda Eisenberg and her husband drove down Weidner Avenue, passing out hot meatball sandwiches.

"People here are living by the kindness of family and friends," Becchina said.

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