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Ice water, shorts: LI workers cope with the heat

Dry cleaner Angela Sosa, of Westbury, works at

Dry cleaner Angela Sosa, of Westbury, works at Butler Cleaners in Mineloa, Wednesday. (July 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

From atop a roof in Garden City to the middle of an airport runway, Long Islanders who make a living outdoors or without the benefit of air conditioning have found ways to cope with the heat wave.


Bananas, fish oil tablets and lots of ice-cold water. That was Zbiginiew Poplawski's defense against the extreme heat.

"It's an old roofer's trick," he said.

Poplawski, 41, of Coram, is a foreman for More Contractors and Consulting. Wednesday, he and about 20 other roofers were up on the roof at Garden City High School working on a summerlong project to lay down fresh asphalt.

With all the hot tar pumped up to the roof, it can feel 30 degrees hotter, Poplawski said.

While the rest of the workers wore jeans and thick gloves, Poplawski was in shorts and work boots, with a white T-shirt wrapped around his head to help combat direct sunlight.

Fredrick Yeghazarian showed up to his New Hyde Park pizza place and discovered the power was out, which meant no air conditioning.

Luckily, Yeghazarian's pizza oven at Gaspirini's Gourmet Pizza and Pasta is gas powered. But the only relief against the heat Tuesday morning was a cross-breeze coming from open doors.

The power had just come back after noon, but it was still hot. Yeghazarian, 54, pointed to his thermostat, which read 94 degrees.

He said it was hot in the back kitchen, where he works, even when the air conditioning is on.

"You have to take care of the customers," he said.

A large fan and an open door provided the only relief in the back of Mineola's Butler Cleaners on Tuesday.

Angela Sosa, 37, of Westbury, was operating a steam press in the back. Speaking through a translator, Sosa said her upbringing helped prepare her for the conditions.

"Where I live, it's hot, so this is normal," she said of her home country of Mexico.

Still, she said, the conditions made work harder, and the shorts and T-shirt she wore because of the heat only helped so much.

Gabino Martinez, 27, a day laborer from Medford, waited for work at the 7-Eleven on Horseblock Road in Farmingville for the third straight day with his brother Salvador.

Martinez wanted to work in the scorching heat but "no one is hiring."

He stayed cool by drinking water and standing under the trees across the street from the convenience store. He wouldn't leave until late afternoon, in case someone came looking to hire laborers.

"We don't have any choice but to stay here," he said. "We need to work, even when it's hot."

In the blazing afternoon sun, Mark Jakob, a maintenance worker at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, found himself in the middle of runway 6/24, repainting the striping on the airport's longest and busiest runway.

"I don't think about the heat, and I drink a lot of water," he said. "I've lost track of how many bottles."

They usually work on the runway at night, said Carl Vogt, the airport maintenance supervisor, but the paint dries best when it's hot outside, allowing them to work between flights without having the planes damage the new paint.

"I told them to take it easy today," Vogt said, "but I guess they really wanted to take advantage heat."

Riding her John Deere tractor around the Suffolk County Farm and Education Center in Yaphank, Jo-Anne Flax weaved between patches of sun.

An emergency medical technician for the summer camp based at the farm, she said she is telling campers to drink a lot of water and stay indoors in air conditioning.

"Thankfully we haven't had any problems with anyone falling ill from the heat," said Flax, of Yaphank, donning a Walt Disney hat with a spinning propeller on top.

Nearby, a group of sheep huddled behind a shed to avoid the sun. "They," she said, "have it worse than us."

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